PITTSBURGH (AP) The expectations were modest at first. The New York Islanders simply wanted to be better than the team that allowed the most goals in the NHL in 2017-18. Tougher to play against. Smarter on both ends of the ice.
Momentum built slowly. A midseason surge under new head coach Barry Trotz gave them confidence. The goaltending of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, too. Still, even a surprising second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division and the franchise's best regular season in 35 years couldn't stop the Islanders from being underdogs heading into their first-round series against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
So much for that.