This is when it would be natural to say what a good ride it was for this year's Islanders and how bright their future surely is. Except that would be disrespectful and patronizing to a team that never was interested in moral victories.
The days ahead will be time for postmortems and silver linings, especially after the heartache of losing a series, in overtime, 4-3, after leading late in the third period. Now is the time to recognize the real triumph of the season that ended Saturday night: This franchise is much more than an antiquated idea.
What the stirring six-game series against the Penguins proved is that there is life on planet Islanders. It always has been there, in fact. The fans are dedicated and passionate, they just aren't saps. They simply are not going to buy into a dead-end situation, which is why they have not been out in strong numbers or hearty voice in recent years.
As some of us have said all along, all it took was for the Islanders to be just a little bit good for the fervor to bubble up and boil over. At the intersection of hope and nostalgia, Islanders fans have grown to love the current team in a way not seen around here for many years.
If you are an Islanders fan, you said it. If you know an Islanders fan, you heard it: There was something special this year, especially the past month. "You see the crowd, the way they react. They come up to you and say how proud they are. That means a lot," Kyle Okposo said.
It means that this franchise is not dead, as people in the hockey community have suggested. It was just dormant.
Fans are pumped about the speed, the youth and the style of play of this team. They see the credibility in John Tavares, who has emerged as a superstar and a league most valuable player finalist. He has bought into the vision here, re-enlisting for six years when there was no hurry to sign. Naturally, he scored the first goal Saturday night.
So here's to tomorrow, and to yesterday. Alongside all the forward thinking is a wistful, end-of-an-era feeling. Islanders fans know that Nassau Coliseum's days are numbered. For better or worse, things will not be the same in Brooklyn. So this playoff run has been not only a tribute to what the Islanders might become, but a celebration of what they have been.
"You go back and look at Al Arbour and the teams that they had. For me, when they won those championships in the '80s, they were a gritty blue collar team," coach Jack Capuano said. "This team, if you look at us overall, we're similar that way. We might not have the skill level of other teams, but we have the battle level, we have the passion. That's what fans want to see. That's the brand of hockey that we give them, that we're going to keep pushing and pushing until the final buzzer sounds."
Arbour's Islanders, though, did have five Hall of Famers. Capuano's Islanders need to keep adding pieces if they want to ever hang a banner at Barclays Center. The dynasty Islanders won 19 consecutive playoff series. The modern Islanders have gone 20 years without winning one. So there is work to do.
These Islanders were just a little short. They didn't have the Penguins' depth, or the goaltending Plan B that helped Pittsburgh get back on its feet.
These Islanders were genuinely disappointed, which was a good sign because it showed they were not just happy to be here. It means they will be hungry to come back.
Anyway, they were good enough to make Nassau Coliseum the center of the hockey universe for the first time in years. It was a great show, and it proved this franchise always has been a good idea.
Mark Herrmann is a columnist for Newsday.