The Islanders and Lightning meet once more, this time throughout one other season in contrast to another. Their Stanley Cup semifinals sequence, which begins Sunday in Tampa, Fla., shall be a rematch of the playoff battle within the Edmonton bubble final September, through which the Lightning defeated the Islanders in six video games on the way in which to their first Stanley Cup title in 16 years. Head coach Barry Trotz memorably stated in the beginning of this season that he’d have visions of that loss to Tampa Bay on his deathbed, however now he and the Islanders have earned a chance to rewrite the script.
“I feel we really feel like we nonetheless have some unfinished enterprise,” Josh Bailey stated stoically after the Islanders’ series-clinching win over the Bruins in Sport 6 Wednesday night time.
Let’s not neglect, the Lightning soundly defeated the Bruins in 5 video games in Spherical 2 final postseason, which gave them ample time to relaxation up because the Islanders have been pressured right into a Sport 7 by the Flyers. The Isles had simply someday in between Sport 7 in opposition to Philadelphia and Sport 1 in opposition to the Lightning to journey to Edmonton.
If we’re piling on the justifications, fourth-line heart Casey Cizikas on the time was dominated out for the rest of the postseason after Sport 2 resulting from a indifferent retina. Additionally they have been with out top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech, who performed by a damaged wrist within the Isles’ extra time win in Sport 5, of their season-ending Sport 6 loss.
This time round, the Islanders are bringing reinforcements. Commerce deadline acquisition Travis Zajac has already needed to fill in for rookie sharpshooter Oliver Wahlstrom. Barring any main accidents, depth shouldn’t be a deciding issue for the Islanders.
The Put up’s Mollie Walker takes a take a look at how the groups matchup.
Trotz might really feel that Semyon Varlamov was snubbed by not being a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, however he acknowledged that the three finalists have been greater than deserving of the highest goalie award. And a type of three was the Lightning’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Vasilevskiy was outstanding through the common season, proving to be one of many Lightning’s most respected gamers as he confronted a median of practically 30 photographs a recreation. He led the NHL in wins (31) and garnered a .925 save share in 42 begins out of 56 video games.
This postseason, Vasilevskiy is main the league in saves (352), has allowed the second-fewest objectives (25) and has posted a 2.24 goals-against common.
The Islanders are the primary group to have one goalie file all 4 wins in a single sequence and one other file all 4 wins within the subsequent because the Canadiens did it in 1987 with Patrick Roy and Brian Hayward. Although Varlamov has seemingly rebounded from his shaky performances in Video games 2 and three of the first-round sequence in opposition to the Penguins, which prompted Trotz to show to rookie Ilya Sorokin, Varmalov allowed a number of questionable objectives to the Bruins.
The Islanders averaged the second-fewest objectives in opposition to per recreation with 2.23 through the common season, whereas the Lighting weren’t too far behind with 2.59. In comparison with the remainder of the Islanders’ opponents this postseason, the Lightning ought to have essentially the most equally defensively savvy squad.
Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay’s No. 1 defenseman, is a Norris Trophy finalist and has been one of many prime defenders within the league in current seasons. Additional down the left-hand aspect is former Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh, who performs a very good chunk of minutes, just like Hedman.
The Islanders’ D contributes much more on offense than the Lightning’s protection does. Plus, the Islanders’ prime defensive pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock have survived two of one of the best prime traces within the NHL from the Penguins and Bruins. They’ve been skating in opposition to elite scorers all postseason and have repeatedly risen to the event.
Protection is the Islanders’ bread-and-butter, and that shouldn’t change this upcoming sequence.
Much like the Islanders, the Lightning are a well-balanced four-line group. Tampa Bay, nonetheless, undoubtedly brings extra star energy, with a scoring risk on every line. The Lightning have Nikita Kucherov, Alex Killorn, Yanni Gourde and Pat Maroon — and likewise Brayden Level, Steven Stamkos and Blake Coleman.
The Islanders’ Mathew Barzal has simply began discovering the again of the online, whereas gamers like Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri and Josh Bailey proceed to take action. After going through the high-scoring Penguins and Bruins, the Islanders will possible want much more to outscore the Lightning.
Whereas the Islanders’ energy play received scorching throughout their second-round sequence in opposition to the Bruins, their often top-notch penalty kill was picked aside by Boston. They gave up seven power-play objectives to the Bruins. And if Boston was a lofty process, the Lightning shall be an much more troublesome problem.
The Lightning has scored on 15 of their 36 man-advantage alternatives this postseason, which quantities to a league-leading 41.7 share. They common 3.27 power-plays per recreation, which can be one of the best within the NHL amongst groups which are nonetheless energetic.
Jon Cooper often is the reigning Stanley Cup-winning head coach, however Barry Trotz additionally is aware of what it takes to win a championship sequence. He did it with the Capitals simply three years in the past.
Trotz has made certain the Islanders have saved their eyes on the prize this complete postseason, whereas additionally encouraging them to get pleasure from every victory. His demeanor is one thing the gamers look to, and his willpower is contagious.
The Islanders have waited all season to take that subsequent step from the purpose at which their playoff run ended final 12 months, and it’s fairly poetic that they’ll get an opportunity to do it in opposition to the Lightning.
However Tampa Bay is a loaded group with star energy that rivals each squads the Islanders needed to defeat to get again so far. It should take a top-tier effort each recreation for the Islanders to fight the Lightning.
Lightning in seven