Don’t let anyone fool you, the Islanders were the Lightning’s toughest challenge in repeating as champs

If you were watching the last moments of the NHL on NBC’s broadcast of the Stanley Cup Finals, you would have heard something that would make you shake your head. And if you’re an Islanders fan, it probably made you laugh.

Keith Jones, an analyst that blue and orange supporters aren’t enamored with going back to his days with the Philadelphia Flyers, made a remark that the Florida Panthers were the Tampa Bay Lightning’s toughest challenge on their run this postseason to repeating as champions.

Not the Montreal Canadiens, whom they just defeated in the Finals. Nor the Carolina Hurricanes, a team that could be considered a lighter version of them Tampa themselves.

Nope, Florida.

Jones pointed out because there were scrums after almost every stoppage of play, how physical the series was from the start and the high-scoring games, that Tampa had to work extra hard advance past the first round.

Maybe this was just ignorance or jealousy on Jones’ part, but someone should have reminded him it took Lightning just five games to dispose of the Panthers. And look, that is not to say Florida wasn’t a tough opponent for the Bolts — they showed they’re no joke — but it’s not even in the same conversation to the war the Isles put Tampa through in their semifinal matchup.

After all, it was the Islanders who took Tampa the distance, having lasted seven games. It was the Islanders, who came one different power play away from knocking off the defending champs. And it was the Islanders who responded every time it seemed Tampa was going to run away with the series.

Lets look at the facts too. It was a nasty, intense, and brutal for all the players involved. Five of those seven matchups were all decided by a single goal. Only Game 2 and 5 was the goal differential different. But remember this: even in that Game 2 win for Tampa, it was a tie game late in the second period before Ondrej Palat’s “controversial” goal flipped the game in the Lightning’s favor.

To further the point, the last game between the two clubs ended in a 1-0 score on a shorthanded goal. A SHORTHANDED GOAL. That’s how extremely close the Islanders pushed the Lightning to the brink of elimination.

Oh might us remind everyone (especially Jones) too that the Bolts had to overcome an Isles’ club who was without their captain Anders Lee, a compromised J.G. Pageau — he played the series with a broken thumb — and a truly game Semyon Varlamov.

“When you win a championship or end up getting to play for one, you want to say you went through the best,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after Game 7 a few weeks ago. ”

And I can honestly say here…the Islanders are as good a team as we’ve played in two years. And last year in Game 5, it goes to overtime, Game 6 goes to overtime. Nothing was easy. Not even the 8-0 in Game 5. It was unbelievably difficult. And the proud team they are, to come push on as they did at the end…that’s as close as two teams can be.”

If the coach of the winning squad heaps praise like that for his opponent, that’s got to mean something. Islanders fans can take some solace in knowing that they were the true final obstacle that Tampa needed to get through to win it all.

Some can say that the shoe is now on the other foot with the Lightning being in the way of the Islanders winning it all. Who knows, maybe the two teams make it a three-peat next year and face each other again. Wouldn’t that be a treat?

It’s not impossible either, despite the fact both organizations are going to see changes due to being hammered by the salary cap. But it goes without saying in these playoffs, the Islanders were the ultimate challenge for the Bolts.

They were the team that nearly ended their bid to repeat and made them work the hardest.

 

 

 

 

 

New York Islanders: Is Alex Killorn in Play for the Isles?

Alex Killorn, New York Islanders

The New York Islanders need a top 6 winger, and that’s no secret to anyone. This top 6 winger must be a goal scorer, but at the same time, he needs to know how to play defense. That’s why I’m very skeptical of Patrik Laine and Taylor Hall. Neither of those guys is huge on defense, and they need to be if they want to get those big minutes in Barry Trotz’s system. Enter Alex Killorn. Alex Killorn does it all, he’s a goal scorer, he plays on the PP and PK, he’s a grinder who can lay the boom.  Killorn has the word Islander written all over his play. But, is he in play for the Islanders?

