Do or die.
That’s the task facing the Islanders tomorrow night.
Now down 3-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals after falling 4-1 yesterday in game four, the Isles are on the brink of seeing their fantastic run in the postseason bubble come to an end.
“We’ve got one life left,” head coach Barry Trotz said following the defeat.
Well, one life left. Not the ideal spot everyone was hoping for when they got back into the series with a win last Friday. But if it so happens to be the last, then the Islanders need to leave everything out there on the ice.
Other than preserving their Stanley Cup hopes another day, they can show that “never say die” attitude and resiliency hasn’t been all smoke and mirrors. It’s been evident from the moment they arrived in Toronto over a month ago.
They haven’t quit. Even with the number of games they’ve played, the twists and turns they’ve had to endure, the highs and lows; they have proven they are indeed a damn good hockey team and aren’t going to lay down for anybody.
This isn’t 2016 or 2019 for that matter either.
These Isles are different. It’s been that way ever since they returned. Just look how far this club has come from when the regular season stopped back in March.
At that time, they were battered, bruised and fading fast out of the playoff picture. Now, they are recognized as one of the best teams in the league and have gained a ton of respect from the hockey world.
“This group has invested too much to not give their best effort on Tuesday,” Trotz voiced.
This series has not gone the Isles’ way and there have been missed opportunities, and there’s been the notion of still being a piece or two away from the roles possibly being reversed in this series, which is true. But it’s not over. It won’t be over until the final buzzer sounds tomorrow night and the Isles have fewer goals on the scoreboard than Tampa.
There’s still very much a chance for this Islanders to pick themselves off the mat.
“We can’t change what’s happened,” Brock Nelson says. “We’re here now with a chance, our backs are against the wall and we just have to go out there and play and give everything we have. It’s going to take a little more from everybody and we have the group in here that believes in each other to go out there and get the job done. We just have to start with one.”
So yeah, all four lines? Go all out (especially the first line!). Defensemen? Play the game of your lives. Thomas Greiss or Semyon Varlamov? Be an impenetrable force. And special teams? Be the difference-maker.
No one wants to see this crazy run end. It’s brought a lot of fun and encouraging signs during a very rough time.
Cal Clutterbuck said on Friday night, “I don’t think packing it in is part of this team.” If that’s the case, then the Isles need to lay it all on the line tomorrow.
That’s how this season will live to see another day.
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