The Islanders are protecting leads with an anti-Roy, Lambert-era style — and this time it’s working

Lane Lambert’s style was to strenuously avoid public explanations for anything, so in one and a half seasons as coach of the Islanders, he never gave a detailed account of how he wanted his team to play or how he wanted it to differ from Barry Trotz’s philosophies, if at all.

The one thing he did stipulate during his first training camp was to say, repeatedly, he wanted the Islanders to play with more aggression — which was generally taken to mean he wanted the defensemen to push further up the ice.

That was an evident difference in the Islanders’ game at the start of last season, and it lasted until roughly the halfway mark of the season. By the time Mat Barzal got hurt last February and the Islanders had to put up or shut up in the playoff race, that got put on the shelf. Instead of aggression, the new buzzword was “structure,” which translated to getting a lead and then absorbing pressure, leaning hard on Ilya Sorokin and hoping they could grind out wins.

And guess what? It worked, at least well enough for the Islanders to get into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.


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