When Barry Trotz became head coach of the New York Islanders two years ago, he made one thing clear.
His team was going to be the best at closing out games.
Last night, the Isles showed once again that Trotz’s statement wasn’t just smoke.
In another dominant third period, the Islanders defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 in game one of their second-round matchup.
Up 1-0 going into the final frame, the Islanders exploded again offensively for three goals and didn’t allow the Flyers’ offense any chance to get back into the game.
This wasn’t the first time in the tournament we’ve seen the Isles put on a third period clinic in the tournament. Truly, their strong final frames have become a trademark now this postseason.
“The one thing we really do well is park it,” the Isles head coach said after their game two victory last week over Washington.
It was in that contest where the Islanders just sucked the life out of the Capitals, including a two-minute stretch where they hemmed the Caps in with a relentless forecheck. A couple of nights later, in the closeout game five, they put the hammer down again, not allowing the Caps a shot in the final 12 minutes of the third period.
A minute and a half of the Islanders bullying the Capitals to seal Game 2.
— John Targia (@jtarg23) August 15, 2020
But those two games have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Through 11 games, the Islanders have scored 14 goals in third periods. They’ve allowed only four. Yes, four. They’ve also outscored their opponent 10-1 in the third since the start of the Caps series—all the while allowing under 30 shots a game nine times in these playoffs, including last night.
They’ve also been opportunistic.
J.G. Pageau’s and Anders Lee’s goals last night came off great forechecking and forcing turnovers. Cal Clutterbuck’s goal last round in game two, along with the team’s markers from game one, all were a result of the right plays being made at the right time.
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) August 25, 2020
That’s a formula that translates to winning, and it’s exactly why the Isles are in the position they are now — three wins away from their first Eastern Conference Final in 27 years.
“We’re a team from top to bottom,” said Andy Greene, who got the game-winning goal early in the first when he blasted a shot by Carter Hart. “We need every single guy out there every night, every game, and when we do that, we’re a very good team…It’s just not about one guy.”
Greene is 100 percent on the mark. The Isles need everyone to pull the rope for them to be successful. They’ve done it now all postseason.
But it’s been in the third period alone where we’ve seen this team take a ginormous foot forward.
These playoffs so far have shown us the Islanders have learned to win where it matters most.
So, yeah, Trotz was right. They have become the best team at closing out games.
And because of it, everyone should be on notice.
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