The Islanders have strayed from reflecting on the success they’ve had this postseason, but with the one-day turnaround to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Monday, they don’t have the time to reminisce even if they wanted to.
After 43 days in the Toronto bubble, the Islanders began their 2,000-plus mile trek across Canada to Edmonton on Sunday morning just a few hours removed from their Game 7 victory over the Flyers to advance to their first conference finals in 27 years.
“When we started this, we said let’s play one series at a time and let’s see if we can get to Edmonton and then we worry about things when we get to Edmonton,” coach Barry Trotz said on a Zoom call Sunday before the team’s flight. “I think it’ll be beneficial [to change the scenery]. Obviously the travel, this will be a long travel day for us and a quick turnaround playing [Saturday] night and the emotions.
“You usually have an emotional crash the next day and then you got to regroup and we’re going to get at it [Monday].”
Team captain Anders Lee admitted that it was tough to get to sleep after the Isles’ 4-0 rout of the Flyers, but with the immediate turnaround, the team has had to quickly come down from the emotional high.
Trotz and Lee both agreed that a change of scenery could be beneficial, with Lee recalling how refreshing it was to switch hotels in Toronto after advancing to the second round in mid-August.
But the real challenge for the Islanders will be packing up their dominant play and bringing it with them. In the past, long layovers between series have been the bane of the Islanders’ existence. The quick turnaround may just play into the Isles’ favor.
“Look, you can’t control the schedule, you can’t control how that all works and what gets laid out. You roll with it,” Lee said. “We’re going to get to Edmonton and rest up and be ready to go for [Monday].
“There’s positives to both sides, being able to rest up and be fresh. And at the same time, coming off a Game 7, you’re kind of in that mode, that game-ready mode. You want to try and roll that into Game 1 for sure.”
After sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round last year, the Islanders didn’t see game action for 10 days. The Carolina Hurricanes then swept them in convincing fashion. The long layoff evidently worked against them, giving hope to the benefits that may come with jumping right back into play this postseason.
The Lightning, who finished second in the Atlantic Division, have been waiting for the Islanders-Flyers series to wrap up since knocking the Boston Bruins out of the tournament Aug. 31. They’ve had nearly a week off from game action and traveled to Edmonton on Saturday.
Knowing how much tougher the competition is about to become, the Islanders are looking ahead and preparing for more adversity than they’ve had to deal with this entire postseason.
“We’ll have to dig in,” Trotz said. “This team has accepted everything that’s been thrown at us, from scheduling to when we play to all that stuff. This is the new normal and we’ll deal with it and hopefully we’ll have a good game [Monday]. That’s all we can ask. I know our guys give you everything every night, night in and night out.”