Islanders coach Lane Lambert answers questions at a news conference...

Islanders coach Lane Lambert answers questions at a news conference following the team's win over the Hurricanes in Game 5 of an NHL Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., on April 25. Credit: AP/Karl B DeBlaker

Lane Lambert finished the way he started, by revealing little. Asked for a look behind the curtains into his first season as an NHL head coach, he instead shut them.

Consider this exchange with the media before Game 6 of the Islanders’ first-round playoff series against the Hurricanes on Friday night at UBS Arena:

Question: How has coaching in the playoffs been different than the regular season?

Lambert: “I think it’s always different than the regular season. Playoffs is a different animal for sure. But, so far, it’s been fine.”

Question: Have you learned anything?

Lambert: “I think you always learn, for sure.”

Several hours later, the Islanders’ season ended with a 2-1 overtime loss after they went into a defensive shell in the third period while trying to protect a one-goal lead.

The next question: Does Lambert get a second season behind the Islanders’ bench?

A 42-31-9 record and wild-card berth after the Islanders missed the playoffs in the previous season is a good argument for Lambert’s return, especially after he coaxed the team out of a 2-8-3 start to 2023.

But if Lou Lamoriello, who promoted Lambert from associate coach to replace the fired Barry Trotz, does not return as president/general manager, Lambert’s job might not be secure under new management.

That wouldn’t necessarily be fair to Lambert, who waited a long time for his first NHL head-coaching opportunity as a member of Trotz’s staff with the Predators from 2011-14, the Capitals from 2014-18 and the Islanders from 2019-22. But coaching isn’t a fair business.

Even if Lambert returns, it’s certainly fair to question whether assistant John MacLean, in charge of the power play, is safe.

The Islanders went 1-for-18 (5.6%) on the man advantage in the playoffs after ranking 30th in the league during the regular season at 35-for-222 (15.8%).

But it wasn’t until Game 6 that Lambert and/or MacLean altered the personnel on the top unit, finally dropping struggling quarterback Noah Dobson to the second unit and elevating Sebastian Aho to the first line of the power play. The power play did show better puck movement while generating some dangerous opportunities in Game 6 but still went 0-for-3.

Earlier in the series, the Islanders tried switching from a 1-3-1 alignment to a 2-1-2.

“We’ve personally taken a long, hard look at every little thing we can do,” Anders Lee said during the series. “But you’ve got to go out there and execute it.”

Lambert’s taciturn public persona stands in contrast with the players’ description of him as a very intense, passionate and engaged leader. The players spoke glowingly all season of Lambert’s attention to detail and X’s-and-O’s acumen.

But there were higher expectations for this season than a disappointing first-round ouster for a core group of players that advanced to the NHL semifinals in 2020 and 2021.

Realistic or not — and it’s probably less realistic — those internal expectations will only grow next season if the core group again remains intact.

“Everybody in this locker room wants to win a Stanley Cup,” Matt Martin said in the hushed dressing room after Game 6. “That’s the dream. That’s the goal. It hurts the same amount every time, whether it’s the first round or the third round.

“We believe in the group that we have. We fought hard all year. We had some tough stretches and battled to get here.”

Lambert certainly deserves credit for keeping the Islanders’ belief in themselves strong through those rough patches.

And he certainly learned from his first go-round as an NHL coach.

Even if he won’t detail how.

More Islanders

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months