The islanders might as well burn the ribbon. All 82 games of it.
Their season, which was spewing out smoke like a dead engine, finally ended in a 6-4 loss to the Lightning on Friday night. Six months ago they envisioned the Stanley Cup being held at a new address on the Hempstead Turnpike.
They go home with a 37-35-10 record, and you wouldn’t blame them for feeling a little relieved it’s over.
The final 60 minutes of the season came and went, with the Lightning falling 3-1 in the third half only to level the game with Ryan McDonagh’s goal at 10-10 of the half. Steven Stamkos then provided the game win at 11:13 after Noah Dobson and Josh Bailey tangled to create an odd rush and fittingly end a season of meltdowns. Stamkos later completed a hat-trick with a goal to seal the win at 17:50.
Zdeno Chara’s goal with 43.4 seconds left cut the lead to 5-4 – and gave the islanders a feel-good moment as he scored his first goal of the season on home ice in what might be his last NHL game – but it wasn’t enough for the win as the Lightning responded with an empty gate.
For both teams, however, Friday was all about moving on to Saturday — if the Lightning can turn their focus to the Toronto Maple Leafs and if the Islanders can start, which has to be an exhaustive look at why that October vision wasn’t even close at the realization.
“Everybody’s immune systems are pretty strong right now,” Islanders coach Barrydios defiance said after Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Capitals. “We haven’t practiced in ages. There are many things. We’re going to look back at this season – and that’s going to be something for the end of the season – it’s going to start over. And hopefully we can have a normal season and then we can judge if we’re good enough.”
Despite wasn’t just referring to COVID-19 that plagued the team in the first half of the season. The Islanders have been struggling with stomach flu in recent weeks, resulting in Ross Johnston being left out of Thursday’s line-up at the last minute and Anthony Beauvillier returning a game early from injury to fill in.
In a season when things have gone so wrong that bad luck has even extended to the team’s broadcast booth, with Brendan Burke and Butch Goring both missing games last month due to ill health, this is a somberly fitting end.
The Islanders must try to figure out what to take away from it all as they look ahead to next season with an aging roster that has failed to live up to expectations in a season that has been crumbling around them.
“You never feel like you have enough,” saiddios. “But if things are right, we’ve had defenders out there, we’ve had all that. I think we’re a lot closer than 20 points [away from contending]let’s put it that way.”
Defiant, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014 with the Predators, admitted doubts have crept into the team’s struggles. Mathew Barzal made no such admission, saying the lack of a full roster left them in a situation that was difficult to work with.
“I think there are some tired bodies in this room,” Barzal said Thursday. “It felt like there were only a lot of kilometers driven this year. Obviously not where we thought we were coming earlier this year. We thought we were fighting for the trophy and at the end of the day we thought we had a better second half. I think when this squad was healthy we’re still one of the tougher teams in the league to beat.”
Certainly there is some truth to that. Exactly how much, however, is a key distinction that GM Lou Lamoriello will need to analyze in the coming weeks.
At the end of the day, however, reality is hard to swallow. For the first time since 2018, the Islanders are sitting on their couches watching the first round of the playoffs. They’ve known for some time that this was the likely outcome, and they’ve officially known it for a couple of weeks.
But that doesn’t make it any easier.
“It’s a shame we’re done, but at the same time it was a physical and mental challenge,” said Brock Nelson on Thursday. “I’m sure the boys will relax and recover when needed.”
https://nypost.com/2022/04/29/islanders-blow-third-period-lead-in-loss-to-lightning/ The Islanders crush the lead in the third period, losing Lightning