Schwartz: Islanders Set For Eastern Conference Final Against Tampa Bay

The Islanders reward for beating the Philadelphia Flyers, the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, is a matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the second seed, in the Eastern Conference Final starting with game one on Monday night in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).  Before dispatching of the Flyers, the Islanders knocked off the third seeded Washington Capitals.

Islanders Captain Anders Lee channels his inner Ric Flair with words that really sum up this Isles playoff run.

“No surprise we’re going to have to go through Tampa Bay, a challenge that we want to have,” said Lee during Sunday’s Zoom meeting with reporters.  “You want to beat the best to be the best and all those things that you say all the time.”

Woo!  Remember when that was played after Islanders goals at Nassau Coliseum?

Well let me get back on point.

The Islanders will not have had much time to rest up before taking on the Lightning.  After Saturday night’s game seven win over the Flyers, the Islanders met the media on Sunday morning and then hopped on a plane to Edmonton after the Lightning arrived there on Saturday.

Islanders/Lightning Eastern Conference Final Schedule:

Game 1: Monday September 7th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN

Game 2: Wednesday September 9th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN

Game 3: Friday September 11th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm USA

Game 4: Sunday September 13th…Lightning vs Islanders…3pm NBC

Game 5: Tuesday September 15th…Islanders vs Lightning…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)

Game 6: Thursday September 17th…Lightning vs Islanders…8pm NBCSN (If Necessary)

Game 7: Saturday September 19th…Islanders vs Lightning…730pm NBC (If Necessary)

So far this summer, the Islanders have done just about everything right when it comes to bubble life winning three playoff series, putting in the right amount of work during off days, and finding a way to bond and have some time during this unusual and special times in their careers.

“This team has accepted everything that’s been thrown at us,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz.  “From scheduling to when we play to all that stuff.  I know our guys give you everything every night, night in and night out.”

It’s been 27 years since the Islanders have reached this point of the post-season as this is their first trip to a conference final since 1993.  It’s obviously a big deal for the fans who have waited a long time for a moment like this and its certainly an important step for the franchise.  But while the Islanders certainly enjoyed their accomplishment on Saturday night, there’s still that ultimate goal that is eight wins away…

The Stanley Cup.

Islanders forward Josh Bailey has been waiting a long time for a run like this.  Now in his 12th season, Bailey has been outstanding in the playoffs with 2 goals and 15 assists for 17 points in 16 games.  Drafted 9th overall in 2008, Bailey has certainly been through it all over the years with the Islanders.

But he’s looking ahead and not back.

“It feels good,” said Bailey of reaching the conference final.  “But I just don’t think it’s the time to really sit back and reflect.  I think we want to keep looking ahead and moving forward. We’ve got a lot on our plate coming up here.  Edmonton was the goal. To this point we’ve done what we wanted. It’s only going to get harder from here.”

And that is certainly true against a really good Lightning team that finished the regular season with 92 points, second most in the East, and then beat Columbus and Boston following round-robin play to advance to the conference final.  They won’t have Captain Steven Stamkos who remains out and will not be available for this series.  He last played on February 25th before undergoing core muscle repair surgery.

But Tampa is still loaded with the likes of left wing Ondrej Palat (5 goals and 4 assists for 9 points in 13 playoff games), center Brayden Point (6 goals and 12 assists for 18 points in 13 playoff games), and defenseman Victor Hedman (5 goals and 4 assists for 9 points in 13 playoff games).

“Obviously (they’re) a team with a ton of firepower up and down the lineup,” said Lee who has 7 goals so far in the playoffs.  It’s going to be a tough challenge…I think one that we’re all looking forward to.”

For the Islanders, this is a moment 27 years in the making and their fans (at least the ones that are old enough to remember) are experiencing something that hasn’t happened since the magical run to the Wales Conference Final in 1993,   There’s a bigger goal in mind and that is to make it to the Stanley Cup Final and bring Lord Stanley back to Long Island for the first time since 1983.

Beating the Lightning won’t be easy, but it will also be a challenge for Tampa Bay against an Islanders team that has certainly opened up some eyes around the hockey world.

About the Author

Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz is a contributor covering the Islanders for NY Sports Day while also writing about general sports in the New York/New Jersey area. In addition to his column, Peter also hosts his “Schwartz On Sports” podcast as he interviews players, coaches, and other sports personalities. He is also currently a sports anchor for WFAN Radio, CBS Sports Radio, and WCBS 880 radio while also serving as the public address announcer for the New York Cosmos soccer club.

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