NHL Playoffs Prediction: Tampa Bay Lightning versus New York Islanders
The New York Islanders versus the Tampa Bay Lightning is set for round three as the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs continue. Game 1 is today in Tampa and will start at 3 PM ET.
Before I get into my semifinals preview and prediction, here’s where I stand after two rounds. I am a humble 4-8, so don’t go to Las Vegas with my picks this season. With that being said, I did correctly select the Lightning beating the Hurricanes.
Let’s dive into round three.
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Islanders vs Lightning Semifinals Preview
#3 Tampa Bay Lightning vs #4 New York Islanders
This will be the first meeting between these two teams since last year’s Eastern Conference Finals which the Lightning won.
Offensively, the Lightning have the edge as they averaged 3.21 goals per game during the regular season to the Islanders 2.71. However, in the playoffs, the Isles are scoring 3.58 goals per game to Tampa’s 3.45. Heading into this series, the Islanders look ready to hold their own against the Lightning’s firepower.
On the defensive side of the puck, Tampa is only giving up 2.36 goals per game in the postseason. The Isles are solid themselves to the tune of 2.75. Will the Islanders get their revenge for last year’s third round loss? We will soon find out.
“We’ve got a group of guys that have been together quite a while and we’ve added some key pieces,” Islanders’ Josh Bailey said, “and when you get into these high-intensity situations and guys just keep showing up for one another it just builds a bond. It’s going to be no easy task. I think Tampa [Bay] has a great team, the defending Cup champs. So it’s going to be tough, but we believe in ourselves and we know we’re going to need our best to find a way to take them down. We feel like we still have some unfinished business.”NHL.com
Isles vs Lightning Prediction
Offense: Edge Lightning
Guess who the leading scorer of the NHL playoffs is after missing the entire regular season? Nikita Kucherov has 18 points in 11 games and he’s heading to a Conn Smythe Trophy with his play. Tampa has more offensive depth than the Islanders and the better special teams. Steven Stamkos is fourth in playoff scoring with 15 points. Brayden Point and Alex Killorn are also tied for 8th with 12 points each.
The Islanders have done a great job scoring in the playoffs. They are an opportunistic offense which is being led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s 13 points. Of course, Mathew Barzal is always a threat but he only has 9 points in 12 games so far. One thing to consider, the Islanders offense has had the benefit of going up against a slumping Tristan Jarry and an injured Tuukka Rask.
About those special team numbers, Tampa’s PP is the best in the playoffs at 41.7% and their PK is 77.8% effective. The Islanders are struggling on the PK only killing 61.5% of their penalties successfully. That will not work against the Lightning.
Defense: Slight Edge Islanders
I truly believe that the Islanders are the best defensive team left in the playoffs. Currently, they are only giving up 2.75 per game, but as I mentioned earlier, Tampa has been better at 2.36. Still, when the game’s get tighter and especially when the Isles have a lead, they are almost impenetrable. Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech are also playing great hockey in their own zone. No one on the Isles’ defense will be mistaken for Bobby Orr, but almost everyone of them can shut down top offensive players.
Tampa is solid defensively as well and block a ton of shots. Their defensemen are in-your-face types, but they can be prone to odd-man chances due to being overzealous in making a hit. They also have the best defenseman in this series in Victor Hedman.
Goaltending: Edge Lightning
Andrei Vailevskiy is widely considered the best goalie in the NHL today and the favorite to win the Vezina. He’s also the defending Stanley Cup Champion. Coming into this series he has a .934 SV% which is only behind Carey Price’s .935. His GAA is a solid 2.24 and is tracking the puck as good, if not better than he did last season.
The Islanders on the other hand have gone back and forth between their two net minders. Right now it looks like Semyon Varlamov will start Game 1 over Ilya Sorokin. Varly was solid in his last start to close out the Bruins, and boasts strong numbers himself. A 925 SV% coupled with a 2.62 GAA is nothing to sneeze at, but Vasilevskiy gives Tampa the edge here.
Final Prediction: Lightning in 6