UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Anders Lee may have been a rookie, but the New York Islanders left wing played a major role this season for a team that had 101 points and finished third in the Metropolitan Division.
Yet with New York's season on the line in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Washington Capitals, Lee, who scored 25 goals during the regular season, was a healthy scratch.
The Islanders survived Game 6 with a 3-1 win at Nassau Coliseum but had 11 shots on goal in a 2-1 loss at Verizon Center in Game 7 on Monday. It was a helpless feeling for Lee, who watched his teammates fail to generate any offense in their biggest game of the season.
"I can't really explain it," Lee said Wednesday at the Coliseum, where the Islanders were cleaning out their lockers permanently as they prepare for their move to Barclays Center in Brooklyn next season. "It's really hard."
Lee had an assist in New York's 4-1 victory in Game 1 but did not have a point in the following four games. He said his first two games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs were a bit of an eye-opening experience but he felt more comfortable as the series progressed. It wasn't enough to convince Islanders coach Jack Capuano to use Lee in Games 6 and 7; he was replaced by veteran Colin McDonald, who did not have a point in the two games.
"You play so many games and you know what makes you successful and what doesn't," Lee said. "You have an idea of what's going on. I knew what I needed to do and what didn't happen. It was tough not being able to correct it."
Lee said his relationship with Capuano is fine and he looks forward to building on what otherwise was an impressive season.
"We're on the same page," Lee said of Capuano. "Things are fine between us. I look forward to working with him and the guys next year, and I know they feel the same way. Things are good."
Lee will join the United States for the 2015 IIHF World Championship in the Czech Republic. He's hoping the experience will help clear his mind after seeing his NHL season end in such a frustrating manner.
"I don't want it to end on the way things have," Lee said. "[I'm going to] go play for the U.S., I've never done that before. I've never been to Europe. I'm excited to play more hockey, for sure."
Once that tournament ends, Lee likely will reflect on a season that started with Bridgeport in the American Hockey League, then saw him emerge as a potential candidate for the Calder Trophy before ending with him having to watch the Islanders fail in trying to win their first playoff series since 1993.
"It's hard for everyone," Lee said. "We all took it hard, but it's hard not being able to help. It's something that will fuel me for the summer in a good way and make me better and make the team better. Everyone faces adversity at times in their careers and I had a little bit in the last week. I do believe it will make me stronger and I can build off that and come back a better player.
"The hardest part is not letting the last week and a half overshadow something that was actually really good. I proved to a lot of people what I can do in this League. It's something I want to do every year and what I work hard for every summer. I think that's just the hard part right now, is not letting the last week and a half take too much of an effect on me, even though it was really hard."