2020 NHL playoffs - How the New York Islanders are embracing their ultimate underdog status

7 min read
fairly easy
From the GM to the coach to the players to one of the team's most famous fans, there's an "us against the world" ethos that permeates this playoff run.
Kevin Connolly has never been shy about his love for the New York Islanders. The Long Island native, most famous for his role as "E" on "Entourage," directed the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "Big Shot," about the time a con man briefly bought Connolly's favorite team in 1996. Connolly is often spotted at Islanders games, has developed close relationships with the team's current owners and players, and his Twitter feed sometimes gets carried away with his passion for all things blue and orange.

"Twitter is a cesspool and I hate it," Connolly says. "The only time I like it is when I can engage about the Islanders, it's fun."

But in his years of support -- including nearly three decades of heartbreak, dysfunction, mediocrity and now an exciting run to the Eastern Conference finals -- Connolly has noticed his team can be a lightning rod.

"It just feels like people are constantly hating on the Islanders," Connolly says. "I mean, I got it in the mid-'90s, but what could you say about this team? There's nothing bad about this team. They're pretty likable."

Recently, Connolly decided to engage with one of his most frequent trolls. Connolly sent a DM: "Dude, why the Islanders? Out of all of the teams?"

The Twitter user's response: "Because honestly, I get the biggest reaction out of their base."

"He talks s--- about the Islanders, because he knows the Islanders' Twitter mob will all come at him," Connolly says. "And he loves it."

Welcome to the world of the New York Islanders, where the fan base -- like the team -- has adopted an us-against-the-world mentality.

After slumping before the pandemic pause (losing 11 of their last 13), the Isles were the only team to emerge from the qualification round. They were often the most dominant team in the Toronto bubble, thanks to their stingy defensive structure, strong team identity stemming from coach Barry Trotz and ability to close out games (through the first three rounds, they outscored teams 22-7 in the third…
Emily Kaplan
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