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A playoffs statistical overview and preview of the Lightning versus Islanders

It's been a long time since the Islanders advanced to the second round of the NHL playoffs. Is Tampa Bay up to the task of thwarting a further Islander advance?

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It was a tight contest in the Metro Division this season, to say the least Heck, the New Jersey Devils and Carolina Hurricanes did have enough gusto to be within stones-throw of the second wild card spot at time in March... they just couldn't make the final reach to unseat the Flyers. Five teams from the division made the playoffs, and if the points in the Eastern Conference in general had seeded teams in the 2016 NHL playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning would have been seeded 6th overall, with the New York Islanders seeded 5th.

Using that dim look-see, that should give you an idea that the Bolts are lucky to a degree. Because divisional separation and wild card status will factor in, the Bolts hold home ice advantage for the Eastern Conference Semifinals while it's the Isles who have a better record - by three points - than Tampa Bay. The Bolts went 46-31-5 while the Isles went 45-27-10; a very on-par result with overtime/shootout losses giving the Isles favor. If it was by overall conference ranking, the two clubs would have squared off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn to start the 2016 playoffs.

Where it would have gone from there is debatable... But we'll get a different picture in one way or another in the upcoming series.

This is the second time in Lightning team history that the club faces the New York Islanders; they were the opening foe in the 2004 NHL playoffs that resulted in Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup championship. That's a long, long time ago and both clubs are vastly different teams now.

The 12 years (from the last meeting between the clubs in the playoffs to now) saw the Isles make the playoffs all of 4 times (this is including the current appearance). Their series victory over the Florida Panthers is the first time in 23 years the franchise had won a playoff series. That franchise has their history with the cup but that span of years (1994 through 2015) also only saw the Islanders even make the playoffs 7 total times (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015, 2016).

On the other hand, 2016 is Tampa Bay's 9th overall NHL playoff appearance in organizational history. That count started in 1996. The Bolts also made the playoffs 6 times during the window between the last Bolts/Isles playoff series between the two organizations in 2004 and now (2006, 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016).

All that info is irrelevant, though. That's history; past tense. None o it has a direct influence on what lies ahead. What might have an influence is the 7-4 win by the Lightning and their 5-2 loss to the Islanders on March 25th and April 4th at Amalie Arena and Barclays Center respectively.

What is relevant is how both teams are performing overall in the playoffs. One important note worth mentioning is that the Islanders didn't just play an extra game but several extra periods (with thanks to overtime) which translate to more chances and more contributions.

Here's where Tampa Bay stands after the 1st round against the Red Wings:

More games played for the Isles and a more potent brew on display, as 15 players (led by John Tavares) have contributed 42 total points during the se3ries with the Florida Panthers. It's of note that during regular season play, the Isles had 5 more goals produced all season compared to TB (232 to 227) but the Lightning were a touch strong in preventing goals - having 201 goals allowed compared to 216 by the Isles (that was the last season, though; it's the second season now).

Goaltending is a duel - at least with thanks to periods of overtime play for Thomas Greiss with the Isles. Not trying to dumb-down his efforts but his save percentage (.944) and goals against average (1.79) are both influenced by extended play. The one key differential between him and Ben Bishop (.950 save percentage and a 1.61 GAA) is that Greiss has given up 13 total goals in those 6 games - 5 more than Bishop in his 5 appearance. A factor that also shouldn't be dismissed is how Greiss faced almost twice as many shots (234 as to 160).

The Lightning have a grand stat on special teams - yes, special teams - after a round of play: They lead the remaining teams of the 2016 NHL playoffs in penalty killing. Tampa Bay's effectiveness was 96.0% during their series against Detroit, going shorthanded 25 times - second only to the Philadelphia Flyers 27 times against the Washington Capitals.  It's not like the Isles were bad at what they did - an 86.7% kill-rate is more than sound against the potency of the Florida Panthers, but they were only shorthanded 15 times during the series against the Cats.

On the other side of special teams play, the Isles got out of the 1st round with a 6th ranked power play (23.8% conversion rate). The Lightning's 17.4% effectiveness had them 10th ranked in the 16 total teams that made the playoffs. It's a disappointing number (though the game 4 effectiveness was what amounted to all scoring by the Bolts), it's also par-for-the-course compared to the regular season antics of Tampa Bay's man-advantage.

The Lightning has a potential lineup re-addition forthcoming in defenseman Anton Stralman, who went down against the Isles in the March 25 contest. Speaking of which, a few days later the Isles lost Anders Lee. There's a chance see could return to the lineup if the series is an extended affair, but I would not expect it.