— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) May 8, 2016
The New York Islanders ended an era with a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday afternoon.
So this is how the fairy tale ends.
It doesn’t culminate in a glorious Stanley Cup parade or even an admirable second round loss. Instead, it concludes with an annihilation at the hands of an over-performing injury plagued squad, one that was whispered to be in the midst of a time of self-discovery just a few weeks ago.
The Isles, fresh off their first second-round appearance in two-and-a-half decades, had rejuvenated their long-suffering fanbase. They’d not only taken care of business in the first round, but unlike the typical Isles, it only took them six games to stave off a Florida Panthers attack.
The Isles had the benefit of competing in the Atlantic Division bracket, which meant avoiding the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in rounds one and two.
That advantage helped the team beat the up-and-coming Rink Rats in the first round. It did not, however, guarantee victory in round two.
There are a couple of reasons why the Isles faltered against the Bolts, particularly in Game 5:
1. A lack of killer instinct and desperation
It seems like it’s a broken record, but it’s true: throughout Jack Capuano‘s tenure as Isles head coach, the team has never displayed much of a killer instinct or sense of desperation.
As I wrote in an article earlier in the series, the Isles have always had a problem putting games away. They came less than a minute away from winning game three, and less than a period away from winning game four.
But that’s just half of the story (the half when the Isles decide to show up). Every now and then, the Isles will lay an absolute stinker, just like they did tonight against Tampa and last season against the Caps in Game 7.
2. A lack of secondary scoring
It was discussed in much detail in round one, and continued to be a focal point in round two.
The difference? John Tavares wasn’t able to take over the Bolts’ series like he did against Florida. Jack Capuano shuffled his lines again and again and again, but to no avail.
Without Anders Lee, the team had no physical presence in front of the net, and with the constant jumbling of lines, there was no chance for the younger players to light the lamp.
3. A decimated power play
At the end of the day, the Isles’ power play will look much improved from last postseason.
But that’s when you fail to factor in all the chances the Isles had to put the puck in the back of the net. Take the four minute minor in Game 4, for example. New York had the opportunity out of reach with a goal, but failed miserably, and ultimately lost by a mere goal in the extra frame.
They also managed to draw penalties at an astonishingly high rate in the first period, but rarely capitalized on their chances.
4. A bewildered defense
They knew it was coming, but couldn’t manage to do anything about it.
They turned out to be a daunting force of speed and skill, making the Isles’ defense look perplexed and confounded. They consistently turned guys like Calvin de Haan around and out-of-position, and always kept the Isles on their toes, in their own zone, and away from the oppositions net.