No Move Clause

Alex Killorn does have a no-trade clause in his contract, but it has become a 16 team no-trade list as of this year. If you’re the Islanders, you’re praying that you don’t get put on that list. Killorn could waive this, though. I mean, you recently saw Patrick Hornqvist waive his NTC after realizing the Penguins didn’t want him. I wouldn’t be surprised if Killorn ends up feeling the same way. Killorn’s team just won the Stanley Cup, it’s not like Tampa owes him anything or vice versa.

Contract

Alex Killorn signed a 7-year deal in 2016, he’s now making $4.5 million per year. The Islanders do not have a ton of cap, but they can make some moves to open up space. First, the Islanders have to find a way to ship off Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ladd. If the Isles can do that and sign all their RFA’s, it’s a no brainer to trade for Killorn. Killorn doesn’t have a large contract, but it’s not one the Isles can take straight on.

The Trade

Since I get berated in the comments every time I report a possible trade offer, I’m going to throw out multiple ideas. NTC for NTC? Jordan Eberle and Ross Johnston for Alex Killorn. As long as the Islanders keep Matt Martin, I don’t know which Islander fan that says no to that. Killorn is more than a million dollars cheaper and scores more points. Tampa gets a more expensive winger, but they also get a good enforcer. Or what about Nick Leddy, Kyle Burroughs’ rights, and a 6th round pick this year. Tampa gets another offensive defenseman and a 7th defensive defenseman. The Islanders get the guy they “want.”

Also, just for anyone, whose going to comment. The Islanders do not care about the boarding in game 2, it’s in the past, I doubt they hold grudges like that.

New York Islanders: 3 Keys to Winning Game 2

New York Islanders, Cal Clutterbuck

Winning tonight’s game is crucial for the New York Islanders. After suffering an embarrassing 8-2 loss against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders must find a way to win game 2. This Tampa team is nothing to laugh at. They aren’t the same team that got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in round 1. But, they still have the same head coach. It’s still the same Tampa system, but without Steven Stamkos. The offense runs the same, point shots from Hedman and rushes by Kucherov and Point. The Islanders must win tonight, and they must follow these three keys to aid them.

Avoid Taking Penalties

This Islanders team cannot kill penalties the way they used to, and they also can’t get into a shootout with Tampa. The only way to avoid power-play goals is to avoid taking penalties. This is not the Philidelphia Flyers who couldn’t even gain the blue line. This is Tampa Bay, who could score from virtually anywhere. The Islanders need to stay out of the box, especially if it’s a bad penalty like a stick infraction. The only reason any Islander should take a penalty is to stop a 1v1.

Fewer Turnovers

The Islanders turned the puck over way too many times on Monday night. For a team that preaches about clean neutral zone play, there was nothing clean about game 1—too many turnovers in the neutral zone and in the defensive zone. The Islanders need to stop going behind the net with passes and start breaking it out up the boards. Also, there were too many turnovers in the offensive zone. You can’t score if you don’t shoot, and you can’t shoot if you don’t have the puck.

Pushing Players out of the Crease

Whether it be Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss or even Braden Holtby, it’s very hard to stop a puck that you can’t see. The Islanders cannot allow Victor Hedman to take a slapshot from the blue line when there are four guys in front of the net. As I’ve said many times, the Islanders need to use their bodies to move the screens. It’s too hard to on the goalies, and it can possibly cost the Isles the game and the series.

Conclusion

Tonight is a big game for both teams tonight. The Isles need to level it at one if they want to keep their Stanley Cup chances alive.

New York Islanders: Matchup Analysis with Tampa

New York Islanders, Johnny Boychuk

The New York Islanders are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years. That means for Islander fans who are between the ages of 1-27, this is the most exciting moment of your lives. It’s by far the best team they’ve put on the ice since the dynasty. Also, this team has the best coach the NHL has seen since the dynasty. I mean, if you match up this year’s team and the dynasty’s team, there’s a lot of parallels. But, the Islanders aren’t playing against the dynasty teams; they’re playing Tampa Bay. The Tampa Bay Lightning is an up and down team for sure. Many years with deep runs, early exits after being the best team in the regular season, and one year ended with them just missing out on glory. How well do the Islanders match up with Tampa?

