If there’s one thing that you can say about the Islanders since Barry Trotz became their Head Coach before the 2018-19 season is that they tend to be resilient and have a short memory following losses. In the second-round playoff series against the Flyers, they faced adversity for the first time in the post-season when they dropped games five and six before finishing off Philadelphia in game seven. It’s pretty difficult to go through an entire playoff run, even if you go on to win the Stanley Cup, without going through a rough patch at least once or even twice.
Trotz certainly knows that from 2018 when his Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup despite behind in all four series.
NY Islanders: Regroup For Tampa Bay
So, after losing to the Lightning 8-2 Monday night in game one of the Eastern Conference Final, it didn’t take long for the Islanders to forget about it and turn their attention to game two on Wednesday night in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).
“We just got to regroup,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “This group has been really resilient the last 2 years. I know we’re going to be better next game. We’ll raise our level.”
Islanders/Lightning Eastern Conference Final Schedule:
Game 1: Monday September 7th…Lightning 8 Islanders 2… (Tampa Bay leads 1-0)
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)
The start to the Islanders’ first appearance in a conference final in 27 years was eerily similar to what the 1993 Islanders went through. During that post-season run, the Islanders beat the Penguins 4-3 in overtime of game seven in Pittsburgh on a Friday night. That put the Islanders in the Wales Conference Final less than two days later for game one on a Sunday afternoon and they lost to the Canadiens 4-1 in Montreal.
Fast forward to this year and the Islanders finished off the Flyers 4-0 in game seven on Saturday night in Toronto, boarded a plane to Edmonton on Sunday, and played game one on Monday night.
The Islanders looked slow and tired in game one and the high-octane Lightning took advantage. To get ready for game two, the Islanders did not practice on Tuesday as Trotz instead chose to give his team a bit of a rest just having the players go through some stretching and also watch video.
Despite Islander Blowout Against Flyers, Outlook Upbeat
Despite the blowout loss on Monday, the Islanders were in good spirits on Tuesday.
“The mood was good today (Tuesday),” said Islanders forward Mat Barzal. “It was a little bit sour after (game one). We’re excited to get another crack at them (in game two). It’s a seven-game series and it’s the first to four. We get (Wednesday’s) game and it’s a completely different series.”
The Islanders psyche was certainly tested last round when they lost game five to the Flyers in overtime and then game six in double overtime. Now, we’ll find out if it’s any easier to bounce back from a beating like the Islanders took on Monday.
“I guess emotionally a little bit,” said Islanders defenseman Devon Toews. “At the end of the day, a win is a win and a loss is a loss. That’s kind of how we’re viewing it. The next game is big for us and we’re hoping to come out with a win.”
Status: Cal Clutterbuck
The status of Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck for game two is very much up in the air. Clutterbuck left game one with 8:10 to go in the second period after blocking a shot by Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev. Clutterbuck needed to be helped back to the Islanders dressing room after skating off the ice. He came back to the Islanders bench following the start of the third period but did not get back on the ice and went back to the dressing room.
Trotz did not sound extremely confident that Clutterbuck would be able to play.
“Honestly, it’ll sort of be reassessed in the morning,” said Trotz. “But I think there’s a possibility he’ll be in.”
If Clutterbuck is not able to play, Trotz could turn to either Leo Komarov or Michael Dal Colle.
How Trotz looks to fill Clutterbuck’s spot if he can’t go, making decisions on other lineup changes, and who starts in goal, Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss, will be key decisions as the Islanders hope to even up the series. The Islanders never trailed in a series at any point during the first three rounds so dropping game one against Tampa Bay has put them in unchartered waters.
Is it adversity or just part of the process that a team has to go through to get to the top of the mountain?
“I don’t think we’re necessarily facing any adversity right now,” said Barzal. “Being down 1-0 obviously isn’t idea but we don’t feel like we’re behind the eight ball just yet. We got a good opportunity to even the series and that’s just kind of how we’re looking at it.”
Islanders Setting Record, Not In A Good Way
Monday night marked the first time in 40 years that the Islanders gave up eight goals in a game, something that Barry Trotz referenced in his Tuesday press conference. The last time that happened was game two of the 1980 Stanley Cup Finals against the Flyers when the Islanders lost 8-3. The Islanders, of course, went on to win the Stanley Cup which bodes well for the current team if you believe in trends and comparisons.
You can also look at 1984, the last time the Islanders went to the Stanley Cup Final when they fell behind Montreal two games to none before winning the next four to win the series. On the flip side, the 1993 Islanders went on to lose to Montreal four games to one after the rough start in the opener with short rest following the previous series.
You can make all the comparisons you want and put this Islanders team up against what other teams did in the past all you want, but if the Islanders don’t clean things up quickly against a really good Tampa Bay team, their first trip to a conference final in almost three decades will come to a swift ending and not the way the Islanders envisioned when the series started.