We might look back on this first-round series between the Islanders and Penguins and realize two things: It was when the Penguins' flaws were highlighted for the world to see, and it was when the Islanders learned what it took to compete for the Cup. Ultimately, the young squad from Long Island learned it just wasn't their time, falling to the Penguins in an overtime heartbreaker.
The Isles set the tone for how badly they'd school the Penguins' defense in the first minute. New York settled into a pretty nice offensive possession when Johnny Hockey did what Johnny Hockey does.
If I could write ten-thousand sad-face emoticons and come off as professional, I would. That GIF is just ... it's terrible. Hockey is scary, you guys.
Let's move on.
Oh look! It's Sidney Crosby being really awesome and stuff.
Speaking of themes: for all of the hard work the Islanders put into Game 6, they had a tough time keeping up with the short bursts of speed the Penguins were capable of. Eventually they were going to tire themselves out.
In the meantime, the Islanders were winning puck battle after puck battle.
If anything, this series laid out the blueprint for beating the Penguins: outwork them in their own zone and the game is in the bag.
Well, sort of. The Pens are still capable of some sort of defense. For example, here's a GIF of Evgeni Malkin bailing out his nonexistent defensemen.
And here's a GIF of Dan Bylsma reminding his team how many defensemen need to be protecting Tomas Vokoun.
(Not really, but let's just pretend.)
I'm running out of jokes about the Pens defense at this point, but this next GIF is of Norris Trophy nominee Kris Letang turning the puck over in his own zone. The Isles scored. The joke really just writes itself.
Once again, the Penguins fought back. As lackluster as they are in their own zone, they're still capable of a quick strike at the other end. Luckily for the Islanders, Evgeni Nabokov had the wherewithal to eject the puck from the crease before Sidney Crosby cashed in.
The game eventually ended up in overtime, knotted up at three goals apiece. It was at this point that 60 minutes of out-hustling the Penguins began to take its toll on the Islanders. Their legs looked dead and they began losing puck battles and races around the rink. So the final goal, as quickly set-up as it was, was merely inevitable.
Even if it was from Brooks Orpik. Of all people. Orpik remarked after the game that the Islanders reminded him of the Penguins before they learned how to win. It was high praise, and it made the handshakes between the two teams that much more poignant. NHL fans are looking forward to the next time the Isles go hunting for the Cup.