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No Lightening Up: Islanders Turn Attention to Conference Finals vs. Tampa



New York Islanders Josh Bailey and Anders Lee

There is a balance between enjoying the moment and keeping your eye on the prize. The New York Islanders have had to do that throughout the 2020 postseason and they’ll be doing it again as they prepare for the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers in dominating Fashion on Saturday Night with a 4-0 Game 7 win. The next morning, they prepared for a long day of travel to Edmonton in preparation for their series with Tampa Bay, which begins on Monday.

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The quick turnaround is a drastic change from last season when the Islanders had a nine-day break between their first-round win over Pittsburgh and their Second Round Series with Carolina.

“You can’t control the schedule. You can’t control how that all works and what gets laid out,” Anders Lee said Sunday morning. “You roll with it. We’re going to get to Edmonton and rest up and be ready to go for tomorrow.”

Earlier this postseason, New York Islanders coach Barry Trotz indicated that he felt the long layoff hurt the team last year. The Islanders were swept by Carolina in four games.

This time around it’s Tampa Bay that has had to sit around and wait to see who they would be playing.

“That can definitely play a factor,” Lee said. “There’s positives to both sides being able to rest up and be fresh. At the same time, coming off a Game 7, you’re kind of in that mode. That game-ready mode and you want to try to roll that into Game for sure.”

The Eastern Conference Finals will be the first time that the Islanders will face Tampa Bay in the playoffs since 2016. Coincidentally, the Islanders defeated the Florida Panthers that year to advance to the Second Round, only to be dispatched in five Games by Tampa.

The Islanders also faced Tampa Bay in 2004 en route to their first Stanley Cup.

New York got the best of Tampa during the regular season, with a 2-1-0 record in three games, but Tampa Bay finished the year as the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. They’ve only gotten better as the Playoffs progressed.

They took care of the Columbus Blue Jackets in five games in the First Round and then sent home the highly touted Boston Bruins in five games in the Second Round.

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Tampa has taken advantage of some great goaltending from Andrei Vasilevskiy, whose .931 save percentage is the best in the playoffs. Tampa Bay also has the third-fewest goals against per game with 2.31.

The bottom line, It will only get harder from here for the Islanders

“I think as we’ve gone along the challenges have got greater,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “That’s because the teams are dialed in. Better. Whatever you want terms you want to use. They’re good teams. The adversity becomes a little bit larger, but by going through adversity it doesn’t seem as large. It just keeps moving up in increments. This will be a real good test.”

The New York Islanders’ goal when they arrived in Toronto was to make it to the Edmonton bubble for a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Islanders are halfway there.