The New York Islanders have been able to turn the page without being every time they’ve faced adversity in the playoffs. They’ve overcome bad performances to steal wins and they’ve quickly moved on from losses throughout the postseason, but Game 6 will put that ability to its toughest test yet.
The Islanders trail their best-of-seven series with the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 after an ugly loss in Game 5, which saw New York surrender eight goals and play an uncharacteristically undisciplined game. Now the Islanders have to stave off elimination not only to keep their season alive but to keep the Nassau Coliseum doors open.
It isn’t too far off from what Matt Martin and his longtime Islanders cohorts experienced six years ago when they faced the Washington Capitals — then led by Barry Trotz — in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders dropped Game 5 in rough fashion to return to the Coliseum on the brink of elimination with the barn doors potentially closing if they lost the game.
The Islanders would go on to win that game 3-1 to give the Coliseum one more win before they departed for Brooklyn the following year.
That was the last time the Islanders found themselves in this spot getting ready for an elimination game on Coliseum ice.
“I think you draw from all your previous experiences in the postseason and in the regular season,” Matt Martin responded when asked if the team can look back at that moment for guidance this time around. “You over and over again in this league, it’s kind of the same. We’re in this position last year as well and we got it to OT and unfortunately, we came up short. You definitely draw from your past experiences, but most importantly it’s about playing our game, getting to our game early and making it hard on them.”
There’s no question that there has been no counting out the New York Islanders during this season’s run through the playoffs. They have been a team that has found just about any way to win, even when the odds have been stacked against them. And that’s the case even more so in Game 6 at the Coliseum.
It will test the Islanders’ ability to shake off a bad game on the biggest stage they’ve played on since the dynasty years. Their ability to do so has spoken volumes to the character in the Islanders’ dressing, and if anyone is questioning the team’s resolve at this point, head coach Barry Trotz will be sure to have a strong rebuttal to that.
“This team has a lot of character. This team has gone through lots of stuff over the last three years,” Trotz said. “This is game 96 that we’ll play in 10 and a half months. There’s not too many times over 96 games I can say we really didn’t have much. They bring everything they have night in and night out. This is not a question of character. Their character will never be an issue with me, and it shouldn’t be with anybody if you watch us play.
“This is a team you never say doesn’t have character.”
The Islanders will need to have their best effort following their Game 5 loss. Tampa Bay will be set right from the jump to keep New York from establishing their game and putting them back on their heels as they did on Monday.
New York has history on their side for Game 6, holding a 16-5 record in elimination games at the Nassau Coliseum. Not to mention a very vocal group that knows just reaching the semifinals isn’t acceptable anymore.
“Our expectation and what we want to do is win a Stanley Cup,” Martin said. “We’re not just satisfied with the fact that we’re here right now. Tonight is big and we need to find a way to win, and give ourselves a chance in a Game 7.”
The Islanders have managed to shock the hockey world throughout the playoffs, what is one more time? However, this will be the toughest test yet of the team’s turn the page mentality.