Romanticism within the game of hockey goes to die with New York Islanders veteran fourth-line winger, Cal Clutterbuck. This is in no way an indictment of his personality; rather more of a testament to how the 33-year-old, who has amassed 1,876 hits over his eight years with the team, is all-business when the stakes are being raised.
For a player who features on a unit known as the Islanders’ “identity line,” his outlook is one that’s likely shared by a majority of his teammates.
So when Clutterbuck was posed the question of how the outside perception of the Islanders has changed over his eight years — from bottom-dwellers to Stanley Cup contenders — there naturally was little nostalgia or reflection.
“I think winning matters. I think winning is what’s important to us,” Clutterbuck said on Monday. “Everyone’s opinion is different, everyone’s entitled to it, but it doesn’t matter to us.”
There was also very little patting on the back a day after the Islanders took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup semifinal over the Lightning in Tampa Bay. After all, his side was in the throes of preparation for Game 2 on Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).
“Winning is the motivation from the start of the year, the start of training camp… winning is the mindset,” he said. “Today was a practice day. Yesterday was a game day, and tomorrow’s a game day. That’s it.”
This is the winningest version of the Islanders since their dynasty days as they’re in the Stanley Cup semifinals for the second-straight season after making just one appearance on the same stage between 1985-2019. Yet the Islanders are continuously counted out by a majority of the hockey-watching community as they were underdogs in their first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins and in the Eastern Division final against the Boston Bruins — both series that they won in six games.
To the surprise of no one, the Islanders are not favored to make it out of the semifinals against the same Tampa Bay side that eliminated them from the Eastern Conference Final last year in the Edmonton bubble.
Again, all outside noise that Clutterbuck finds little motivation in.
“I think that we just feel like we have something to prove to ourselves and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said. “The focus isn’t about what other people are thinking about us. It’s what we need to do for ourselves… the focus is on each other.”