Hey, it could be worse for the Islanders. At least when their long playoff break is over, they will have a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup without being stopped by a flu epidemic. Presumably.
That was what befell the 1918-19 Montreal Canadiens, who after winning the NHL final had to wait a playoff-record 13 days, from March 6-19, before starting the Cup Final against the PCHA champion Seattle Metropolitans.
Complications ensued. An outbreak of influenza in Seattle led officials to stop the series after five games with the teams tied at 2-2-1. (Seattle won Game 1, 7-0, over the rusty Habs!) No Cup was awarded that year.
The Canadiens’ Hall of Fame defenseman, Joe Hall, died of complications from the flu four days after Game 6 was canceled. So again: It could be worse.
Still, as the Islanders gathered on Tuesday for their fourth practice since sweeping the Penguins, antsiness had set in.
This was after the Hurricanes defeated the Capitals in Game 6 on Monday, forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday and meaning the Islanders’ wait will be 10 or 11 days, a team playoff record.
So there is nothing left to ask or answer until they at least have an opponent to talk about, which has created an awkward dance between the team and journalists assigned to write and say things about the team.
As coach Barry Trotz approached reporters after practice, he said, “I feel your pain. I know exactly how you feel.”
When someone suggested this is something out of an NFL schedule, Trotz noted it is a longer-than-one-week break between games. “This is [like] the bye week,” he said.
Not that he is complaining. Officially, he is happy to have the Caps and ‘Canes continue to beat each other up.
“Trust me, we’re fresh,” Trotz said. “We’ll get the rust off. It may take a little bit. We haven’t had game action for a bit. That will come. That’s not an issue. We’re going to be enthused.”
A few hours later, word came that the players would be off again on Wednesday. Make that four practices and four off days since Game 4 in Pittsburgh.
Trotz said this has been a bigger challenge than the last time he dealt with something like this, when he coached the Portland Pirates to an AHL Calder Cup in 1994 after a 10-day break before the championship series.
On that occasion, he knew when the next series would start. “This has been a little bit of a moving target,” he said. “It’s a little bit harder to plan.” But, he added, “There is an end point. They don’t play best-out-of-nine.”
The players did what they could to put a positive spin on a weird situation while not shying away from the fact it is a weird situation.
“This is really uncharted territory for me,” Jordan Eberle said. “I know all the guys in here are antsy to get going again.”
Anders Lee acknowledged his body felt better a week after the clincher against the Penguins, even if his mind was racing. “There’s pros and cons for both,” he said.
Matt Martin offered the clearest voice of reason, saying, “If we are ready to go and play well and move on, then no one will talk about the rest being a negative. If we lose, they will. That’s just kind of how it goes.”
There have been six layoffs of 10 or more games since the Stanley Cup playoffs became an NHL-only competition in 1927, a figure the Islanders (and Blue Jackets) would match if they play on Friday.
Of those, three teams won in the next round and three lost.
The longest layoff of all in modern history was 11 days for the 2002-03 Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, who swept the Wild in the Western Conference final while Lou Lamoriello’s Devils needed seven games to beat Ottawa in the East.
The Devils had a four-day break before the Final — longer than what the Caps or Hurricanes will have before facing the Islanders. They shut out the Ducks in Games 1 and 2 in New Jersey and went on to win the Cup in seven.
The eight longest playoff layoffs in Stanley Cup playoff history, according to the NHL:
1918-19 Canadiens, March 6-19, 13 days
2002-03 Mighty Ducks, May 16-27, 11 days
2014-15 Blackhawks, May 7-17 10 days
2010-11 Lightning, May 4-14, 10 days
1998-99 Red Wings, April 27-May 7, 10 days
1974-75 Flyers, April 19-29, 10 days
1965-66 Canadiens, April 14-24, 10 days
2018-19 Islanders, April 16-April 26 or 27, 10 or 11 days