Photo from New York Post
The worst part of working so hard to get to Game 7 is going out meekly. That’s what the Islanders have to deal with this offseason.
The Lightning outplayed the Islanders in the final game of the Stanley Cup semifinals. They did everything right to get a 1-0 victory and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals on Friday night at Amalie Arena. The Islanders couldn’t do anything about it.
The Islanders did not score a damn goal in this game. That’s all you need to know about this game. It does not reflect well on them. Outside of Semyon Varlamov and Matt Martin, everyone on the team came up small when it mattered the most, especially Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier.
Nick Leddy likely played his last game as an Islander, and it couldn’t be too soon after he fell asleep on a Yanni Gourde shorthanded goal in the second period. That was the only goal in the game. It came on a shift change during the Islanders power-play, and Leddy had no idea what hit him.
Leddy provided seven fine years of service as an Islander, but he played like his best days have been behind him for the last two seasons, so the Islanders can do better than him at that position. Maybe he can figure it out playing for the new Seattle Kraken franchise that will play in October.
Maybe several Islanders should join him, and they likely will. You can’t keep more of the same when this team has not gotten over the top. It could just be that this team went as far as they could. Changes on the roster are part of life as a hockey team.
It’s on Lou Lamoriello to build a team that can get it done. This means no one is untouchable. It’s about winning the Stanley Cup. These guys have shown they haven’t gotten it done.
Had they lost by giving it their all and trying, you can live with it. The problem with it is they didn’t. That’s why this season was disheartening.
No matter what the Islanders accomplished this season, people will remember Game 7. Everyone remembers more for a team falling short than a team winning it all. When I mean everyone, I mean critics. When I mean everyone, I mean Islanders fans that haven’t seen a team win their championship in their lifetime. When I mean everyone, I mean the Islanders players that were disappointed they did not do much to do something about it.
Ask the Rangers of the Henrik Lundqvist era. Good run, but in the end, it meant nothing since they did not win it all. They came up too short when it mattered the most. The Rangers fans don’t feel that nostalgic about it. That’s the world the Islanders are living in now.
It’s been a fun three years. But now, expectations and standards have been raised. It’s about getting to the Stanley Cup Final and winning it. This season was a success. But you can say this has been a disappointment because of the way Islanders went out with a whimper.
Don’t tell these players this season was a success. Not when they went out like this. There’s no way a player on that Islanders uniform should feel proud of the way it ended. If that’s really the case, some guys should be gone. It hurts, and it should hurt.
The Islanders did next to nothing in this contest. They did not create traffic. They did not make Andrei Vasilevskiy work out there. They did not create rushes or get breakaways. They couldn’t do anything to even get second-chance scoring. They did not give you an opportunity to think they would give you a shot to win the game at any point of this game.
Mat Barzal whiffing on an open net illustrated the moment was too big for him. He was clearly nervous to play in that game.
That’s why it should be considered a disappointment. The Islanders should be past that no one should expect them to be there. They have been to the playoffs for three years, and they made great memories out of it. But Friday night should sum up that a certain standard has to be met. This isn’t about being happy to be there anymore. This isn’t about this run being innocent. With success comes high expectations, which means from now on, it’s about winning the Stanley Cup.
The three years have been great. No argument there. But in New York, you are only remembered if you won a championship or not. The Mets and Yankees have had good runs in recent years, but in the end, no one cares since they did not win it all. The Islanders fans are going to expect more now that they tasted what success is.
The Lightning never respected the Islanders. It showed in this series. It showed in this game. There’s no reason to unless the Islanders change the narrative by finally beating them when it matters. The Islanders worked hard to try to change it after falling short to the Stanley Cup defending champions by getting to Game 7.
In the end, they came up small.
They just showed up to Tampa to be part of the Lightning coronation.
This is what we will remember their season for.