Ted Nolan put it best after the season finale when he said, "The one thing with this group of guys is they never quit... We didn't take the easy way out, which is a good sign."
Certainly, the Islanders are disappointed with not making the postseason, and for much of the season this looked like a playoff team. There was a time when things were really clicking, and the chemistry looked great with additions like Josef Vasicek and Ruslan Fedotenko and Mike Comrie playing well, and we thought we might have something here. But water seeks its own level, and then when the injuries piled up -- a rash that included starting goalie Rick DiPietro -- the writing was on the wall.
That said, beating the Rangers at the Garden in a shootout to deny them home-ice advantage in the first round isn't the worst consolation prize. Wade Dubielewicz played great, making 48 saves, and we'll say it again -- he can be our backup goalie for the duration of DiPietro's contract if he wants. The guy has the ability to come up big in the clutch.
You also love how the Park-Comeau-Okposo line played the last two weeks, and that's something to look forward to for next season. Okposo scored the first goal of the game with assists from both his linemates, and Park's shorthanded goal gave the Isles a 3-2 lead after two periods. All three scored in the shootout, with Park's fourth-round tally the game-winner after Dubie stoned Prucha. Niiiiiice.
Jack Hillen also looked solid and assisted on Miro Satan's goal and again, here's someone who could contribute big-time, a puck-moving backliner with some poise. Add him to a list of young players like Okposo, Comeau, Neilsen, Bergenheim, Campoli (remember him?), Tambellini and Gervais, and there's plenty of reason to hope.
Meanwhile, the Isles have an 8.1 percent chance at the top pick in the draft and will otherwise pick fifth in what looks to be a loaded field.
We'll post a season-ending report card in the next few days, but in the meantime -- other than rooting for the Mets -- we'll be looking for the Devils to bounce the Rangers in the first round. And why not? Brent Sutter was an Islander.