Facing an offensively explosive team like the Lightning in the Stanley Cup semifinal, the Islanders knew they were going to need contributions from all four lines in order to keep up.
But after getting shut out 1-0 in Game 7 on Friday to bring their postseason run to a screeching halt, it begged the question whether the Islanders’ lineup was equipped with all it needed to compete with Tampa Bay offensively. Especially since winger Oliver Wahlstrom seemed to be available.
Wahlstrom, the rookie with a lethal shot who scored 12 goals in the regular season, suffered a lower-body injury in Game 6 of the first-round series against the Penguins. He had recorded a goal and two assists in five playoff games before his injury, but was said to be working his way back through the second round against the Bruins.
By Game 1 of the Lightning series, Wahlstrom was taking pregame warm-ups and was seemingly ready to go. But head coach Barry Trotz opted to stay with veteran Travis Zajac, who had done well replacing Wahlstrom on the third line.
Asked if he questioned his decision not to put Walstrom back in the lineup, Trotz said he didn’t and alluded to other injuries playing a factor.
“I don’t question any decisions,” Trotz said Sunday during the Islanders’ exit interviews. “If you could sit in the coaches room and know the injuries and all the possibilities, it’s easy to play fantasy hockey when you don’t have all the information sometimes. That’s part of the business.
“We lost 1-0 on a shorthanded goal. To beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, we weren’t really going to be able to turn it into a track meet and go end to end and try to score. … We have to defend and we had some people as you’ll find out eventually, guys were banged up and hurt so you had to cover all your bases.
“At the end of the day, we make the decisions that we do and you can’t look back. That’s the weak way to do it.”
Wahlstrom said he felt his game evolved throughout his first NHL season and that he’s excited to get back to training camp. Though it was tough to watch from the sidelines for a majority of the postseason, the 21-year-old said it was a learning experience.
“Obviously, it’s really tough to get injured,” Wahlstrom said. “You want to play with all your brothers and it was tough but at the same time it was a good learning experience to go through that. And mentally, to work on my mind a little bit, so it was really tough.”
Jean-Gabriel Pageau admitted that he was “a little banged up” during the semifinal series, but declined to elaborate.
After scoring three goals and dishing 10 assists through the first two rounds, Pageau went pointless against the Lightning and it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent.
“I would rather keep it personal, but there’s obviously little stuff but nothing different than some other guys,” he said. “Everyone is banged up at this point of the year.”
Trotz revealed that he expects the Islanders to open up next season on the road to allow for UBS Arena construction to be completed.