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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Skinny on: Time to Stave

According to Webster, "stave off" has been around for nearly four centuries. Funny, I didn't realize that there were playoffs then.

It seems like the only time I ever hear the word "stave" is when a sports team is one game away from elimination - the situation the Isles will find themselves tonight in Edmonton against Tampa Bay.

The Islanders have successfully staved off elimination 27 times in 48 tries. Of course the other 21 times they've ended up on the wrong side of a handshake.

Four times in their history, the "Never-Say-Dielanders" have managed to stave off elimination at least three times in a single playoff year.

In 1975, the Isles beat the Rangers in the decisive Game 3, and then found themselves down 3-0 to both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The Isles won eight of the nine elimination games they played, setting an NHL-record for avoiding elimination.

In 1985, their first playoff after losing the Cup, the Isles lost first two playoff games, and looked like they were headed to an early spring, before rallying to beat the Caps three times, to stave off elimination each time. The Isles trailed the Flyers 3-0 in the second round and won game four before losing the series in five. Four successful staves.

Two years later the Caps and Flyers again became Islander victims. The Isles trailed both series 3-1; yet beat the Capitals on Easter morning, before losing to Philadelphia in seven. Five more successful staves.

Finally in 1993, the Isles trailed Pittsburgh 3-2 before winning in 7 on David Volek's overtime goal. After Montreal used eight guys on the ice to score in OT in Game 3 of the Conference Finals to grab a 3-0 lead in the series, the Isles staved off elimination with a home-ice win in game four, only to fall to the eventual champs in Game five. Three more staves.

Six other seasons featured one successful stave. In 1976 and 1977, the Isles forced the eventual champion Canadiens an extra game each year with their backs against the wall. In 1982 and 1984, with their dynasty on the line, the Isles used overtime goals to beat Pittsburgh and the Rangers to stave off elimination and increase the legacy that guides this franchise today. In 2002, the Isles overcame the loss of Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson in game 5 in Toronto to win an emotional game six at home.  And of course, in 2015, the Isles won the final game in the first era of the Coliseum over Washington, only to drop game 7 in DC,

The most recent successful stave occurred just 10 days ago, as the Isles beat Philadelphia in Game 7.  A win tonight would give the Islanders multiple staves in the same season for the first time since (there's that year again) 1993.

In games facing potential elimination, the Isles are 16-5 at home and 11-16 on the road (including 1-0 this year in Toronto against Philadelphia).

The Isles were eliminated at home in 1977 by Montreal, in 1978 by Toronto, in 1986 by Washington, in 1994 by the Rangers and in 2013 by Pittsburgh.   

The Isles have been eliminated in the playoffs only 21 times. In seven of those seasons, the team that beat the Isles won the Stanley Cup [75-76-77-84-93-94-04] and in three other years, the team that beat the Isles lost in the Finals [79-85-87].

Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since January 21, 1982. Visit my blog: NYISkinny.com and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

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