Forwards

I believe that Tampa is more talented on the forward side of the spectrum. Tampa has forwards like Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Yianni Gourde. This Tampa forward group is insanely gifted and can put up a bunch of points, but are they better together than the Islanders?

Yes, I’m talking about chemistry, something that every team needs to win. The Islanders’ second and fourth lines have the best chemistry I’ve ever seen. Tampa is currently missing their best centerman, Steven Stamkos, but that hasn’t stopped them from gelling as a group. Long time players like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have kept the chemistry in check. I think this could go down the middle, but talent-wise the Lightning are the better forward group.

Defenseman

I don’t care if the other team has Roman Josi, Victor Hedman, Drew Doughty, and John Carlson; the Islanders are a better defensive team. Especially when the Islanders defenseman is jumping up, they’re dangerous. On the other hand, the Lightning defenseman jumps up too often. And the Islanders have the speed to make the Lightning pay. If Anthony Beauvillier gets through a defensive pinch, it’s a 90% chance that’s a goal. The Lightning have more known names in their defensive group, but names don’t mean anything in the Playoffs.

Goalies

Andrei Vasilevskiy, that’s really all there is to it. He’s been one of the best goalies of the 2010s. When he’s on fire, there’s not much you can do. And the Islanders are somehow cycling through goalies, and they’re in the final four. It shows you the power of Barry Trotz.

NHL: An explanation of why the Tampa Bay Lightning voted no on NHLPA vote

Tampa Bay Lightning player representative Alex Killorn wants to make one thing perfectly clear,

“Everyone on our team wants to play,” he said to Joe Smith of theAthletic.com.

The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of two teams (Carolina was the other) to say no in a vote the NHLPA had to authorize the continuation of discussions for the NHL’s return to play proposal. In a 29-2 decision the players association overwhelmingly decided it was important to get back on the ice and award a Stanely Cup.

Kilorn explained why his club voted no. The decision was a team effort after the Lightning representative provided all the key elements of the proposal to the teammates.

“I brought the format to my team,” Killorn said via text Saturday night. “They didn’t feel it was fair that certain teams that probably wouldn’t have made the playoffs would have a chance to make the playoffs in a best-of-five series. My team also felt it was unfair that the teams with a bye would not be as well prepared for a playoff series as the teams that had already basically played a playoff series to get into the playoffs.

“This was not my opinion alone. As the PA rep I have a duty to represent the voice of my entire team. I don’t want people to think that we don’t want to play. Everyone on our team wants to play. In saying that, we are fine with the vote the PA took and we are ready with it going forward.”

The Lightning knows first hand what it is like to end the regular season playing meaningless games and then facing a team that was playing hard in the first round of the playoffs.

Last season, Tampa Bay won 62 games in the regular season and clinched a playoff spot and the President’s Trophy early on. The remainder of their season had no value, they lost their edge and focus as the playoffs began. The lightning was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets.  A bitter taste the club has yet to forget.

The return to play proposal has the top four teams in each division would get a bye. The NHL has suggested these teams would play games that have no real competition value while the bottom four teams in each division jump right into playoff-mode. Tampa Bay thinks the play-in teams would have an advantage once those clubs advance to the next round.

Of course there were other issues that caused the lightning players to vote no. Players will be away from their families approximately two months, tough on the younger dads on the team. This is a problem that will occur all round this unusual way of completing the season.

Yet at the end of the day, the Lightning players are committed to doing whatever it takes to win the Stanley Cup.

“You don’t know how many chances you’re going to get at winning this (Stanley Cup).”

Every team will have it’s challenging once the NHL resumes. There are so many more things to resolve before the league can startup. Tampa Bay and the other 24 teams participating in the 2019-’20 playoffs will be looking forward to winning the Cup when the time comes.