Facing an offensively explosive team like the Lightning in the Stanley Cup semifinals, the Islanders knew they would need the input of all four lines to keep pace.
But after get shut out 1-0 in Game 7 on Friday to end their playoffs, it raised the question of whether the Islanders’ roster was equipped with everything it needed to compete with Tampa Bay offensively. Especially since winger Oliver Wahlstrom seemed available.
Wahlstrom, the rookie with a fatal 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 scored one goal and had two assists in five playoff games before his injury, but was said to be returning in the second round against the Bruins.
In Game 1 of the Lightning Series, Wahlstrom was taking pre-game warm-ups and seemingly ready to go. But head coach Barry Trotz chose to stick with veteran Travis Zajac, who had done well to replace Wahlstrom on the third line.
When asked if he is questioning his decision not to put Walstrom back in the lineup, Trotz said no and hinted at other injuries playing a role.
“I’m not questioning any decision,” Trotz said on Sunday during the Islanders’ exit interviews. “If you could sit in the coaches room and know the injuries and all the possibilities, it would be easy to play fantasy hockey when you don’t have all the information sometimes. It’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 make it a track and field competition and go from start to finish and try to score. … We have to defend and we had people as you will eventually find out, the guys got assaulted and injured so you had to cover all of your bases.
“At the end of the day, we make the decisions we make and you can’t look back. This is the weak way to do it.
Wahlstrom said he felt his game had evolved in his first NHL season and was excited to be returning to training camp. Although it was difficult to watch from the side for most of the playoffs, the 21-year-old said it was a learning experience.
“Obviously it’s really hard to get hurt,” Wahlstrom said. “You want to play with all your brothers and it was difficult, 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 hard. “
Jean-Gabriel Pageau admitted he was “a little messed up” during the semi-final series, but declined to give more details.
After scoring three goals and amassing 10 assists in the first two rounds, Pageau went unhelpful against the Lightning and it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent.
“I would prefer it to be personal, but obviously there is little but nothing different from some other guys,” he said. “Everyone’s fucked up at this point of the year. “
Trotz has revealed that he expects the Islanders to open up on the road next season to allow for the completion of the UBS Arena construction.