Why the Tampa Bay Lightning are reminiscent of dynasty-era Islanders
Dare I say it?
I probably shouldn’t say it, it’s not going to go well on Long Island.
Ah man I can’t help myself, I’ll say it.
The Tampa Bay Lightning – not the Islanders themselves – reminds me of my father’s New York Islanders teams.
It’s probably not what their current fans wanted to read. But they do.
They remind me of my dad’s Islanders teams – at least from what I’ve seen, read and heard about them – in that they could play there however you wanted.
They could get caught up in a duel of all skills, being offended by Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier and Dennis Potvin, and so on. If you wanted to play tough, obviously my stepdad Clark Gillies had something to say about it. Bobby Nystrom probably did too. They could defend, they got the big game goalie from Billy Smith, and they were adaptable.
Stream every Stanley Cup Playoff game live, non-stop. Plus, get the NHL Draft, Free Agency, Blue Jays and MLB, NBA Playoff games and more.
It’s hard to watch these Bolts and not see the same when you think back to their heavy artillery sessions against the Florida Panthers in the first round, versus their “clinical” defensive performance in the final six minutes against the Islanders on Thursday night. Whether it’s standing boxing, mat wrestling, or something in between, they have answers.
One thing I want to clarify: The Lightning’s overall Game 3 performance against the Islanders was not a defensive masterpiece, not even close. At 5v5 (so, most of the game), they gave up more high danger chances than they’ve had in any other postseason game this year, to go with the second higher number of odds against. They’ve given up on more shooting attempts than in any game they’ve played in about a month.
What made Game 3 so awesome was the way Tampa adapted defensively to an Islanders team that actually benefited them until the middle of the hockey game. Reminder: It wasn’t pretty for Tampa for a while:
The Isles registered 14 chances from inside the coveted home, but they didn’t do much with them and got no rebounds. Andrei Vasilevskiy has just been voted best goalkeeper in the league in a survey of his peers, and he validated them all in game 3.
One thing you might notice about these odds, though? Few people have managed side passes over the goal line, which means that even though Vasilevskiy had to deal with shots from difficult areas, they didn’t force him to move a lot, let alone deceive. And with that, there wasn’t much of a chance for an immediate follow-up, which usually means Tampa was able to calm the assault before it turned into a goal. You’re going to be up against teams that play well in the playoffs, like the Isles in Game 3, but it’s to the Lightning’s credit that the sustained pressure from New York didn’t lead to panic and kinda more. big blunder. this can result in goals against.
Tampa looks like a team that – weird – has been there, has been there before.
The part on “being able to play the way you want”, however, is a credit to do not have a variety of one-dimensional actors that exist in skill silos. The key is to have a bunch of people who can handle a variety of play styles and situations, and not have those abilities scattered across your player-by-player roster. It’s a big misconception in hockey. The idea of ”We need toughness, so trade against a player who’s tough” seems like the default solution, and while it can solve just one problem, it usually leaves you at fault elsewhere. Players in skill silos can help you in one type of streak, but you will be useless in the next.
Jeff Marek and Elliotte Friedman talk to a lot of people in the hockey world and then they tell listeners everything they’ve heard and what they think about it.
Those “tough” Islanders players I mentioned above, like Clark Gillies for example? Yeah, he was just under 700 career points. Bobby Nystrom had over 500. Some of the talented guys I mentioned, Trottier and Potvin? They had 912 and 1,356 PIM respectively. As seems obligatory I mention my dad was another guy who had around 600 points at a time and PIM.
Much has been done about the Lightning’s decision to add Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman at high cost last season, but that’s why I think Julien Brisebois is the runaway GM for the… last few years, I guess. These are two more versatile players that seem designed for all-weather utility.
Yes, they have a world D-man in Victor Hedman, an excellent goalkeeper and a pure goalscorer in Nikita Kucherov. But the best players in the world don’t guarantee you anything. Edmonton has two of the top 10. Nathan MacKinnon is absent, Sidney Crosby is absent, Auston Matthews is also absent. It’s the ability to fill around those stars that makes the difference, and the versatility I’m talking about is all over this Bolts range.
Brayden Point will live in the dirty areas and thrive, as will Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn. Their smaller guys like Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson are also competitive. Anthony Cirelli is from the maybe ugly but undeniably effective Mark Stone School of Hockey. And the left side of their D does a brilliant job of skillfully mixing size: Hedman, McDonagh, Sergachev.
Years ago, Tampa felt like a team that could undeniably beat you 6-5. They had that reputation, and with it the expectations skyrocketed (they do it for any team that can score), but they found themselves frustrated, unable to get over the bump.
Well, as we now know, they found their way. And even more so than last season, this year they seem to be content to fight when the scores are low and the matches difficult, even if things didn’t go perfectly earlier in the competition (like Game 3).
This version of the Islanders seems perfectly designed to test how well-rounded skilled opponents are. Blue and Orange are playing a tough game and forcing teams to go through them, which few qualified teams are able – or willing? – make. They force teams to push and push and push while they are holding, which takes a lot of willpower.
It’s a bit ironic then, that in game 3 it took a version of the dynasty-era islanders to beat this The islanders team. The Bolts put their guns away for their shields when they scored a goal, and locked things down so tight the Islanders couldn’t sniff when it came time to mount the big push. They accepted that it wouldn’t be fun and played smart and tight until the last sands came through the hourglass.
In an era of salary caps, it’s impossible to believe a team could have the stamina of the Islanders of yore, but watching Thursday night’s version of the Lightning was a reminder that they can win any fighting style, and that ‘They are the defending champions for a reason.
It might have been familiar to Isles fans, if they had only allowed themselves to admit it.
Please feel free to contact us for more detail about us, visiting our Contact page.