In a game impacted by a tough seven-game series followed by a transcontinental flight with little downtime in between, the New York Islanders dropped Game 1 to Tampa Bay by a score of 8-2.
On this Labor Day, everything from New York Islanders fans’ pre-game energy to the product on the ice felt flat. Labor Day is historically a day with no Labor.
Despite that, the NHL saw fit to start Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final after a series where the Islanders concluded 24 periods of hockey on Saturday, took a four and a half hour flight on Sunday, to challenge many prognosticators’ Cup Favorite on Monday night.
The results were predictable as the Isles looked a step slow against an energized, motivated Lightning squad.
The loss marked the fourth time in the organization’s history, where the Isles dropped a Game one after a seven-game playoff series (1975,1987,1993). In those three games, the Isles were outscored 12-3.
After a game that we are all ready to forget, the Islanders’ best response was saved for the post-game interviews.
Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, looked tired but emotionally unaffected.
"Eberle, ‘we are a good hockey team, and there is a reason why we are here. We have to regroup, and we will.’"
The only indicator of any player’s frustration was that Eberle felt compelled to stress that ‘this is a good team.’ It is laughable that such a comment was necessary.
It’s tough to imagine that every player avoided their phones on Sunday.
And if the boys were peeking at social media, they saw the typical response; ignorant backhanded compliments.
After the loss, OG Islanders Blogger Chris Botta didn’t mince words for Keith Jones, (who to his credit, has tried to be Switzerland despite watching two of his former teams fall to the Blue and Orange).
Knowledgeable Islander fans know this team responds every time the experts’ doubt.
Which means we have the Bolts right were we want them.
That is not to say that Coach Trotz doesn’t have tough decisions for Game 2.
Cal Clutterbuck is a warrior. However, Mikhael Sergachevs’ shot off his ankle ultimately proved too much for a Cal return in the third. If Cal can’t suit up Wednesday, will we see more of Ross the Boss, MDC, Komarov, and/or the return of Tom Kuhnhackl? (who didn’t play in the Philly series)
Defensively, physicality in front of the net was an issue in the Flyer series. We saw some more of the same in Game 1. Will Johnny Boychuk return to the line-up on Wednesday to move big bodies in front?
And of course, the most significant question mark is; Who starts in net?
Thomas Greiss was partially to blame in not challenging Bolts in the crease in Game 1.
Varlamov is a more physical presence, but he’ll need a short memory after last night’s debacle. Although it may be very different now, historically, the rub on Varly is that he has a long memory.
Want your voice heard? Join the Eyes On Isles team!
In any event, Trust in Trotz. Trust in this team.
They have earned it.