In game two against the Flyers, the Islanders dug themselves a 3-0 hole, rallied back to force overtime, and then lost 4-3.
Game four was a 3-2 victory for the Islanders but Head Coach Barry Trotz called it the worst game that the Islanders had played in the playoffs.
In game five, the Islanders had a 1-0 lead, fell behind 3-1, came back to tie the game, and then lost again in overtime 4-3.
As they take a 3-2 series lead into game six on Thursday night in Toronto, the Islanders can improve their chances of punching their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final by getting off to a better start.
“We just have to raise our game to the next level,” said Trotz. “We gotta get better starts. We’ve been chasing the last couple of games and we’ve almost pulled it off.”
Islanders/Flyers Series Schedule:
Game 1: Monday August 24th…Islanders 4 Flyers 0 (Islanders lead 1-0)
Game 2: Wednesday August 26th…Flyers 4 Islanders 3 F/OT (Series Tied 1-1)
Game 3: Saturday August 29th…Islanders 3 Flyers 1 (Islanders lead 2-1)
Game 4: Sunday August 30th…Islanders 3 Flyers 2 (Islanders lead 3-1)
Game 5: Tuesday September 1st…Flyers 4 Islanders 3 F/OT (Islanders lead 3-2)
Game 6: Thursday September 3rd…Flyers vs Islanders…7pm
Game 7: Saturday September 5th…Islanders vs Flyers…TBD (if necessary)
So far in all three of their playoff series, the Islanders have not been able to close out their opponent on the first try but they did finish off the Florida Panthers and Washington Capitals on their next try. The closeout game is considered to be the toughest game for any team in any sport to win in a playoff series, so getting the jump on the Flyers early will be paramount in order to move on to play the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“We’d like to have great starts and carry it through,” said Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck. “But there’s two teams out there and we’re trying to go out there and play the game and definitely look to start better. There’s a certain amount of desperation that goes into potentially playing your last game of the year and you just have to match it.”
The Islanders beat the Flyers in game one 4-0, but the rest of the games have been close with three of them decided by a goal along with a 3-1 Islanders win in game three. The Flyers earned the number one seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs by virtue of their 3-0 record in round robin play but the Islanders have two more chances to knock them out in a series that is now essentially a toss-up.
“These are two evenly matched teams,” said Trotz. “When I go through chances and we do all the analytics it’s a dead heat in a lot of ways.”
The way to break that dead heat is for the Islanders to come flying out of the gates and close out a team that is going to be, once again, fighting to keep their season alive.
“I think it’s understanding the intensity level and the commitment level that is needed to close out a team,” said Trotz. “We’ve got to get to that level. You have to fight harder for that space no matter where it is.”
It’s been 27 years since the Islanders participated in a conference final and they are in a prime position to end that drought. Their first opportunity to do it didn’t pan out, but after getting a bit of a “mental break” as Barry Trotz put it with no practice on Wednesday, the Islanders had a chance to discuss what went wrong in game five and be ready to go at 7pm Thursday night for game six.
And with a win, the Islanders will be in the NHL’s “Final Four” for the first time since 1993.
Photo: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire