2. Anders Lee’s Early Exit
You never want to see a player get hurt, but when that player is your team captain in the midst of a resurgent season, that is doubly true. Anders Lee played 3:34 of Thursday’s game before getting tangled up with New Jersey’s Pavel Zacha, who was driving toward the Islander crease. He would leave the ice with a trainer’s help, without putting any weight down on his right leg.
The scary part about this injury in the moment was just how innocent the play looked in real-time. It was only after seeing the replay shortly after that I noticed how Zacha came down awkwardly on top of Lee’s leg.
Like I said, you never want to see any athlete get injured. These are people whose livelihoods are totally dependent on being able to perform physically at an elite level.
I’d be lying however if I said this one didn’t hurt a little extra. Lee is by all accounts one of the good guys of the NHL, and as Brendan Burke and Butch Goring noted on the MSG broadcast, he’s one of the toughest guys in the game too. It was hard to watch him crawl on the ice in the moments immediately following the injury.
This has to be frustrating for the captain, as he has had a resurgent 2020-21 after a couple of seasons spent trying to re-find his finishing touch. He was doing just that this season, as he led the Islanders with 12 goals on 9.44 ixG (Individual Expected Goals) in all situations.
For the Islanders, the loss of their captain and leading goal scorer for any significant period of time presents a new challenge. Lee’s game may be simple, but he executes it like a man born to play that role as a net-front presence.
Here’s to hoping Lee’s knee is okay, and he’s able to return to the ice soon.