In 2015, the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals series went to a Game 7. For some reason, Anders Lee was a scratch that night.
There are few things in sports that are as exciting as a Game 7. It’s win or go home, and that’s the position the New York Islanders were in during their series with the Washington Capitals in the 2015 playoffs.
After falling behind 3-2 in the series, the Isles won a dramatic Game 6 at the Coliseum to force a seventh and final game on the road in Washington. For that game, the Islanders decided to do something very strange.
They decided to roll out, Nelson – Tavares – Strome, Bailey – Nielsen – Okposo, Kulemin – Grabovski – McDonald, Martin – Cizikas – Clutterbuck. If you remember what that 2015 team looked like, that lineup is missing one key piece, Anders Lee.
Lee was a healthy scratch that night. Jack Capuano decided to go with Collin McDonald instead over Lee and it was certainly a head-scratcher at the time.
The then, 24-year-old Lee had 25 goals to his name during the 2014-2015 season. Yes, while Lee only had one point in five games, he was a healthy scratch for Game 6 as well, he was second on the team in goals behind Tavares on the season.
Imagine keeping your second-best goal scorer in the press-box because he didn’t have a goal in the first five games of the series? What made the decision even more strange was that McDonald got the nod over Lee.
During the regular season, he only played in 18 games with two goals to his name. In Game 6 McDonald got 9:54 in ice time and took a penalty, but for some reason that was good enough to put him back into the lineup?
Anyway, in Game 7 the Isles lost 2-1 a game in which they got 11 shots on net. Not 11 over a period, or 11 over half of the game, 11 shots in the full 60-minute contest. Only three of the 11 shots came from Islanders forwards, one of which was from Frans Nielsen that ended up in the back of the net.
With that kind of performance, it’s safe to say that Jack Capuano made a big mistake. Would the Islanders have won the game with Anders Lee on the ice? It’s hard to put that all on him, but I’ll tell you one thing the Isles would’ve had a better shot at being somewhat offensive.
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In the final five games of that series, the Islanders scored eight goals combined, one of which was an empty-net goal. That decision will always be a headscratcher and one that I will never forget.