NEW YORK (WFAN) — Compared to other teams, the Islanders are short on playoff experience.
But Johnny Boychuk sure sounds like he can make up the difference.READ MORE: Gabby Petito's Family Speaks Publicly For 1st Time Since Her Body Was Found: 'We Can't Let Her Name Be Taken In Vain'
An offseason acquisition that has paid off handsomely, Boychuk spoke to WFAN’s Evan Roberts on Tuesday about what the Islanders need to do to defeat the Washington Capitals in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I knew that we were going to make the playoffs as soon as I got here,” the veteran defenseman said. “Just the way we were practicing the first couple of days that I was here, I was quite surprised how fast and how talented, the work ethic, the physicality that we brought to every game.”
The Islanders went on to a 47-28-7 record, good enough for third place in the Metropolitan Division and fifth overall in the Eastern Conference. With 101 points, they cracked the century mark for the first time since 1983-84, and qualified for the postseason for the second time in three seasons.
But there were bumps along the way. In a reflection of their young age, the Isles often struggled to protect leads and went just 6-8-5 over the final quarter of the season. In true veteran fashion, Boychuk, who won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins during the 2010-11 season, said he’s not concerned about anything but the task at hand.
“That’s behind us. That’s the regular season and now it is a different season. Just like I said, whatever you did before, it doesn’t matter. It’s about what you do now,” Boychuk said.
Boychuk, who posted career highs with nine goals, 26 assists and 35 points this season, said the Islanders can eliminate unneeded stress by making smarter plays during crunch time.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
“Just being aware of where everybody is on the ice, limiting the turnovers at the blue line or in the neutral zone or offensive zone turnovers,” Boychuk said, when asked how his team can do a better job protecting leads. “When you are in the lead, instead of throwing a pass to the slot you can cycle it down. It kills clock time. That would help out.”
There are many who think the Isles could be a bit demoralized after failing to secure home ice during their regular season-ending 5-4 shootout loss to Columbus. Boychuk reiterated that the past is the past.
“Oh definitely, it was a big deal trying to get home ice, but that’s not the case and we don’t have to worry about that now,” Boychuk said. “We have to worry about going in there and hopefully stealing one or two of the games and playing our best.”
The series begins with games in Washington on Wednesday and Friday. Boychuk said there’s no reason why his team can’t have all the momentum heading into Sunday’s Game 3 at what will certainly be a raucous Nassau Coliseum.
“(We must) play the Islander way, just playing simple games,” Boychuk said. “It’s a good team that we are playing against. They have a lot of good players and you have to respect them because if you don’t it’s going to turn ugly.
“But just doing the simple things, we have enough talent that if we clean up a bit defensively we are going to get a lot of offensive chances and we have guys in here that can score,” he added.
The Islanders have not won a playoff series since 1993. Boychuk said every last player understands what’s expected, but he also knows there will be times of adversity, and how the Islanders handle those moments will be the difference between moving on and going home.MORE NEWS: Gov. Hochul Moves To Prevent Health Care Worker Shortages After COVID Vaccine Mandate Takes Effect
“You can’t get too high, can’t get too low. You just have to look at the next game and want to win the next game and not worry about what happened the game before,” Boychuk said.