While a rational person would expect the New York Islanders to have a few jitters heading into a must-win Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Islanders coach Barry Trotz said that his team is feeling the opposite.
The Islanders are embracing the challenge of Game 5 with the team facing a 3-1 series deficit for the first time this postseason, Trotz told reporters before the game. The Islanders coach went as far as to say that he and the team were excited about the upcoming contest.
“I think we’re in a pretty good place,” Trotz said. “I know that we’re losing in the series, down 3-1, but I think from a standpoint of understanding what’s ahead of us I think we’re in a pretty good place. Energy-wise I think we’re in a pretty good place. Focus wise. All those are there. I said to the guys, enjoy the challenge. We’re not scared of the challenge. This team has too much character and invested too much over this whole playoffs to not leave it out there.”
“I said to the guys, enjoy the challenge. We’re not scared of the challenge. This team has too much character and has invested too much over this whole playoffs to not leave it out there.” pic.twitter.com/hdSbAUGYib
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) September 15, 2020
Part of the Trotz and the Islanders mantra throughout the postseason has been about being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Well, down 3-1 certainly would appear to fit that.
Aside from Game 1, The Islanders have played well against Tampa Bay, but it has the little mistakes that have cost the Islanders in the series. It was a 27-second span that reversed the course of Game 4 after Brock Nelson had scored to give the Islanders a lead in the middle of the second period.
Still, that hasn’t changed the Islanders’ belief in themselves.
“We just have to go out there and play our game,” Derick Brassard said. “In the last series, the Flyers did it to us. They gave themselves a chance to win the Game 7. If we win tonight you know they’re going to think about it twice. They’re going to think about closing the series and that’s the hardest game to win.”
The focus for the team remains on the one game rather than the more daunting task of winning the next three.
“We’re just focusing on today,” Brassard said. “The guys are ready to play tonight and it’s do or die. You just leave all the energy that you have on the ice. I feel like if we’re doing that we give ourselves a really good chance to win.”
Tuesday will mark the Islanders’ 21st game of the postseason and their fifth in the Edmonton bubble. Having to play so many games in such a short span, it’s fair to wonder how much energy the Islanders have left.
In their first game of the series, the Islanders looked like a tired group. They had just flown across the country the day before and prior to that completed a seven-game series with Philadelphia.
“I think coming into this bubble we were pretty gassed. I’m just going to be straight up with you,” Trotz said. “I didn’t think we had much of a chance in the first game, but I think as the series has gone we’ve gotten caught up in that area. If we are able to do what we want to do our energy level will just be fine from here on in.”
The Islanders have seen just how tough closing out a series can be, having been on the other side last round against Philadelphia.
The Islanders held a 3-1 series lead there but allowed Philadelphia to get back into it and force a Game 7. New York put on one of their best performances of the playoffs in the final game, but it’s proof that a comeback is possible.
“A lot of the pressure is on them,” Nick Leddy said. “It’s the hardest game to win, the closeout game. We just have to go out and play. We know what we have to do as a team and it’s just focusing shift by shift. Period by period and hopefully we get the result tonight.”
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