There are no words to describe the lightning storm the New York Islanders found themselves in during Game 5 of their 2021 Stanley Cup semifinal rematch with Tampa Bay. The 8-0 loss has now gone down as the most lopsided loss in New York’s playoff history, erasing away last season’s 8-2 defeat to this same Lightning team.
It was pretty evident that New York failed to bring their “A” game to Tampa Bay; however, they can take one positive with them for Game 6. The Islanders have been on the receiving end of lopsided games before, on April 10, 1975, and May 15, 1980. After suffering identical 8-3 losses to the New York Rangers in 1975 and then the Philadelphia Flyers in 1980, the blue and orange rebounded on both occasions to take the next game. In games after they allowed eight goals in a playoff game, the Isles are 2-1, with their only loss coming at Tampa’s hands in 2020. Another positive is they have outscored their opponents 11-7 in those follow-up games.
Barry Trotz took over as head coach on June 21, 2018. Since then, opponents have shut out the Isles 15 times during the regular season. Teams have scored 47 goals in those contests, with the Boston Bruins securing the most victories with three. In the following games, the Islanders are 8-7 despite being outscored 33-37. In addition, they lost back-to-back shutout games on two occasions, once during the 2018-19 season (Boston & Montreal Canadians) and again during the 2019-20 season (Nashville Predators & Vegas Golden Knights).
Before we dive deeper into the numbers, let’s take a quick peek at the Islanders’ history of beatdowns in the postseason. The franchise’s high mark for goals in a game occurred on April 8, 1981, when New York scored nine goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The boys won 9-2 and took the next game for good measure 5-1.
The first time the team scored eight goals in a game came on April 8, 1980, against the Los Angeles Kings. They followed that blowout with an 8-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on April 16, 1981. The following season, on April 7, 1982, the boys beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 8-1. During their 1983 playoff run, the team decimated the Bruins twice with eight goals. First on May 3 (8-3) and then May 7 (8-4). After these blowout wins, the Isles hold a 4-2 record in the preceding games, outscoring their opponents again 24-17.
Playoff Shutout Losses Are Bad Omens
The Islanders recent 8-0 loss is a franchise low-point. Never before in their 27 trips to the playoffs have the Isles been blown out so badly. Up until 2021, the worse the team had ever played was during the 1994 opening-round series against the Rangers. Their Manhattan rivals took Game 1 and Game 2 by identical 6-0 scores en route to a four-game sweep and eventual Stanley Cup Championship.
In 311 playoff games (59 playoff series), opponents have shut out the Islanders 25 times. They have been outscored 75-0 in those games. The Lightning’s recent shutout put them at the top of the list, tying Philadelphia as the teams who have shut out the Islanders the most, with four games apiece. The Flyers achieved their zeros during the 1975 and 1985 playoffs, earning 4-0, 1-0, 3-0, and 1-0 victories. It appears the Flyers were much kinder to the Isles than the Lightning, who own three 3-0 wins in their 2004 playoff matchup and their recent 8-0 drubbing.
When the Islanders fail to find the back of the net, the results in their next contest are not pretty. There are only two occasions to date that the Islanders had a shutout cost them their season, 1985 and 2016. In the other 23 opportunities with the series still alive, the Islanders are only 9-14, getting outscored 77-64 in the process. The team also has a losing record (3-4) when those games go to overtime.
Everyone has been writing on social media that these 2021 Islanders may be a team of destiny. They play inspired hockey, forcing the old barn, Nassau Coliseum, to keep the doors open for one last hurrah. But, on the flip side, the professionals wrote them off when they advanced to play the defending Stanley Cup champions in a rematch of the 2020 semifinal.
Related: Islanders Can Win Series With Depth
No matter which way you look at it, these Islanders have faced adversity before and have rebounded accordingly. The Lightning may not be the Penguins or Bruins, but they are the ultimate test to advance past and reach their end goal.
History will no longer be on the Islanders’ side as they hit the ice for Game 6. However, the game plan should be simple – channel the strength of one of those nine teams who overcame adversity after a shutout and force a do-or-die Game 7 back in enemy territory. Wednesday night could be the last game in one of hockey’s most historic settings if the Islanders don’t muster up some offence.
Ryan Gagne is one of the newest members of The Hockey Writers, covering the New York Islanders. He grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire, where he idolized the Boston Bruins. Before moving to Canada in 2008, he was the equipment manager for his high school varsity hockey team and a sports journalist for the local newspapers. Ryan has been active in the hockey community, whether coaching, officiating, instructing, or playing. He is the ultimate rink rat with 19 years of experience making ice and driving the Zamboni. An avid fantasy sports player, Ryan created a blog, Keeping the Stats, where he dissects his teams and brags about his 2020 fantasy football championship. Outside of hockey, his life revolves around the New York Yankees, much to his wife’s chagrin.