The Underdog New York Islanders


From Emily Kaplan of ESPN:

This offseason, two New York-area teams dominated the headlines. After the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers landed the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft, respectively, both teams upgraded with flashy veterans (2013 Norris winner P.K. Subban, 2016 Calder winner Artemi Panarin) and appeared poised to make earlier-than-expected runs this season. The media fawned all summer.

Then there were the New York Islanders, the only of the New York-area teams to make the playoffs last spring. The Isles were the best defensive team in hockey. They brought back nearly the exact same roster for this season. And nobody was talking about them.

“Obviously, we notice it,” captain Anders Lee said in a phone interview this week. “But there probably wasn’t much to talk about with us.”

That’s fine for the Islanders, who, after losing three of four to start the season, have won nine straight and sit five points behind the Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division standings. They like flying under the radar.

“At times, absolutely we consider ourselves an underdog,” Lee said. “Last year, that was a big part of our identity. This year, we’re coming back with a very similar team but still have a lot to prove. It’s hard to really come in and demand that attention. You demand respect by the way you play — if you win, how your season goes — but we haven’t accomplished our goals just yet. And until we do that, we’re going to have to keep proving everyone wrong.”