It strains credulity to think that not long ago, the Islanders won Game 1 of the second round from the Lightning — and in Tampa Bay no less.
Not to mention how close they came to winning Games 3 and 4 at home; contests that eventually were lost in overtime.
Although many NHL sages believed that the Isles’ graduation from the first to the second playoff round was accomplishment enough, the players — at the very least — hoped for more.
“We didn’t accomplish what we set out to do,” says captain John Tavares. “We let the two losses at home put us behind the eight-ball. It’s a very disappointing feeling. Brutal.”
While lauding his captain up, down and sideways, coach Jack Capuano knows that Tavares cannot carry the attack by himself.
“We have to find ways to score goals,” Capuano says, alluding to the scoring drought in Game 5. “How to put the puck in the net.”
Capuano went on: “Give Tampa Bay credit. They took care of their opportunities, while we didn’t find ways to score goals. We fell short. Let’s face it, we scratched to get into the playoffs and we got to this point; the second round. We played a team that had been here before.”
Of course it’s too late now to make adjustments, but Capuano and his sidekick Doug Weight no doubt will be analyzing why a 1-0 lead in games led to a 4-1 series exit from the second round.
Here are The Maven’s thoughts:
1. FOOT OFF THE BRAKE
After the heartening series-opening win, the Isles seemed to play as if Game 2 would be relatively easy. It was the opposite and unfolded that way. Or, as Matt Martin observes, “We learn and move on.” When the Bolts went up 3-1, in Game 2, the visitors were thoroughly deflated.
2. KUCHEROV KINGDOM
Minus sharpshooter Steven Stamkos, the Bolts didn’t blink and didn’t have to with Nikita Kucherov delivering turning point goals. His third-period red light on Sunday sealed the win for Tampa.
3. GAME 4 POWER PLAY THAT FAILED
Off and running with an early one-goal lead in Game 4, the Isles seemed capable of winning had they been able to score again. A four-minute, first-period power play not only fizzled but the Bolts had the better scoring chances. The very early power play in Game 5 also went nowhere.
4. GREISS WAS GOOD, BUT:
With the second round series tied at one game apiece, MSG Networks analyst Rick DiPietro opined that goalie Thomas Greisscould not be just good in the upcoming games but “great.” Greiss was good, but never great enough to actually “steal” a game. Or, as DP puts it, “In the last game, Greiss didn’t look comfortable from the very start.”
These issues will be evaluated now that the Isles are returning home. They will convene with the coaching staff, clean out their lockers and head for assorted destinations.
While they inevitably will muse about what-might-have-been, Cappy’s Crew should be secure in the knowledge that they accomplished plenty — more than many believed possible — in the first season of NHL hockey at Barclays Center.
For one thing, they made a successful switch from Nassau Coliseum and gave the Brooklyn crowd thrills galore. Attendance grew to wildly enthusiastically capacity crowds as the club moved down the homestretch to clinch a playoff berth.
Beating the Panthers in the first round produced some of the most pulsating hockey anywhere, capped by Tavares’ melodramatic heroics and eventual overtime clinching victory at home in Game 6.
Round 2 could have gone the Isles way with a couple of breaks in the two overtime losses, but Lady Luck was looking the other way. The magic didn’t happen in the second round, but it never was for lack of trying after the New Yorkers faced defeat in Game 5.
To their credit, the Isles never quit. Tavares hit the inside of the goal post early in the third. Minutes later, Johnny Boychuk had a wide open net but shot the biscuit into Ben Bishop’s pads. Snake-bitten? One could say that.
Bottom Line: In the second round, for the Isles, it just wasn’t meant to be.