It’s not the result any Islander fan wanted. While many might close the book on the Islanders, there still is hope. The Islanders dropped eight goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning and put up a measly two goals themselves. Sticks were broken and shoves were thrown. The Bolt’s Brayden Point started the scoring a mere minute in. After a tying powerplay goal from Jordan Eberle the dust fell, the Islanders had some solid forechecking shifts and controlled the puck well. The Bolts were the fresher and sharper team, however. The Islanders laced up mere hours after landing in Edmonton and weren’t given a real rest since their near-perfect game seven against Philadelphia.
How and Why?
The Bolts quickly capitalized on every single one of the Islander’s nervous and exhausted mistakes. The Islanders were not playing Isles hockey. The Bolts made every zone entry and every rush a scoring chance. In the blink of an eye, it was 4-1 as the end of the first period. The second period was all bolts and the third period was where the Isles need to face criticism. Yes, the circumstances were very much against them, but the boys gave up and Varlamov went to sleep. The league’s best offense and set-up game went to work and topped off the Isles for a 8-2 welcome party.
How the league expected this to go is a mystery, but the judgment call on schedule is ridiculous. A team with a week’s worth of quality rest, preparation, and scouting, faced off against a team who likely didn’t even sleep following their game seven. Yes, this is a rushed playoff format but this is something no inward thinking hockey fan should approve of. The Islanders do not play this type of hockey, the external factors in this game were far too great to make game one a fair fight.
How the Islanders Bounce Back
So where do the Islanders go from here? There is a simple solution to lead the team. Rest. Make the most of downtime and make sure the players are keeping it soft impact and do all the stretching and freezing they need. Trotz has to be upset with this team and the effort shown, especially in the third. He clearly sees the determination and the ceiling of this team. One of the best defenses and as of last week the highest scoring team in the playoffs. Johnston will likely come out, he played a solid forechecking and physical game but his ejection served the team more harm than good. Especially with the hole of Clutterbuck being sent to the locker room.
Outside of lineup changes, this team needs to come out hard, angry, and embarrassed. Ego can be a weapon following a loss like this, and Trotz needs to capitalize. Team leaders like Lee, Zeeker, and Clutterbuck will surely voice themselves. As far as goaltending, Greiss or Varlamov could start. Either must be equipped with a more well-rested Islanders team. This is no time to listen to the media predictions and Isles haters. This is still a grounded, deep, pesky team with a rock-solid identity. Hockey fans should expect a much more competitive game from the Islanders in game two.