The Islanders will enter uncharted territory against the Lightning in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoff. Tampa Bay may have the upper hand in the matchup due to their more recent playoff experience. They made it to the Final last year, but were taken down by Chicago nonetheless.
The Islanders, on the other hand, hadn’t won a postseason series since 1993. They have proved to be a tough and gritty team, taking Florida into overtime on three different occasions. The most recent being by way of Jonathan Tavares tying the game with about 53 seconds left to force overtime, and then converting on a wrap around in double overtime to give the team the win and the chance to move on.
Tampa Bay ended their series on the 22nd of April. This right here is key for a team in the playoffs; they’ve been able to rest up and catch a few more glimpses of the
opposing Islanders. The rest could serve purpose in getting a first game win and set a good tone for the rest of the series seeing as some of their players are banged up from the series versus Detroit. Another advantage the Lightning will have is Ben Bishop healthy in net. He only allowed 8 goals on 160 shots last series. Bishop also sports a 2.08
GAA in 30 career playoff games. Tampa Bay only allowed one goal on 25 penalty kills vs Detroit. Their power play was less than successful converting just 4 times during 23 chances.
Steven Stamkos is still out after surgery to remove a blood clot in his shoulder took him out of the playoffs for awhile. Jonathan Drouin has been quite the star with Stamkos out, especially after early talks of a possible trade to be made where he would’ve gone to another team. I’m sure the Lightning are glad they kept him at home and now he’s paying them back. And last but most definitely not least, an entire line coming off of Tampa Bay’s bench that includes Alex Kilhorn, Ryan Callahan, and Nikita Kucherov have been playing like they’ve been together for years. If the Lightning keep playing strong and stay healthy, especially the guys mentioned above, they will be quite the contest for the opposing Islanders, but I wouldn’t count them out.
The Islanders will not be out of the question for winning the series and moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals, but they will need some help. John Tavares has been an offensive weapon that I would take to war. He is truly playing like the leader of his team with 20 points in his past 12 games. He’s been there in regulation with a goal to force overtime and game winning goals in that overtime. Theres no stopping this guy right here and he will be the Lightnings biggest struggle because of a hurting defensive core.
New York needs to play good defense on the puck to keep shots away from the net. Thomas Greiss has been solid in net racking up 88 saves in games 5 and 6 versus Florida. For a great offensively talented team like Tampa, Greiss will have to stay on top of his game to mount of four wins and move forward.
In the end I believe that Tampa Bay might take it too much for granted the way they play. They are playing a team who hasn’t had playoff speed hockey in more than two decades. The team is also hurting and could get worse as the series continues. The Islanders have a good chance of coming out victorious late in the series. They were tight against Florida taking three games to overtime and they could write a story along the same lines with the Lightning. There’s just a factor that New York is playing with fire right now and came out of the wood works. I think they take it home in 6 or 7.