Despite that fact that Mat Barzal had to exit game five in the third period on Tuesday night when he was struck in the face by the stick of Flyers Captain, Claude Giroux, the Islanders were able to mount a comeback from a 3-1 deficit and force overtime before losing to Philadelphia 4-3. The Islanders had a chance to wrap up the series, but they now take a 3-2 series lead into game six on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
But as the Islanders get ready for another potential closeout game, the status of Barzal for game six is still up in the air.
“Moderate,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz when asked on a Zoom meeting with reporters Wednesday about his level of concern regarding Barzal. “I think everything is trending in the right areas so hopefully by (Thursday) we’ll give you a more specific answer on that but everything is trending in the right direction right now.”
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)
After game five, there was a scoring change on the Islanders first goal of the game that was originally credited to Josh Bailey but now that goal belongs to Barzal who means so much to the Islanders in many different ways. If he can’t play, the Islanders have some depth with them in the bubble at forward to fill in, but they’re keeping their fingers crossed that Barzal can suit up.
“With Mat, everyone sees what he brings,” said Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck. “He’s got that game-changing ability, elite speed and the ability to create plays. That would be missed but we’ll see where he’s at tomorrow and go from there but we’ve got capable guys that can fill in too.”
And the Head Coach agrees.
“The guys that are not in the lineup…they’re ready to jump in if we have to go there,” said Trotz. “I’m not worried about that aspect. I think everybody that we’ve put into the lineup has responded pretty well.”
The Islanders did not practice on Wednesday and that gave the players and coaches a chance to recharge their batteries for game six as they try to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final.
“Today (Wednesday) is a little bit of a mental break,” said Trotz. “We’ll get them energized and they’ll be ready (for game six). There’s no question. I don’t have any fear. I’m actually enjoying today in a sense that we’re getting some work done and we’re gonna have some conversations. We’re going to be ready to go (Thursday night).”
One thing that the Islanders were certainly talking about on Wednesday is getting off to a better start that in previous games in the series. In both losses, they had to rally from third period deficits to force overtime and Trotz called the game four win “the worst game that we’ve played to this point in the playoffs.”
To advance to their first conference final in 27 years, the Islanders need to be ready to go at puck drop at 7pm Thursday night.
“We gotta work on our starts and getting out of the gates hot,” said Islanders forward Casey Cizikas. “We feel good and we’re confident going into (game six).”
And with a win, the Islanders would not only advance to meet the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they would give their fan base a feeling that they haven’t had since 1993 and that is a spot in the NHL’s version of the “Final Four”.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire