The New York Islanders buck the trend. No individual tendency in particular, just generally. Chemistry, intensity, and focus — as well as elite leadership corps on the bench — have carried this team to the brink of the National Hockey League’s final four. That’s awfully impressive.
This is an organization that’s allowed both the face of the franchise and their Vezina-winning goaltender to depart in free agency in recent years, yet they haven’t lost an ounce of the confidence to persevere after either normally-devastating departure.
Credit for those seamless transitions falls directly on Isles head coach Barry Trotz and his crack staff, as well as the collection of incredibly talented, yet mostly unheralded cornerstones and cogs that president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello has assembled around the solid core he inherited.
The way this group has come together since returning from the unprecedented break in play due to COVID-19 has been nothing short of spectacular. Again, propers to the Islanders’ coaching staff and on-ice leaders.
Postseason success is equal parts talent, getting hot at the right time, and luck. Check those first two items right off the list.
There have arguably been no teams hotter than the Isles over the past few weeks and the roster has spoken for themselves. And after outplaying, outshooting, outhustling, and outhitting the Flyers on Thursday, the Islanders know a little something about luck — or the lack thereof — as well.
Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Anthony Beauvillier, Anders Lee, Josh Bailey (two goals, 13 assists over 15 games), and even Jordan Eberle, who had the toughest of games on Thursday, have proven their mettle. The Islanders defense has been astounding and the goaltending has been solid, last contest aside.
Heading into Saturday night’s Game 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers in Toronto, the New York Islanders are in complete control of their destiny.
Come to play, as they did on Thursday in literally every facet but between the pipes, and chances are they can walk out of the arena with a win and a ticket to Edmonton to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sounds wild, right? It’s really not. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.
When the Islanders play their game — flooding zones, cutting off lanes, putting pucks on nets, making things happen, etc but in a meticulously calculated fashion; aka Barry’s Way — there aren’t many teams that can beat them.
The Flyers. The Lightning. Whichever team comes out of the Campbell Conference. Those late-1970s USSR powerhouses. Whoever. If everyone does their respective jobs, the Islanders can skate with any of these teams.
Alas, none of that matters unless they get it done on Saturday. And if they shouldn’t prevail, by no means should this season be considered a failure. Too many positives have emerged from this thrilling run to look back in resent or regret.
Though, if the Isles do indeed advance to the ECF, it would be a true testament to the well-coached, incredibly prepared, tough-as-nails identity this team has adopted since this regime took over. It would also speak volumes to the bright future of this franchise.
High times ahead, friends. So, with a little oomph this time, let’s go, Islanders.