The time has arrived for Anders Lee to step up for the Islanders in the postseason

Rob Taub
New York Islanders, Anders Lee
Jan 19, 2020; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Islanders left wing Anders Lee (27) takes a shot against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the New York Islanders 2-1. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Islanders named Anders Lee captain before the beginning of last season, they did it for a reason.

Lee was a leader. He had a presence about him, and his teammates respected him.

He was also bestowed the “C” for another reason — he’s one of the organization’s most important players.

But something has eluded Lee, and it even goes back further to before he was handed the captaincy.

It’s that next level playoff performance.

The Islanders and their fans have been waiting for Lee to have that bust out moment in the postseason for a long time now.

Back 2015, when the Isles faced the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs, Lee was scratched for games six and seven of the series. Head coach Jack Capuano had benched him in place for 12th forward and veteran, Colin McDonald.

The Islanders went on to lose that do-or-die seventh game against the Caps and recording just 11 shots on goal for the entire game. 

The following year, Lee went down with a leg injury just a few games before the playoffs began. The setback forced him to miss the postseason, and the organization’s first playoff series win in 23 years.

And even last spring, he went ice cold against the Carolina Hurricanes after having three points in four games in the Isles’ sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round.

His start to this postseason hasn’t been much to write home about either — pointless in four games despite ten shots on goal.

All of those previous experiences, and his play so far in the tournament, make it even more crucial that he finally delivers for against the Capitals this round.

The second and third lines did most of the damage against Florida. Even more so, the Isles offense was very good in general with his linemates — Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal — finding their groove again.

The latter makes things even more critical for why receiving a huge series from Lee could go a long way in helping the Isles move on to the next round.

Take, for example, what’s on the other side: Alex Ovechkin.

It’s not even up for discussion how much the Caps are going to lean on him the entire series and in the biggest moments.

Well, the Isles are going to need to do the same with Lee, but even more.

And we’ve seen in the past Lee is up for that challenge. This time, he needs to do it again while taking it to another degree.

What that means is he is better than Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ilya Kovalchuk, and T.J. Oshie, for that matter. What that means is he is that bull in front of the opposing team’s cage and making goalie’s lives a nightmare. He earned that reputation around the league, even if it wasn’t the same this year as from years past. And what that means is he playing up to level a team’s captain needs to be at when it comes to the postseason.

That doesn’t have to be scoring a million points. But it does involve being the player who is the one who creates those big moments or is in the mix somehow.

The Islanders will need certain things to break their way if they want to be one of the Elite 8 a few weeks from now.

One of them is Lee stepping his game up to a level we haven’t seen from him yet in his career. He’s had chances in the past and been unsuccessful. Now comes another one starting tomorrow where he can elevate his status.

It’s Anders Lee’s time, and it’s now where he needs to arrive.