Fish Sticks; Win or lose, we all owe Lou an apology
The New York Islanders have moved onto the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, after a 4-0 sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The series was littered with heroes, many of them coming into (or back into) the fold for the Islanders this season.
After the Isles lost John Tavares to free agency on July 1st, Lou Lamoriello signed and traded for a few questionable acquisitions. It seemed as though Lamoriello was replacing the Islanders’ top star with third and fourth line forwards. While that may have been the case then, Lou had a plan all along.
The championship pedigree of the four men signed cannot be understated. Sure the Pittsburgh Penguins have a plethora of champions on their roster, many two or three time champions, but the Islanders for the most part are a young and hungry team. Having some of these guys on the team is vital to their success.
Robin Lehner was the rock of this Islanders team all season. He and Thomas Greiss combined to backstop the Islanders to 103 points, their best total in nearly thirty years. Lehner finished the season with a 25-13-5 record, a 2.13 GAA and a .930 SV %.
Lehner continued to shine in the playoffs, making timely saves and staying calm in net despite never really having a big lead. His playoff stats so far are immense, a 4-0-0 record with a 1.63 GAA and .950 SV %. Lou Lamoriello took a chance on Lehner, who has struggled with alcohol addiction, bipolar disorder, and other physical and mental ailments.
Lehner has rewarded Lou and the Islanders have rewarded Lehner. The franchise and the player are a fantastic pair and now that Lehner is clean and sober he is showing the National Hockey League exactly what he’s capable of doing. It’s a testament to his willpower and the support he has both in the locker room and the front office.
Probably the most forgotten member of the New York Islanders, Tom Kuhnhackl played a vital role as a member of this playoff squad. Kuhnhackl got the scoring started in the series (not officially) when he scored in Game 1 and rocked the Coliseum crowd. The goal didn’t count but it set the tone for the entire series, a series that would go the Islanders’ way in four games.
Kuhnhackl set up two of the Islanders’ best goals; The first was in Game 3 when he floated a saucer pass in the neutral zone to Brock Nelson for a 2-on-1. The second was a great effort on the forecheck, which led to another Brock Nelson goal. Kuhnhackl isn’t flashy and only played 36 regular season games, but his playoff experience and his name on the Stanley Cup (twice) is the kind of championship pedigree the Isles need to advance.
Val Filppula & Leo Komarov
These two are like two peas in a pod. Filppula and Komarov might be Corsi nightmares but none of that matters when your team wins four straight games against a team that has won two of the past three Stanley Cups. Leo and Val got on the scoresheet a bit, with Filppula having an assist on Komarov’s clinching goal in Game 3 and Komarov having two points in the series.
It’s not about the stats that makes these two special; It’s about all the little things they did this series. Whether it be the blocked shots on the Penalty Kill they endured, or the series clinching face-off Filppula won (which led to the Bailey ENG), these two have a big impact on the younger guys. It’s all about how to go about your business in the playoffs and these two exemplify that.
Finally, Matt Martin. Matt Martin didn’t have any points in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs but he doesn’t need to. The fourth line wasn’t its usual dominant line but they did have plenty of shifts where they hounded the Pens with their forecheck.
Martin had the best opportunities of anyone in this series. He had 5-6 Grade A opportunities to score and even though he didn’t register a point he had plenty of impact. Part of the reason why the Islanders swept was the punishing forecheck of the fourth line.
Lou Lamoriello knew exactly what he was doing when he started assembling this team on July 1st. It may not have seemed that way especially after the brutal loss of John Tavares, but it’s all worked out. This team has character. This team has a championship pedigree. This team has the kind of guys in the room to win the Stanley Cup. This is all thanks to Lou Lamoriello. Thank you Lou, we owe you an apology.
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