It’s compelling to see the Islanders and Lightning competing again in the Stanley Cup semi-finals.
Because it’s not just a rematch, but essentially a makeover that fans have been asking for after the conference finals 2020 took place in an isolated bubble in Edmonton in an empty arena due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The only thing that could be heard in Rogers Place was the sound of pucks hitting sticks and players hitting the ice communicated. There was no thunderous applause after goals or ridicule from opposing fans, only the sounds of a regular hockey game.
But these semifinals are not just meant to be another routine hockey series. Last season it was borderline morbid to see how two teams fought for the chance of a place in the Stanley Cup final against each other, a few league employees and a handful of media representatives.
That’s what makes this upcoming Islanders Lightning series meaning: it’s an encore that can be played under the right circumstances.
« I think when we started having fans it was the value of experiencing what we missed, » said Barry Despite, coach of the Islanders, after the series win against the Bruins on Wednesday. “Tampa won a trophy with no fans. I mean, that could be their motivation. I know fans give us the energy to say, ‘Hey, this is fun. Let’s go ahead and see how far we can take that. «
» Last year was a great experience. One that players will remember forever because you were basically in a dorm for two months. We did some things that some players never really made it through over a round or two and found that it’s a different mentality to have. They enjoyed the experience, even though it was exhausting.
“I think this year’s experience was similar. But since we started having fans and our lives are getting back to normal with everyone getting vaccinated and all that, it sure has a lot more meaning. It reinforces that experience we had last year and the fans now. It’s a great feeling. ”
The Islanders and Lightning haven’t played against each other since September 17, when Tampa Bay ended the Islands season with a 2-1 win in Game 6 in extra time. Of course, the Lightning lifted the trophy at the end of the bubble playoffs and defeated the stars in six games.
Due to the realignment of the divisions this season to minimize travel in the midst of the pandemic, these two teams will meet this year for first time on each other. This brings challenges of their own for both teams.
In the first two rounds, the Lightning and Islanders each played against teams they had seen eight times during the regular season. It’s a lot easier to strategize when you are so familiar with your opponents.
« It’s a great opportunity for us to see [the Lightning] again in the semi-finals, » said Anthony Beauvillier. « To get back to where we were with some unfinished business last year, this is a great opportunity for us and we look forward to it very much. »
Game 1: June 13: Islanders at Lightning, 3pm (NBC) Game 2: Tuesday, June 15: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. (NBCSN) Game 3: Thursday, June 17: Lightning at Islanders, 8:00 p.m. (USA Network) Game 4: Saturday, June 19 : Lightning at Islanders, 8:00 p.m. (USA Network) * Game 5: Monday, June 21: Islanders at Lightning, 8:00 p.m. (NBCSN) * Game 6: Wednesday, June 23: Lightning at Islanders, 8:00 p.m. Midnight (NBCSN) * Game 7: Friday, June 25: Islanders at Lightning, 8:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
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