The third season in New York Islanders history is the one where the organization was finally able to establish themselves as a hockey team worthy of playing in the NHL. After two losing seasons, the Islanders were not looked at as a threat. Though right before the 1974-75 season began, three key acquisitions were made in Bob Bourne, Jude Drouin and J.P. Parise.
The season ended up starting strong, taking the upper hand in nine of the first 10 games. After the completion of the regular season, the Islanders found themselves tied in seeding with the cross-town rival New York Rangers with a record of 33-25-22.
Despite the fact that the Islanders did not hoist the Stanley Cup at the completion of this season, there was still a rather impressive playoff run before it all ended.
Facing the Rangers in Round 1
The first series of the 1975 NHL Playoffs ended up being against the Rangers and many believed that they would simply steamroll the Islanders. Al Arbour ensured his players that they held the capability of beating the Rangers.
They came right out of the gate and upset the Rangers with a 3-2 victory in the first game of the three-game series, and they did it at Madison Square Garden. After taking it back to the Coliseum, the Rangers came with no mercy and ended up blowing the Islanders out, 8-3.
After this second game of the series, many hockey fans predicted that the Rangers would come out and blow past the Islanders in Game 3, as if the first game of the series was a fluke. However, that was not the cast. The Islanders came out quick and scored three first-period goals.
Those three goals were all that the Islanders would score in regulation, though — the Rangers came back to tie it up at three, sending the game to overtime.
When overtime rolled around, the Islanders were ready to go. In just 11 seconds, Drouin sent a pass over to Parise who managed to beat the goalie, punching a ticket into the second round.
The 3-0 Comeback Against the Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins completed a first-round sweep against the St. Louis Blues and continued that momentum into the second round against the Islanders. The Penguins ran through the Islanders in the first three games, putting them at a comfortable 3-0 lead in the seven-game series.
With their backs against the wall, the Islanders set out to do what has not been successfully completed in decades. With pure grit and persistence, the team managed to win three games straight to tie the series up and send it to a Game 7 situation.
Tying the series at three was certainly impressive, but the Islanders were not finished yet. In a Game 7 that went into the third period still scoreless, they prevailed when captain Ed Westfall put one in with just a few minutes left in the game.
The Islanders held onto the lead to win, making them the second NHL team to win a series after being down three games to none. At the time, the only other team that had done this was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs when they played the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final.
Almost Did it Again Against the Flyers
The next series against the Philadelphia Flyers started very similar to the previous series against the Penguins. The Islanders found themselves in a 3-0 hole to the Broad Street Bullies. When the series continued with Game 4, the Islanders managed an overtime win. This momentum was then brought into Game 5 where they blew out the Flyers 5-1, making the series 3-2.
Then, for the second straight series, the Islanders managed to come back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series up at three a piece. Game 7, however, did not end in the Islanders’ favor. The Flyers ended up winning the series and went on to even win the Stanley Cup that year.
Respect Was Gained
The Islanders unfortunately did not complete their first ever playoff run with a Stanley Cup victory, but they did gain a great deal of respect from other teams around the league. After completing a 3-0 deficit once and then going back to nearly do it again, the Islanders proved that they should never be doubted.
The organization itself went on to see great success in the coming years. Just a few seasons later, the Islanders won their first Stanley Cup title to start the four-year dynasty. Many of the players who were a part of this 1974-75 team remained with the organization throughout the dynasty. It’s clear this season helped pave the way for the success that the Islanders saw in the coming years.
My name is Nathaniel McCabe and I am a college student nearing graduation with a Bachelor’s in English at Stony Brook University. Hockey has always been a passion of mine and I am fortunate enough to have experienced competitive ice hockey at the AAA and collegiate level. This opportunity to work as a hockey writer for the New York Islanders is a dream come true as I have been a huge Islanders fan my whole life.