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New York Islanders

Islanders look to contain Lightning offense ahead of Game 6

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New York Islanders square off with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final wasn’t the high-event game that might excite out-of-area viewers, but the New York Islanders but got the job done.

In the 2-1 double overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Islanders were outshot and out-attempted, but the defense largely contained Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense. Without Casey Cizikas for the rest of the playoffs, the Islanders used just 11 forwards and plugged in seven defensemen.

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Semyon Varlamov was sharp with 36 saves on 37 chances and the Islanders defense got a little extra breather with Johnny Boychuk eating up 12-plus minutes. It helped defensively and also led to the Islanders mixing-and-matching their offensive lines a little bit more.

And looking forward to Thursday night’s Game 6, it could be a useful strategy again for the Islanders to limit Tampa Bay scoring chances. New York will get last change, meaning head coach Barry Trotz can do a little bit more specific tailoring to whatever Tampa Bay head coach John Cooper puts on the ice.

Matt Martin said Wednesday the lineup changes puts a little extra pressure on the centers, but at this point of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s a “whatever it takes,” mentality.

Playoff Gameday: Islanders Lineup, Matchups and Notes for Game 6 vs. Tampa Bay

“Obviously with Casey going down it’s changed the dynamic of our lineup a little bit,” Matt Martin said prior to the game. “I didn’t mind it at all. Obviously (Boychuk) coming in brought some energy, that kind of grit on the back end. Blocking shots, physicality and just kind of a veteran presence. Not only on the ice, but on the bench and in the locker room.”

In a game that lasted nearly five periods, the Islanders recorded just 24 shots, the fewest any team has put on net in a game of that length since 1967. Mathew Barzal played over 28 minutes and Jean-Gabriel Pageau logged over 26 minutes, leading the forwads. Trotz said getting guys extra minutes could be beneficial for their energy levels even if it didn’t produce better offense in Game 5.

“We went with four centermen and then went down to three for a while,” Trotz said. “Obviously power play, penalty kill can dictate ice time a little bit. If you’re in that rotation, I think it helps everyone’s rhythm.”

But, in spite of little offense, the Islanders limited Tampa Bay to 14 high danger scoring chances (per Natural Stat Trick). That’s the second-fewest the team has yielded in this series only behind Game 2’s 12 high danger chances allowed. For most of Game 5, the Islanders kept Tampa Bay out of prime scoring areas. This is an ideal defensive strategy the Islanders might want to replicate again to force Tampa Bay to the outside.

New York Islanders Game 5 heat map

“This time of year it’s every man up and we’re ready to go,” Andy Greene said. “I’ve done seven defensemen a few times before and you just gotta make sure there’s a lot of communication on the bench. There’s not a normal rotation where you’re always going with your partner or with the same guy.”

In terms of lineup adjustments, Tampa Bay might have to make more in its front end as well. Brayden Point, who’s missed two games and chunks of two others, is a question mark and game-time decision again. His 25 points are tied for the lead among all skaters in the playoffs, so without him, Tampa Bay would be missing a key cog in its offense.

On the Islanders side, Greene said whether Point is in or out doesn’t drastically change New York’s defensive scheme.

“We’re in a situation where we have to win to stay here,” Greene said. “It’s exciting for us, it’s a great opportunity, it’s a great challenge. Obviously (Point) is a top player in this league. He brings a lot of different qualities for their team, a little bit of their engine. For us, when he’s out there you have to make sure you know where he is and what he can do.

“We have to play our game and be ready. It’s going to be a good challenge.

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New York Islanders

Anders Lee Looks Back While Waiting for What’s Ahead with Islanders

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Anders Lee

While the hockey world looks forward and waits to find out when or even if the 2020-21 season will start, New York Islanders captain Anders Lee took a moment to look back and reflect.

Lee and the Islanders are now just over a month removed from their season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to Tampa Bay. It had been the deepest the Islanders had gone in the playoffs since 1993 and the run shocked much of the hockey world.

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New York Islanders

What Could Home Games Look Like for the New York Islanders Next Season?

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New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum

There are a lot of questions about the 2020-21 NHL season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed at the draft that the league was looking at a Jan. 1 start date. Outside of that, not much is known about their plan. The NHL has said in the past that they’d like to play a full 82 game schedule, but even that remains a question.

And for owners, the question of whether fans will be allowed in the building when games do start remains a major concern. The NHL, unlike NBA or NFL, is a gate driven league and relies heavily on paying customers filling the seats at arenas.

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Free Agency

Free Agency: Martin, Greene Likely to Return to Islanders for Next Season

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New York Islanders logo

It seems all but certain that Andy Greene is returning to the New York Islanders, and the same goes for Matt Martin.

The Islanders continue to sit in a holding pattern as they look to free up cap space via trades, but things seem to be pointing to a return for the two NHL veterans. General manager Lou Lamoriello called the return of Greene “a very strong option” during a Zoom conference call on Monday night and multiple reports indicated that the Islanders and Martin are working on a deal.

Greene’s return makes even more sense following the trade of Devon Toews to Colorado on Monday. Greene has worked with Noah Dobson, who will take Toews’ place on the blue line, in the past and proved extremely valuable during the postseason.

The soon to be 38-year-old — Greene’s birthday is on Oct. 30 — could be looking at a one-year deal from the Islanders to provide that veteran presence on the blue line. Greene had four points (two goals, two assists) in 21 playoff games with the Islanders.

Martin also had an impressive postseason of his own with five goals in 21 games, which matched his regular-season total. The fan-favorite has been a mainstay on the fourth line alongside Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas.

Martin’s deal with the Islanders, or anyone else for that matter should it get to that point, would be far less than the four-year, $10 million deal he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2016. That carried a $2.5 million AAV and that is much higher than what the Islanders can afford at the moment.

Devon Toews Traded to Colorado for Second Round Picks

The decision to move Toews on Monday came out of necessity so that the Islanders could get back some pieces to sweeten any potential trades that would move some of their pricier contracts and free up some more salary cap room. The Islanders have been working with just $8.9 million in cap space.

The Islanders still need to re-sign restricted free agents Mat Barzal and Ryan Pulock and trading away the likes of Johnny Boychuk or another hefty contract would help make that task simpler.

The Fourth Period reported that the Islanders have been shopping Boychuk around. Boychuk has two years left on a deal that carries an AAV of $6 million and a list if eight teams he can be traded to. Leo Komarov is also reportedly being shopped by the Islanders.

Komarov also has two years left on his contract, which has a $3 million AAV and a seven-team no-trade list.

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