There will be no more hockey at the Nassau Coliseum.
The New York Islanders were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Washington Capitals Monday evening, in the seventh game of their opening round series. Despite a third period rally that briefly saw the score tied, the Islanders fell to Washington 2-1 due to a myriad of factors, and saw their season come to a painful end.
In many ways, the Islanders Game 6 was the exception to the norm that developed during the course of this series. There’s no doubt that the team received a boost from playing their potential final game at the Coliseum, and left it all on the ice to ensure the old barn didn’t go out with a loss.
Having expended that energy and effort to extend the series, the Islanders found themselves completely outmatched and overwhelmed by the Capitals in Game 7. Islanders coach Jack Capuano found himself basically throwing everything up against a wall to see if would stick; mix and matching lines with reckless abandon in the hope that it would spark some kind of offensive output.
The effect of that strategy, when all was said and done, did not come close to doing it’s job. The Islanders finished with 11 shots on goal, which as was reported after the game, marked a record for futility in Game 7’s in Stanley Cup history. The Islanders time in the Washington zone was practically nonexistent; Braden Holtby’s only true miscue came from a Frans Nielsen wrister that somehow managed to go five-hole and dribble into the net. Beyond that, Holtby rarely had to exert much effort in turning aways the Islanders offense.
What surely will be even more disappointing for the Islanders as they reflect on this game was the performance of this goaltender Jaroslav Halak. Halak demonstrated his ability to stand on his head to keep his team in the game, making ridiculous save after ridiculous save, and generally stemming the Washington tide long enough to give the Islanders an opportunity to do something with the puck. His second goal allowed was less due to Halak’s play than Brock Nelson failing to maintain his zone, and give Evgeny Kuznetsov the time and space to wait out Halak and punch it in.
Game 7 was officiated quite loosely: too loosely some Islanders fans would argue. A potential boarding call against Alex Ovechkin on Thomas Hickey was ignored, causing a great deal of consternation both in the Isles’ bench and in the NBC studios. Yet the Islanders should not point to a few missed calls; after all New York even received the only power play opportunity at the 17:06 mark of the third period.
And continuing the trend that had plagued the team all series, they failed to score, ending their opening round by going 0/14 on the power play. Jack Capuano’s decision to not pull Jaroslav Halak during the PP attempt will be the topic of much discussion in the offseason, but the Islanders failed to give any kind of threat to Washington even with the man advantage.
There will be plenty of time for discussions and arguments in the off-season to come: for Islanders fans there is only the disappointment of yet another first round playoff exit, and the realization that Nassau County has seen it’s last meaningful professional hockey game. There are a lot of positive for the Islanders moving forward, but that is small comfort for the short term future.