By Lenn Robbins
There are a few things we learned about the Islanders in their 3-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers series:
*They are resilient.
*They are surging.
*Anthony Beauvllier is emerging as a playoff stud.
* Hiring coach Lou Lamoriello as president and GM in May of 2018 was a franchise-defining move.
* Two months later, Lamoriello hired Barry Trotz to coach, giving the Islanders as good a GM-coach tandem as there is in hockey.
All this has the Islanders headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their first-round opponent will be Alex Ovechkin and Washington Capitals. Game 1 is Wednesday (3:00 p.m.; NBCSN) in Toronto..
First things first. the Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the series, but lost leader Johnny Boychuk to an injury in Game 1. Then came a terribly undisciplined performance in Game 3, a 3-2 loss. Suddenly the Panthers had life.
There was a sense of déjà vu in Friday’s clincher. The Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead. They were less than two minutes away from ending the first period with that lead when Jordan Eberle took a bad hooking penalty. Twelve seconds later the Panthers scored, trimming their deficit to 2-1 and sending both teams to the locker room in completely different states of mind.
And when Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky absolutely stoned Andres Lee less than a minute into the second period, the momentum was sliding to the Panthers. The Islanders didn’t blink.
Brock Nelson scored on a power play goal at 8:01 of the second to take a 3-1 lead. Florida’s last chance to get back in it came 28 seconds later when Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov had a wide-open net but Ryan Pulock, laid out to clip Barkov’s stick and preserve the two-goal lead.
“To me it was one of those defining moments,” Trotz said. “Those are the plays, the commitment, the extra effort that wins you those inches.”
Let’s not forget that when the NHL seasons ended, the Islanders were in a free fall having lost seven straight. The Panthers had won two straight.
Second: The Islanders are surging, as was evident in Friday’s 5-1 series clincher. They jumped on the Panthers, outshooting them 16-8 in the first period and taking a 2-0 lead. The Islanders never let up, finishing the game with a 38-25 edge in shots and outscoring the Panthers 2-0 in the third.
“We know that we just punched our ticket to the dance and it’s kind of the start now,” said Islanders center Mathew Barzal. “The intensity’s only going to ramp up, and I think this group’s going to be ready to go. We get a few good practices in and just await who we’re playing here.”
Third: Anthony Beauvillier is emerging as a playoff stud, scoring two goals on Friday, giving him three goals and two assists in the series. He now has six goals and five assists in 14 playoff games.
Fourth: Lamoriello is simply one of the greatest minds in hockey history. He’s won every he has been, especially in New Jersey where he won three Stanley Cups as president and GM. Lamoriello is a keen judge of talent. Forget hockey, he hired Rick Pitino as Providence’s men’s basketball coach, launching the career of one of the all-time great hoops coaches
Fifth: Call him Trotzy or Egghead but you have to call him winner. Trotz has won just over 1600 games and lost just over 800, made 13 playoff appearances, won one Stanley Cup and has won by building a franchise (Nashville) and by coaching a team of superstars (Washington).
“I liked our focus today,” coach Barry Trotz told reporters. “There was only one end goal. It was to be the better team today and win a hockey game. There was no me in anybody, it was all we. Everybody was pulling on the rope. I didn’t have any passengers and our bench would not allow anybody to be a passenger, which is a great sign.”