The reality of the NHL Playoffs is when all is said and done, only one team can go home happy. The other reality is how quickly the season ends for a hockey club. A team can find themselves in the middle of a series that is up for grabs and three-four days later their season is over. For the New York Islanders this season has come to a close after their 4-0 loss in Game 5 to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Couldn’t Get Past Tampa
From a far it most likely appeared that the Tampa Bay Lightning had an easy time versus the Islanders. After all they won the series in five games. Those who followed this series know that couldn’t be further from the truth. After splitting the first two games in Tampa, New York had the better of the play in both Games 3 and 4 in Brooklyn. However, Tampa found a way to win both games on the road in overtime. The Lightning then wrapped up the series in Game 5 at home with arguable their best performance of the playoffs.
There are three reasons why the Islanders are packaging up for next year. First and foremost was New York’s lack of secondary scoring. During these playoffs scoring goals was a challenge for the Islanders. Most of their goals either came from the play of John Tavares or New York’s power play.
The second and third reasons why the Islanders couldn’t get past the Lightning are attributed to their defensive play. The Islanders still had far to many turnovers against Tampa both in their own zone and the neutral zone. In addition very often during this series Tampa got control of the puck in the Islanders zone and New York simply couldn’t get the puck back. This resulted in key goals for the Lightning during this series.
— USA TODAY Sports (@usatodaysports) May 8, 2016
Glass Half Full
Even though the Islanders season came to a disappointing close there was a number of things to feel good about regarding the 2015-16 season. First and foremost this Islanders group took the next step by getting a series win in the playoffs. That ended a 23-year drought for the organization. As I stated above a couple of plays here and there and it could have been the Islanders moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals. New York can take a bit of solace given those facts.
Having said that the difference in the NHL between winning and losing is very small. Tampa found a way to win the two critical games of the series (Games 3 & 4) both of which went to overtime. The Islanders didn’t and that’s the cold reality for New York, as well as Tampa’s dominant win in Game 5.
Lightning 4, Islanders 0: Lightning Oust Islanders With Game 5 Rout https://t.co/Y4xBTBvnSv
— The New York Times (@nytimes) May 8, 2016
Questions Moving Forward
The Islanders should have a very busy off-season. Questions abound everywhere regarding the Islanders roster. First off New York has three goalie’s in Jaroslav Halak, Thomas Greiss and JF Berube. Something has to give and it would be surprising if one was not moved this summer.
On the blue line the big question is will Travis Hamonic be traded this off-season? Right before the start of training camp due to personal reasons Hamonic requested a trade to a Western Canadian team. Hamonic is from Winnipeg and would like to be close to home for family reasons. Can general manager Garth Snow find a deal that works for the talented young blue liner and the organization?
In terms of the forwards there a number of questions going into the off-season. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin all become unrestricted free agents on July 1st. Who will be back and who be moving on to another team? There is no doubt New York’s talented youngsters Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee need to take the next step in their development. The 2016-17 season will be a huge year for this trio, which makes this a critical summer in terms of their preparation for next season. Finally will either of the Islanders top forward prospects Mathew Barzal and Michael Dal Colle make the Islanders roster come opening night next season? How will these two super talented kids impact Snow’s thinking come this summer?
In my coming articles I will be addressing all of these key questions regarding the Islanders. Yes this season the Islanders took a positive step but there is a lot of work to do for this club to become an Eastern Conference contender.