It’s been a few days now since the dust has settled on the Islanders’ devastating Game 7 defeat to the Lightning. The loss, which ended the team’s spirited run towards a Stanley Cup, now has led the focus to shift to what will be a very busy offseason for the organization.
Still, because the end to the season was so abrupt, it’s not hard to take a moment and look at where things didn’t fall in place for the Isles before they bowed out.
Looking back at the last series, the Islanders were clearly hindered by not having J.G. Pageau fully intact.
Word came out this morning from Islanders’ g.m. Lou Lamoriello that Pageau was ailing from a hand injury and had surgery yesterday.
Pageau, who had most likely suffered that injury in the series-clincher against the Bruins in Game 6 of round two, was a shell of himself against the Bolts. That setback probably got worse when he stretched out for a homerun pass that missed him in the Isles’ Game 2 loss.
“I was a little banged up,” Pageau said during the club’s exit interviews on Sunday. “I think everyone goes through it in the playoffs.”
— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) June 16, 2021
Having Pageau at less than 100% — everyone is that way in the postseason — made things even more of an uphill battle for the Isles to overcome Tampa Bay, as if it wasn’t going to be a tall task already. The Ottawa native going into the series was one of the few players who had the speed and skill to match what the Lightning brought. That’s one of the reasons the Isles were so successful against Pittsburgh and Boston. Pageau was one of the team’s best players in both series with his three goals and ten assists.
Without that presence, the Islanders had to rely on other forwards whose style don’t match up well to make up for his production. And it didn’t work out well. Pageau’s linemates — Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac — were invisible in the final round and were outmatched heavily at times.
That line ran because of Pageau and it was quite apparent they couldn’t do anything because of how he was compromised. Head coach Barry Trotz had to be feeling Pageau’s absence too. The Islanders’ were at a disadvantage from the get-go. Their offense is successful when they have all four lines going and can wear teams down with their forecheck. Both those parts of their game was a struggle as they were only able to muster up 11 goals in seven games, none of which that came from Pageau’s line. Essentially, the Isles were playing with three forward units against four.
There’s definitely other elements that can be looked at for why the Islanders fell to the Bolts. The absymal power play (1-for-17). Missed chances. Bounces all in Tampa’s favor. But an unhealthy Pageau was a major turning point from the outset.
The Islanders as a whole were affected in every aspect because of it. And it’s why they aren’t playing for a Stanley Cup right now.
It was refreshing to hear Matt Martin speak yesterday about how much the fans played a part of what was a tremendous last go-around for the Coliseum. The Coliseum put on a show for the rest of the league from the relentless chants to the singing of the national anthem before every game in the later rounds.
“It was an amazing thing,” he said on with WFAN’s Boomer and Gio. “It felt like it was getting louder and louder every game. Can’t put words to it.”
— NHL on NBC Sports (@NHLonNBCSports) June 24, 2021