Throughout the Stanley Cup Qualifier, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and now in the Eastern Conference Final, the Islanders have maintained a mindset where they are laser focused on the task at hand…
One shift at a time.
One period at a time.
One game at a time.
That mentality was put to the test last round against the Flyers when the Islanders had a 3-1 lead but then lost two straight games before winning game seven. The adversity continued against Tampa Bay as they fell behind three games to one, but now that deficit is 3-2 heading into game six of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).
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…Lightning 2 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads 2-0)
Game 3: Friday September 11th…Islanders 5 Lightning 3 (Tampa Bay leads 2-1)
Game 4: Sunday September 13th…Lightning 4 Islanders 1 (Tampa Bay leads 3-1)
Game 5: Tuesday September 15th…Islanders 2 Lightning 1 F/2OT (Tampa Bay leads 3-2)
Game 6: Thursday September 17th…Lightning/Islanders…8pm NBCSN
Game 7: Saturday September 19th…Islanders/Lightning…8pm NBC (if necessary)
After a 2-1 double-overtime victory in game five, the Islanders are very much alive but they continue to treat each game as a different chapter in a book. In this case, the focus is now on game six and doing what they have to do to survive another day.
“You have to still attack the game the same way that you would any other night,” said Islanders Captain Anders Lee. “You just gotta try to maintain that momentum that we earned from (game five) and carry that into the next game. We’re on our heels. Our backs are against the wall and we gotta come out flying.”
The Islanders are trying to become the 30th team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a playoff series. They are also attempting to become just the second team ever to come back from a 3-1 hole and win a conference final. The only other team to do that were the 2000 New Jersey Devils and their General Manager was current Isles GM Lou Lamoriello.
What was a deficit of 3-1 is now 3-2 as the Islanders continue their quest to push this series to a potential seventh game.
“We’re just committed to our process and committed to the things that make us good and I think that’s what defines playoff hockey in a way,” said Islanders defenseman Devon Toews.
But this year, playoff hockey has taken on a new definition and a feeling like none other in league history. The season was suspended in mid-March because of COVID-19 and the NHL returned to play in late July in the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton. The Islanders won three rounds in the Toronto bubble and now they’re in Edmonton trying to find a way to get to the Stanley Cup Final.
The players have been together in both bubbles making this an experience they are never going to forget.
“It’s actually been a really special time,” said Lee. “I don’t think we’re every going to have an opportunity like this to spend this much time with our teammates. I think we’ve all really soaked it in and really enjoyed this time with each other.”
The Islanders would like nothing better than to continue their stay in the bubble where if they can get six more wins, they would capture the fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history. But on Tuesday night, they will be fighting for their lives once again in a do or die game six. Tampa Bay had a chance to close out the series in game five, and they’ll have another opportunity on Thursday.
So which team is facing more pressure?
The Lightning who once led three games to one or the Islanders who have the momentum of the game five victory?
“We sort of look at it one game at a time,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “We have one life left. They have two. You tell me which has more pressure.”
The Islanders have handled the pressure of the playoffs really well so far and they’re in a position now that the 28 teams watching at home on television would love to be in. They’ve reached this point focusing on what is directly in front of them and that is always the next shift, the next period, and the next game and even games that have had extra period.