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He is a maestro conducting an orchestra without regard for the flavor of the day or public opinion. He is Lou Lamoriello, on his third life in the NHL, and he has restored yet another franchise to prominence.
Make no mistake. As much as this is Long Island’s team, as much as this is a team of descendants from arguably the greatest dynasty in the history of the sport, as much as this is a team for the moment, this is Lamoriello’s team and it represents Lamoriello’s vision.
Oh, and that includes his choice of a coach to run his band, it most certainly does. That includes hiring Barry Trotz the way he once hired Jacques Lemaire and Larry Robinson and Pat Burns two rivers away when Lamoriello turned 16W off the Turnpike into the Exit of Champions.
That includes trading for Andy Greene and Jean-Gabriel Pageau at last year’s trade deadline. That includes acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac this April.
The Islanders are going back to the semifinals after throttling the Bruins 6-2 for the Game 6 second-round clincher in their most imposing performance of the series under a din that recalled the days of Bobby Bourne and John Tonelli (or maybe even Shawn Bates). They did not back down, they did not back up, and as such have earned another crack at the Lightning, to whom they fell in six in last year’s conference finals under the Edmonton bubble.
A crack at the champs.
Boston was supposed to have pulled off the coup of the deadline by acquiring/liberating Taylor Hall from Buffalo. The former Hart Trophy winner was the marquee attraction and he helped turn the Bruins’ second line into a dangerous weapon. Oh boy, the B’s looked like smarty pants.
They then faced the Islanders, against whom Hall scored one goal, and that one a power-play empty-netter that put the seal on Boston’s 5-2 opening-game victory. The next five games? Nope. Nothing much.
Meanwhile, there were Zajac and Palmieri, supporting actors through most of their careers who possessed the characteristics (meaning: necessities) Lamoriello is always seeking. Toughness, being a good teammate, able to play a role, strength on and away from the puck.
In Lamoriello’s orchestra, there is always room for percussionists to accompany the strings, brass and woodwinds. Always room for a Cal Clutterbuck to accompany a Mat Barzal. Always need for a Pageau to accompany a Josh Bailey. Always need for a Greene to steward a Noah Dobson.
Always room for a Zajac, whom Lamoriello drafted 20th overall for the Devils in 2004 and then awarded an eight-year, $46 million contract in 2013-14 that is expiring this year. Always room for a Palmieri, who came to the Devils from Anaheim in May of 2015, a few weeks after Ray Shero replaced Lamoriello as New Jersey GM.
And so Zajac, who only got into the postseason lineup when Oliver Wahlstrom went down in Game 5 against Pittsburgh, went to the front to slam home a rebound for a 1-0 lead at 8:52 of the first period of this one. And so Palmieri, ornery throughout, powered through Matt Grzelcyk to bury one for a 4-1 lead at 16:07 of the second period while Charlie McAvoy was wrestling with Zajac on the ice behind the net.
Goals for the series: Lou’s deadline acquisitions 5, Boston GM Don Sweeney’s, 1.
“Lou has won a few Cups and I think that his knowledge since he’s been in the league, you know, he’s a learned guy,” Trotz said. “He’s seen a number of things. I love listening and talking to Lou.
“He understands building a roster. There will be a Player A and Player B and the values that a lot of people might put on a certain player because it’s the sexy thing to do, he understands the intrinsic value of a player in tough games and in the locker room and as a teammate and as a pro.
“All the stuff that you really don’t put a lot of numbers to, everything he does is very thorough and has substance to it. It’s not lacy, fancy stuff. It’s real stuff and he puts a lot of value in that.”
Mary Richards had spunk. The Islanders have substance. They hounded the magnificent Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line into submission in this one to the tune of a 20 percent shot share and 32.03 xGF. They drove the play and relentlessly hounded the Bruins, controlling the puck down low for 90 seconds late in the third with the score 4-2.
Semyon Varlamov, whom Lamoriello signed as a free agent rather than re-upping Robin Lehner following 2018-19, outplayed an ailing Tuukka Rask. Brock Nelson, who scored twice in the clincher against the Penguins and is emerging as Big Game Brock, got two more in this one.
The defense was stout. The checkers checked. The hitters hit. The Islanders made the most beautiful music in the midst of a madhouse.
The Old Barn remains open for business.
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