It’s petty. There’s no doubt about it. But New York Islanders fans are unapologetically breathing a sigh of relief that the New York Rangers were not able to do something the Islanders failed to do twice; make the Stanley Cup Finals by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Steven Stamkos fueled his team to a 2-1 Game 6 win over the Rangers and booked the Tampa Bay Lightnings ticket to the Finals for the third straight year. And, more importantly, to some Islanders fans, the Lightning sent the Rangers to the golf course earlier than they were planning.
It’s one thing to fail twice to make the Stanley Cup Finals, in back-to-back years, it’s another thing to see a hated rival to make the Finals very next year. A year when the Islanders were early season favorites to play for the Stanley Cup.
To be fair, many Islanders fans just didn’t want to see their rival have any success. It was a bit less about the Rangers doing something the Islanders haven’t been able to do, and more that they were winning. And that had to stop.
Now Isle fans don’t need to worry about it. The Rangers are out and Islanders fans can’t rest easy knowing their rivals can’t hold much more over them. Of course, there’s still the whole: “Rangers made the playoffs and the Islanders didn’t” angle for blue shirt fans to use. But that stings less than making the playoffs and making the Finals.
When we found out this series would take place Isles fans were put in a weird situation. They hated both teams. And one of them had to win to make the Finals. Both teams could not simultaneously lose, as some cheekily asked.
Did the best of two evils win? Yeah, I guess so. You’ll remember I was personally conflicted. I don’t like how close the Lightning are getting to the Islanders 19 playoff series wins. Sure, even with this series win, the Lightning has a long way to go. However, I’ve already seen comparisons of the Bolts team to the Isles dynasty of the early ’80s. And that makes me wildly uncomfortable. Maybe more so than a Rangers series win would have made me. I realize that sentiment is in the minority and that’s perfectly OK with me.