Hockey from the Blind Side, “You’re Never Out of a Fight”

If there is a simple reason why the New York Islanders are facing elimination Sunday afternoon when they travel to Tampa for the 5th game of this series, they need only look collectively in the mirror to find that reason. This series has become one of lost opportunities and one team cashing in on theirs like a playoff ready, battle tested team does in such situations.

I really don’t like to jump on the negative train. Those who have read my posts in the past know that I always try to take the positive view of things. Sometimes, I can be a bit harsh and blunt, but I never like to throw in the towel.

I must confess, however, after last night, I am throwing my hands up in frustration and with some degree of resignation at the moment. I have no idea why this team cannot close the deal when they have the chance to do so. Once again, they out played the Lightning considerably in the opening stanza, but had only a 1-0 lead to show for the effort. That is simply not acceptable and not a way to live in the playoffs if you desire to move on to the next round.

Goal posts, questionable hits and everything else aside, the bottom line is the lack of the “killer instinct”. The Islanders simply cannot step on the throat of an opponent and finish them off. They should be up 3-1 in this series in a perfect world, but unfortunately, they found ways to lose instead of the opposite, as seemed to be the case in the opening series. The sense of urgency or desperation that I have witnessed other teams display in other series simply has been absent from this New York Islander group.If anyone is familiar with the “Lone Survivor” story written by Marcus Luttrell about four Navy SEALs carrying out Operation Red Wing in Afghanistan in June of 2005 who were vastly outnumbered and almost entirely wiped out in the end until Luttrell was the only man left, will understand my reference here. In his book, he quotes his commander, Long Island’s own and both American and personal hero of mine, Lieutenant Michal P. Murphy, as always saying, “You’re never out of a fight”, even when things were at their absolute worse. It is a philosophy I have lived by ever since I read the book, and I have made it my inner mantra when life gets tough or I face adversity of some kind. I, of course, never met Lieutenant Murphy, but any time I visit my father’s grave at Calverton National cemetery, I always stop at his as well to pay my respects.

I would really wish the Islanders would take this credo to heart and collectively come out on Sunday with the fire and determination that Marcus Luttrell, Michael Murphy and their two companions demonstrated in their experience. The Isles aren’t “dead yet”, but the only way they will prevail is to win one shift at a time and one period at a time and one game at a time. It’s a long and tough road, but Islander teams of the past have won the small battles to eventually win the war. It can be done again.

To the credit of the Lightning, they have kept John Tavares in check. Some have often said that as John Tavares goes, so too do the New York Islanders. Unfortunately, this has proven to be true in this series. Other guys have to step up with a lot more consistency and contribute, like Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome. We have seen flashes of that with some secondary scoring from Shane Prince and Josh Bailey, yet here we are down 3 games to 1 going back down south for the next game.

I don’t find it necessary to write a few sentences or a couple of paragraphs in regard to what has to be done. I think that is pretty obvious at this point. Winning games is the bottom line, and if not, it’s over on Sunday and we spend the rest of the spring and summer analyzing and beating the proverbial dead horse into what went wrong … who is to blame … what Garth Snow didn’t do to improve the team … what was wrong with Jack Capuano’s coaching decisions … who needs to be traded … who needs to be signed … etc, etc. Frankly, I’d rather be writing about how the Islanders came back and made it a series to move on to the conference finals.

To me, it comes down to the Isles collectively deciding that they are Not out of this fight. They have the talent and the ability to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. I stand by my earlier claims that they can exactly do that. The problem has been, that New York Islander team that can take care of business hasn’t shown up for a sixty minute game as of yet.

You’re never out of a fight, boys. Take it to the Lightning right out of the gate tomorrow and just keep stepping on the gas until the final whistle blows. If not, you’ll be shining up your golf clubs and worrying about your off season training regiments come Monday morning. That’s what it comes down to ….


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