It's hard to adhere to the regular season results between clubs going into the playoff series between them, but it's a quirky coincidence that the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders played each other twice in a 10 day span (March 25 and April 4) with the clubs splitting those games 7-4 and 5-2 respectively. It's been just more than three weeks since the Isles took a demoralized Lightning team for a spanking at Barclays Center; ample revenge for the Bolts hammering the Isles at Amalie Arena a week and a half earlier.
That was the first season though, this is the second season. Lop-sided scoring hasn't exactly stood out in either clubs respective series to open up the 2016 playoffs. There had been a 5-4 win for the Islanders to start the series against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay took game 2 against the Red Wings 5-2... But there had been two goal losses by both teams (a 3-1 Panthers win in game 2; Detroit shutting out the Lightning 2-0 in game 3).
Ultimately 5 of the 6 games played by the Islanders against Florida were 1 goal games while 3 of Tampa Bay's 5 were the same. Suffice it to say that gives off the notion this will be another tight series... unless Thomas Greiss and his Isles are worn down from their series with Florida.
The amount of overtime the Isles played while facing the Panthers amounts to an extra game in the series. Perhaps a game and a half when you add up all the minutes spent in overtime in games 3, 5, and 6. The series concluded this past Sunday, giving the Isles time to recover and regroup a bit.
Tampa Bay's been done since last Thursday's 1-0 win over Detroit. That game was the closest to going to overtime, having stood scoreless through 58:16 of playing time before Alex Killorn got one past Petr Mrazek.
The close games that have been played in the playoffs in each team's respective series contrasts their last two games of direct play against each other, that's the point I'm trying to make here. That direct, regular season play results shows what either club is capable of offensively. One major difference and potential dark horse for tonight's affair at the Amalie is... a morale boost. That sounds fishy as hell, or flat for that matter, but Steven Stamkos has been participating with the club (starting yesterday) in practice, which did boost his team. It's of note that the last time the Bolts and Isles squared off, Tampa Bay was on a bit of a low with thanks to Stamkos having surgery on his blood clot earlier that day. It's not that Stamkos may or may not return tonight (he won't) but the fact he's there and partaking in routine that's the boost.
I'm not going to rehash numbers that were posted yesterday, but it's highly probably the goalies of tonight are Thomas Greiss for the Islanders and Ben Bishop for the Lightning.