As the Islanders progressed through the Qualifying Round and the first two Rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, each game seemed to replaced the previous contest as the Islanders’ “biggest game in a long time” and that characterization has been true. Once the Islanders were a game away from ousting the Washington Capitals in the traditional first round of the playoffs, each game was the biggest since game seven of 2015 when the Islanders fell to the Capitals in Washington. Then, when the Islanders went up three games to one on the Philadelphia Flyers in round two, each game was the biggest since 1993, the last time that the Islanders had made it to a conference final.
Now here in the Eastern Conference Final against Tampa Bay, not only are these the biggest games since the Islanders faced the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 Wales Conference Final, but the importance grew when the Isles dropped the first two games of the series and then fell behind three games to one. Game five on Tuesday night was huge as it could have ended the Islanders season, but the Islanders stayed alive with a 2-1 double-overtime victory. And now tonight, another “biggest game in a long time” as the Islanders hope to even the series with a win in game six in Edmonton (8pm NBCSN).
A win tonight would force a game seven on Saturday night.
“This group has a really good focus,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz. “We just gotta worry about tonight and if we get tonight then it’s a one game showdown and anything can happen.”
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)
In a normal situation, and 2020 has been anything but normal, a game six tonight would have been played at a raucous Nassau Coliseum. But in the COVID-19 world, Islanders Country has been watching every game in the bubble from home and sending the positive thoughts and energy through social media.
The Islanders are certainly aware of the support from back home and how much this run has meant to the fans.
“They’re excited,” said Islanders forward Matt Martin. “They’re standing behind us just from Twitter and Instagram and things like that. We have a passionate fan base…we always have…and we’ve given them a reason to be excited and be passionate. We want to make them proud at the end of the day as well as our families and ourselves. We’re going to go out there and give it all we got and lay it all on the line.”
The Islanders won’t know until later today he’ll they’ll have to figure out a way to shut down Lightning forward Brayden Point tonight. Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Cooper said earlier today that Point, who missed game five due to injury, will be a game-time decision.
Does his availability affect how the Islanders prepare for game six?
“I wouldn’t say it changes our approach,” said Islanders defenseman Andy Greene. “We’re in a situation where we have to win to stay here. It’s exciting for us. It’s a great opportunity. It’s a great challenge. He’s a top player in this league. He brings a lot of different qualities for their team. For us, when he’s out there, you gotta make sure you know where he is and what he can do.”
The Islanders certainly have the momentum after the emotional victory in game five, but in a playoff series every game is different like chapters in a book. If the Islanders can get chapter six, they would be one win away from their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since 1984 and that would certainly be a cliffhanger in a potential chapter seven that Islanders fans would love to experience.