Unlikely New York Islanders Playoff Heroes
Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely New York Islanders playoff heroes.
New York Islanders Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
The 1980’s were the New York Islanders dynasty and a time their fans won’t ever forget. The team was crowned the Stanley Cup Champions four times in a row. It was a good time to be an Islander’s fan. They had great players that made a big difference like Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, and Clark Gillies. But like any other team, New York had some unlikely heroes. One of them is Ken Morrow.
The defenceman was known for his incredible defensive game but he wasn’t big offensively. During his NHL career, Murrow managed to score only 17 goals in 550 regular-season games. During the playoffs, he scored 11 in 127 playoff games, including three OT winners. He wasn’t a natural goal-scorer, but he made a big difference.
It was 1984, the Islanders were defending their title as champions. The team ended up in a series against their biggest rival, the New York Rangers. Both teams battled and the series was tied 2-2. Until then, Morrow was doing what he was supposed to and letting the star players do their job. Until Game 5 came.
The Islanders were leading 2-1 and only 39 seconds away from clinching the series. But Don Maloney tied the game and they went into overtime. The Long Island team had some great chances by their star players, but Ken Morrow ended up being the hero of the night.
Almost nine minutes into overtime, Brent Sutter takes a bad angle shot that results in a rebound. After a Rangers’ defenceman tries to clear the puck, Morrow comes into action. He sees an opening, doesn’t hesitate, and scores, clinching the series with his first overtime goal.
The Islanders continued to make an amazing playoff run that year. Being the defending champions after four wins was a big deal. Morrow continued to be a key player for New York’s defence. He helped the Long Island team go to their fifth Stanley Cup Final in a row, but the Islanders fell to the Edmonton Oilers in Game 5.
Morrow continued playing in New York for five more years. He was forced to retire in 1989 due to constant knee problems that affected his game. The defenceman was included in the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995 and has been the Islanders’ director of pro scouting since 1993.
Before The Moment
David Volek was selected in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders with the 208th pick. He was a rising star in his native Czechoslovakia and was ready to face the challenge in the NHL. He was considered a “speculative pick” by the media and people were uncertain. Volek decided to prove them wrong.
He finished his rookie year with 25 goals and 59 points and continued to impress for the years to come. However, in 1990 the Islanders general manager at the time, Bill Torrey, pulled off a trade that affected Volek’s game.
When Ray Ferraro arrived in New York, the team was impressed by how much he was doing for them. But, in contrast to Ferraro’s great performance, Volek remained the same. During the 1993-94 season, he played only 56 games, 18 fewer than the previous season, and was benched for a lot of time.
It was the lowest point of his career. But his team was having a surprisingly good playoff run. They beat the Washington Capitals in the first playoff round and went to face the defending Stanley Cup champion, the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s when Volek became a playoff hero.
No one thought the Islanders would be the ones to dethrone the Penguins. The odds were against them with injuries piling up. Al Arbour started to look for reinforcements and Volek’s chance came before Game 3 of the Pittsburgh series.
He was replacing Pat Flatley and, to everyone’s surprise, the Islanders were giving the champions a headache.
They managed to take the series to Game 7. Volek was the last one the fans expected to be the one to score the series clincher. But that’s exactly what he did. The Islanders were leading the game 3-1 but allowed two goals and the game was taken to overtime. Volek saw in that game a chance to redeem himself.
Playing as Ferraro’s left wing, the pair ended up with a two-on-one. Ferraro had the puck and could have scored, Volek knew that. But the centre decided to pass and his winger did not hesitate. He scored and the New York Islanders dethroned the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders fell short to the Montreal Canadiens in the Conference Finals that year. However, David Volek’s OT-winner resulted in his unlikely playoff hero title. Unfortunately, his NHL career ended in 1994 after a herniated disc forced Volek to retire. He finished his NHL career with 95 goals and 154 assists for 249 points in 396 games, all with the Islanders.
Before The Moment
If there was a player that surprised everyone during the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was Josh Bailey. He was never a big goal-scorer, staying in the assistance field. During his 12-year NHL career, Bailey had never reached the 20-goal mark. But two of his biggest qualities are his intelligence and versatility.
Entering the 2019-20 season, Bailey had to step up. He finished the 2017-18 season with 71 points in 76 games only to fall short in the next season. He only scored 56 points in 82 games during the 2018-19 campaign. Even though that is what was normal for him, he had proved he could do more.
But as the season went by, the winger only managed to score 43 points before COVID-19 struck and the season was suspended. But Bailey did not disappoint his team during the playoffs.
Playing on the second line with Anthony Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, Bailey did an incredible job. With the Islanders’ top line barely doing their job, Nelson’s right winger stepped up. Bailey was a key player for New York as they defeated the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers. He helped the team get to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years.
The player raised from being fourth in team points to leading the Islanders with 20 points in 22 games. Bailey made brilliant plays that ended up in key goals for the Islanders. Including a two-on-one in game seven against the Flyers that ended up in a beautiful goal for Brock Nelson.
The Islanders were eliminated by the soon to be Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning. But not without getting Josh Bailey the attention he surely deserves. The team and the fans trust the veteran and now he has a spotlight shining upon him.