When Travis Zajac scored Wednesday night against the Boston Bruins, the veteran New York Islanders forward gave every fan in the Nassau Coliseum a run for their money when it came to their joy and jubilation at that moment. Kyle Palmieri leaped into the air and screamed in excitement when he pushed the puck past Tuukka Rask in the second period to give the Islanders a 4-1 lead.
While the stoic Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello would never outwardly express his joy in those moments, Somewhere inside the Coliseum he had to have a little smirk on his face.
For the second year in a row, Lamoriello’s shrewd moves at the NHL trade deadline have proved dividends for the Islanders on the ice. Proving once again that while the NHL continues to change and evolve, the 78-year old’s grasp of the league remains steadfast.
The impact of both Palmieri and Zajac only bolsters that point.
The two have given the Islanders much-needed scoring and depth since the playoffs began last month. Palmieri picked up his team-leading seventh goal in the playoffs in Wednesday’s series-clinching win over Boston and Zajac has provided the Islanders with a steady hand in place of the injured Oliver Wahlstrom.
“I can’t say enough good things about those guys, not only as players, but as people,” Josh Bailey said after Game 6. “Two additions that really went a long way for us in the room and on the ice. Just great people. They’ve really added another element to our team and a big reason why we’re here talking to you right now.”
At this stage of the game, no one should be surprised when Lou Lamoriello finds lightning in a bottle with the players that he brings in. The additions of Andy Greene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau proved to be instrumental in the Islanders’ playoff success last year as the two stepped up over the course of their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The same is happening with Zajac and Palmieri this year.
Palmieri and Zajac struggled early on after arriving on Long Island, which caused some outside Long Island to scoff at the deals or declare that the moves were misguided. While Palmieri, and Zajac to a similar extent, struggled to produce offensively talented players like Taylor Hall in Boston flourished.
In the playoffs, it was a different story.
“Our crowd, what a great atmosphere. I was saying just before we came on here, it was deafening. I couldn’t hear anything out there, I had some white noise for a while. That’s fantastic, what an atmosphere.”
Trotz ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/JaQbf51LoR
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) June 10, 2021
Hall was a non-factor most nights during the six-game series between the Islanders and Boston and had one goal against the Islanders. Palmieri, on the other hand, scored in four of the six games and in 12 playoff games has goals.
That’s four more than Hall had in 11 postseason games this year.
“Lou’s won a few cups and I think his knowledge over the time he’s been in the league, he’s a learned guy,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “He understands building a roster. There would be a player A and player B, and the values that a lot of people might put on a certain player because it’s the sexy thing to do. He understands the intrinsic value of a player in tough games and in the locker room and as a teammate and as a pro.
“All the stuff you really don’t put a lot of numbers to. Everything he does has a lot of substance to it. It’s just not lacey, fancy stuff. It’s real stuff and he puts a lot into that.”
The proof is in the pudding, as they say, when it comes to what has worked. For all the concern and doubt as the Islanders limped to the finish line, what Lamoriello has built once again is a team that can fight its way through the payoffs and battle with the best of them.
His success on Long Island has even caused those north of the border to take notice and dream of what could have been.
In Toronto, the Maple Leafs are still looking for a series win under Kyle Dubas in the three years since Lamoriello was pushed out. On Long Island, the Islanders have now won five.
It’s an even more remarkable feat when you consider the fact that the Islanders had one playoff series win since 1993 before Lamoriello and Trotz arrived in 2018. Now they’re returning to the semifinal for the second consecutive year.
At this point, it’s become clear that Lou Lamoriello knows what he’s doing when it comes to building a team that can enjoy more than just a cup of coffee in the playoffs.