The Islanders’ season is over.
A magical, unprecedented ride came to an end last night in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2-1 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
This one stings and it will for a while.
The Isles came within an earshot of playing in the Stanley Cup Final, as well as just six victories away from lifting the chalice. This crazy run was also the farthest any Islander team had gotten in 27 years. And for many who live and die with this team, it was the deepest they’ve ever seen this team get in their lifetime.
That’s what made it so special.
The journey the Islanders led their fans on the past seven weeks provided a great sense of pride, determination, and was full of thrills. They also gave many a much-needed distraction from the current reality of the COVID-19 world and all the difficulties that came with it.
“This is one of the most resilient teams I’ve coached and I’ve coached for a long time,” head coach Barry Trotz said. “I’m real proud of what we’ve done and the strides we’ve made, but we’re obviously very disappointed as a group. This group felt two things, that it could represent the East and hopefully play for the Stanley Cup. We fell a little bit short.”
When the players, coaches and fans look back on this postseason though, it will be remembered for the countless memories they created from the moment they arrived in the bubble. Every step of the way something memorable occurred and it was a different hero each time.
We can go down the list.
J.G. Pageau scoring the first goal of the playoffs. Tom Kuhnhackl’s between the legs feed to Matt Martin, the guy who was a freight train the entire way. Anthony Beauvillier’s incredible motor in the qualifying and first round. Josh Bailey’s record-setting performance. Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s epic OT winners. The outstanding goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and the clutch games from a soldier in Thomas Greiss. The Varly slide. Andy Greene’s warrior showing. Pageau the ping-pong king, his wink and making Brian Boyle hilariously shake in his boots. And to top it all off, the third period comebacks and the clinchers in the first three rounds.
There was a bunch more to speak of but. All of it though will be endeared in the hearts and minds of the fans forever.
A run like this doesn’t come around very often, and hopefully, it won’t be the last for a very long time for this franchise. These playoffs showed the Isles have arrived. What general manager Lou Lamoriello does from here is anyone’s guess, but this organization is going to be in the Stanley Cup conversation for the next few years. They have the leadership, the structure, and several pieces in place. Experiencing this kind of heartbreak — for the second time in two years — too should only provide more motivation moving forward. If not that, earning a lot of respect from many naysayers around the league will as well.
“The bar has always been set high,” said d-man Scott Mayfield. “This year shows others how high we think it is. With the staff and the ownership we have here, we’ve turned the corner and we showed that these past two years. It hurts now, but that’s a silver lining. It’s trending in the right direction.”
Mayfield couldn’t have said it any better. But even not looking forward at the moment, this particular group was unique in their own sense. They fought with everything until the very end and played for one another night in and night out. They should be proud of what they were able to accomplish.
“Pride, character, resiliency,” said captain Anders Lee, who was the definition of a captain throughout the last month. “It’s a special group in that room & until that very last minute, we believed in each other, what we were doing & the road we were on. Obviously we came up short, but there’s a huge sense of pride in every single one of those guys in our room.”
So now the next step remains. Which is to win that fifth Cup. The Isles are close but aren’t there just yet.
“You don’t always do it your first crack at it, that’s why you have to go back,” Trotz said. “And you have to do it again until you climb that mountain. We got fairly close but we can see the mountain top.”
Isles fans can start dreaming of this team getting over that proverbial hump for the next few months. While they do that, they can also reflect on what an insane, unpredictable, heart-pounding, enjoyable rollercoaster ride this postseason became.
The memories were endless. And for that, the fan base owes this team a well-deserved thank you.
So, THANK YOU New York Islanders for this experience.
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