“That really benefited us in the last series against L.A., because they had a lot of travel and they went seven games against Toronto,” Muller said. “So there are all these things that you don’t have control over. Even if you’re the best team, it doesn’t mean you’re going to win.”
Some of the characteristics shared by this year’s upstart playoff contenders – their youth, their eagerness and the fact that they don’t appear intimidated, even by the deeper résumés of some of the teams they’ll play – might go a long way to creating upsets.
Healy noted how loose the Islanders were before Game 7 against Pittsburgh: “I can remember [defenceman] Darius Kasparaitis, before Game 7. The Penguins’ anthem singer was practising outside our dressing room, and Kasparaitis was in the middle of our dressing room, with a hockey stick for a microphone, pretending he was the anthem singer, singing the anthem in the four languages that he knew. He was this young, 19-year-old kid who didn’t get captured by the moment. It was, ‘oh well, I’m just going to go out and play a game.’ That’s just how it was. That’s why it worked.”
According to Healy, coach Al Arbour gets a lot of the credit for orchestrating the Islanders’ upset over the Penguins because he instructed his team to avoid the big-picture thoughts and break the game down into small, manageable increments.
“Al Arbour basically said, ‘listen, can you tie a shift with Lemieux?’ Don’t win a shift, just tie it. Just don’t have him do any damage on that particular shift. And then he said the same to the next guy, and the next guy and then soon, the first period is over. Now do it again. Then it realistically came down to the last shift. We had tied all the shifts we could and we needed one guy to score and it was David Volek.
“So that was our philosophy: ‘you’re not going to win, you’re just going to tie’ and if you do that, you have a chance at the end of the day.”