Time: 3:00 PM Eastern Time
Location: Amalie Arena
Broadcast/Streaming: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN
Opponent SBNation Site: Lighthouse Hockey
Last year the Tampa Bay Lightning met with the New York Islanders on their road to the Stanley Cup in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Isles were probably one of the toughest opponents during the last year’s Bolts’ playoff run and besides their first game, where the Lightning destroyed them 8-2, most of their games were decided just by one goal. It’s just the second time since 2014, when the NHL fans are being given with a final four rematch.
Most of the public models see the Lightning as the clear favourites of the series. This however shouldn’t disappoint the Islanders fans as their team have proven twice during this postseason, that it doesn’t really apply to their team by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins despite being underdogs.
The Islanders are a very well-organised team with a strong defence, their top pair of Adam Pulock and Adam Pelech is probably one of the strongest in the league, even despite some of their struggles during this playoffs. The Islanders also have one of the best forechecking lines in Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck. In fact, most of their team are pretty good at forecheck, although the Lightning learned how to play against such teams recently.
The Islanders also did a great job at the trade deadline, acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, who fitted very well with previous year addition Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a third line. Pageau currently leads his team in points with 13 in 12 games, while Palmieri is a top goal scorer of his team with seven goals. Travis Zajac initially started this playoffs on the bench, but had to replace Oliver Wahlstrom, who suffered an injury during Game 5 against the Penguins. Wahlstrom has been practicing recently and getting closer to be available. The Islanders also missing Anders Lee, who underwent an ACL surgery on his right knee three months ago. In his absence Leo Komarov was promoted to the first line to play with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. Both players have been more quiete than usual this postseason, still generating a lot of chances but failing to convert them in actual goals.
The Isles have a very solid goaltending duo in experienced Semyon Varlamov and rookie Ilya Sorokin. Both goalies are in top-10 in GSAA and GSAx this postseason and already showed that if one of them has a bad day, he could be easily replaced by his teammate. For the starting goalie for tonight’s game, the Isles are expected to stick with Varlamov, who played in previous three games, recording wins in each of those games for New York.
The Lightning’s power play should be the biggest issue for the Isles this series. The Bolts are leading the league with terrifying 41.7% with a man advantage, while the Isles have been struggling on penalty kill during this postseason, recording just 61.5%. How the Isles will manage to adopt to the Lightning’s power play could potentially decide the series.
For the first time this postseason, the Lightning have home ice advantage in the series. In both of the previous series, the Lightning failed to win their first home game of the series after two wins on the road. The team is expected to roll exactly the same lineup, which they’ve been using in previous games against the Hurricanes.
Tampa Bay Lightning Lines
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Barclay Goodrow - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Ross Colton
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard
New York Islanders Lines
Mathew Barzal - Leo Komarov - Jordan Eberle
Brock Nelson - Anthony Beauvillier - Josh Bailey
Jean-Gabriel Pageau - Kyle Palmieri - Travis Zajac
Casey Cizikas - Matt Martin - Cal Clutterbuck
Ryan Pulock - Adam Pelech
Nick Leddy - Scott Mayfield
Noah Dobson - Andy Greeme