Since the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders have gone with just two lineups. The first one included Oliver Wahlstrom, but after the rookie forward suffered an injury in game five of the opening round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Travis Zajac was inserted into the lineup for game six and the lineup hasn’t changed since then.
But, trailing the Tampa Bay Lightning two games to one in the Stanley Cup Semifinals, it is possible that the Islanders could make a change or two for game four on Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum (8pm USA Network).
“We’re looking into it,” said Islanders Head Coach Barry Trotz during a Friday morning Zoom meeting with reporters. “I think we gotta get to the net a little bit better. It’s a matter of inches. It’s a matter of a play.”
Islanders vs Lightning (Tampa Bay leads 2-1)
Game 1…Sunday June 13th…Islanders 2 Lightning 1…
Game 2…Tuesday June 15th…Lightning 4 Islanders 2…
Game 3…Thursday June 17th…Lightning 2 Islanders 1…
Game 4…Saturday June 19th…Lightning at Islanders…8pm USA Network
Game 5…Monday June 21st…Islanders at Lightning…8pm NBCSN
*Game 6…Wednesday June 23rd…Lightning at Islanders…8pm NBCSN
*Game 7…Friday June 25th…Islanders at Lightning…8pm NBCSN
The Islanders could sure use a little offensive boost to their game after they scored just five goals in the first three games against Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. They fired 28 shots on goal in Thursday’s 2-1 loss in game three, but they also had 21 shots blocked. Somehow, the Islanders have to try and get more pucks to the net and they also have to try and create a little havoc in front of Vasilevskiy. Also, the Islanders’ power play is just two for seven in the series so perhaps that could lead to Wahlstrom getting back into the lineup.
“Some guys get small in the moment especially in the playoffs but I didn’t think Wally did,” said Trotz in an assessment of Wahlstrom before he suffered the injury. “I thought he had a really good start in the playoffs, then he faded a little bit and then he obviously got hurt. I have a lot of faith in what Wally can do if we put him in and he is an option for us going forward here.”
Wahlstrom had a goal and two assists over the first five games of the Penguins series and he could turn out to be a valuable piece of the puzzle if he is in the lineup. Wahlstrom’s big shot and the physical aspect of his game could be exactly what the Islanders need to jumpstart the offense and create some more dangerous scoring opportunities.
“We had a big discussion if he comes in the lineup or not in the lineup,” said Trotz. “We haven’t made any decisions so I can’t tell you if he’ll be in or not. We’re looking at what we have available which I think we’ll have a full lineup and we’ll just make that decision. It will just be a coach’s decision.”
While the objective is for Wahlstrom, if he does play, to provide a change for the better heading into game four, the key word for the Islanders heading into Saturday night is similarity.
The Islanders are in the exact same spot they were in against the Lightning in last season’s Eastern Conference Final as they trail two games to one. The big difference is that last season, the series was played in the Edmonton bubble while this season, things are back to normal with games at home arenas with sellout crowds.
The other similarity is that for the third straight series in this post-season, the Islanders are down two games to one. In the first two rounds against the Penguins and Boston Bruins, the Islanders won the final three games to win each series.
Can it happen again?
“We can look back at those previous experiences and we’ve had good success so there’s no reason for us to have any doubt that this can’t happen again,” said Trotz. “But it’s on us to do it…not hope or anything like that.”
While the onus is on the Islanders to execute on the ice, the reality is that all of Islanders Country is hoping that history can repeat itself…not last season’s series against Tampa Bay but what happened this post-season in the first two rounds.