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Everything is still fresh after taking it in for two days. The memory never went away. It still hurts.
It will continue to hurt in the coming weeks and months. It could hurt for years to come. It could be a death blow for this franchise trying to get out of its rubble since they last won the Cup in 1983. When I mean death blow, I mean this franchise’s window of Stanley Cup opportunity may have been slammed shut once in for all.
The Islanders’ 1-0 Game 7 Stanley Cup semifinal loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning is something that will never be forgotten. It’s hard to get over it when players, coaches, management and ownership invested their time, heart and soul to beat a team that denied them a trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year. Don’t tell a fan to do the same, too since he or she puts so much energy and emotion into the Islanders.
Spare me about it’s not our time or wait until next year. It serves as a tired, overrated cliche that does nothing to a team trying to reach its goal.
There’s a good chance the Islanders may not be back again for a long time. If I am a betting man, they have a better chance of missing the playoffs than getting back to the Eastern Conference Final next year. The Metropolitan Division is too good, and the Eastern Conference will get better with the rise of the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers. Oh, and the Lightning aren’t going anywhere, so if the Islanders manage to get back to the Conference Final next year, they will likely meet the team that denied them once again.
Plus, as we saw in the Stanley Cup semifinals, the Islanders don’t have the skilled snipers to keep up with a team like the Lightning, which explains why they went an atrocious 1-for-17 in the power play in that round. This is going to be the same roster next year unless the Islanders drastically changed the roster.
You can get by with grit and grind in the regular season and the first two rounds of the postseason, but to win all four rounds of the playoffs, a team needs snipers to break through against an opponent like the Lightning or they will be nothing more than a nice regular-season team at best.
So yes, this hurts. This should hurt. It’s not going away this time around. The Islanders blew this opportunity. They knew their legacy was at stake here. They could get by last year since it was fresh and innocent. This year was about redemption. The Islanders dedicated this season to finish the job.
Not only they didn’t, but they went down with a whimper. Had they given their best and just went out and died trying, we could have lived with it. For the Lightning to score on a line-change during the Islanders power-play and Nick Leddy not being in the right place at the right time, it’s something that will be ingrained in everyone’s mind for a long time. You can bet Leddy will never forget it for the rest of his life.
Fair or not, Islanders fans are going to remember Leddy for giving up that big play in Game 7 forever. It’s the last thing he wants once the Islanders expose him in the expansion draft this summer. That’s what Game 7 defines. It makes a player or coach and it can break a player or coach. That’s just the way it is in pro sports.
The Islanders don’t get opportunities like this. They don’t come time after time. If they received two chances, they were fortunate to even get it. They couldn’t have blown another opportunity.
If it seems like we are piling on the Islanders, that’s not the point. We were just saying that when opportunity strikes, a team needs to finish it.
After Game 7 ended, Mat Barzal summed it up best about it sucked that the team did not get it done. He gets it. He knows this should never be taken for granted. He knows he may not get this opportunity despite being a 24-year-old.
Also, remember Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz won’t be staying forever at their ages, so yes, this Game 7 could be a haunting legacy for the Islanders.
It’s hard to enjoy the journey of this season after the Islanders put on a disgusting Game 7 performance, in which the Lightning did whatever they wanted with no repercussions. The Islanders showed up to be part of the coronation rather than ruin the party. It makes their Game 6 accomplishment mean nothing just thinking about it.
No one remembers that it went seven games. People only remember who won and who lost. Hockey fans in North America and around the world will remember the Islanders came up small in what was their biggest game of the season.
That’s tough to overcome.
The only way the Islanders can make this all forgotten is by winning the Cup next year or the year after that, but there’s no guarantee. Just ask the Rangers who fell short year after year during the Henrik Lundqvist era, and now they are a franchise that is in disarray.
You get one shot in life. You get two if you are lucky. Three, then shame on you if the third time is not the charm. There is nothing worse than having the label of the 90s Buffalo Bills teams that couldn’t finish the job.
The Islanders were lucky to get another opportunity just to come up small.
That’s what this 2021 season will be about.