The 2020 New York Islanders went on a great run in the hub city of Toronto, but Edmonton has not been kind to this scrappy group.
After rolling through the Florida Panthers, dispatching the Washington Capitals in five games, and holding on by the hairs on their playoff-bearded chinny chin chins against the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s clear that the New York Islanders are no match for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning smashed the Islanders 8-2 in Game 1, which was almost expected. The Isles were due for a letdown after an emotionally and physically draining seven-game series against a tough Philly team. Toronto was done with the Boston Bruins in five games and had the luxury of rest before traveling to Edmonton for the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the Isles have no excuse for what happened in Game 2. A dirty hit by Alex Killorn on Brock Nelson in the first period sent the Lightning forward to the locker room for a game misconduct.
That’s when New York’s power-play woes surfaced yet again. The Isles have been miserable on the power play all postseason long and Wednesday night may have been the most embarrassing display of the restart. They came up empty on the five-minute major, couldn’t find the net on a 5-on-3 later in the game, and were 0-for-4 on the power play for the night.
Failing to score on the power play might not kill teams in the early rounds, but as the playoffs go on, the margin for error becomes slimmer. Against a team as talented as the Lightning and a goaltender as polished as Andrei Vasilevskiy, there’s almost no margin for error at all.
And the cherry on top of the disappointing night was that the Isles let their guard down at the worst possible time. The Lightning were skating with nine forwards and the Isles appeared to be content to let the clock run down in the third period. Obviously, the Isles would finish it in overtime against the shorthanded squad.
But Tampa Bay didn’t rest on their laurels. In the waning seconds, Semyon Varlamov was asked to deal with a flurry of Lightning shots. After stopping two huge chances, a cross-ice pass connected with Nikita Kucherov’s stick, and the Lightning took a 2-1 lead with eight seconds remaining.
Both Lightning goals came within the final two minutes of periods.
Simply put, Tampa Bay is the better team. The Isles have hit their ceiling and they don’t belong on the same ice as the Lightning right now.
Now head coach Barry Trotz will have to ask his team to do something they haven’t done in these playoffs—come back from a deficit. They could have knotted the series in Game 2, but let that chance slip through their fingers. Although a comeback isn’t impossible, it’s certainly not probable at this point.