NHL Playoffs Semifinals: Breakdown of Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders Series
The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning dropped the puck
for their semifinal series on Sunday, marking the second semifinal meeting in
consecutive seasons. The Lightning won the 2020 series in six games and went on
to win the Stanley Cup, but after the Islanders took Game One on Sunday, New
York’s plans for revenge are well underway.
New York Islanders Preview
The Islanders needed six games in each series to eliminate the
Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, and with Sunday’s win, they became the
third team in NHL history and the first since 1980 to have two goaltenders with
four-game win streaks in the playoffs. Ilya Sorokin won four in a row in the
first round, then Semyon Varlamov won three straight to eliminate the Bruins
and made it four-straight in Game One.
New York’s defense will play a crucial role in the series. Beyond
being tasked with shutting down the Lightning’s elite forward group, the
Islanders’ blueliners will need to continue to produce offensively to win the
series. Second-year Noah Dobson leads all Islanders defensemen in points (no
goals, seven assists), and three of Ryan Pulock’s four postseason goals were
If the Islanders try to play at Tampa Bay’s pace, the series will
be over in a hurry. New York’s best chance is to slow down the tempo and not
give the Lightning offense time to set up. Quick breakouts and outlet passes,
scoring on the rush, and limiting second-chance opportunities will be
Trade deadline pickup Kyle Palmieri should have a massive impact
on this series as well. Though he only scored two goals and two assists in 17
regular-season games with the Islanders, he’s found the back of the net seven
times so far in the playoffs, trailing only Brayden Point among playoff goal
Tampa Bay Lightning Preview
The defending champions have an even more capable roster than they
had a year ago, but by their own standards, they’ve got unfinished business.
The Lightning have been built for the last five years to win a Cup, but
untimely injuries and epic meltdowns kept that dream from becoming a reality
(lest we forget the time Tampa Bay won the President’s Trophy then got swept by
the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round).
After missing the entire regular season, Nikita Kucherov is back
to his game-breaking form, leading all skaters with five goals and 14 assists
in the playoffs so far. His linemates Point and Ondrej Palat (two goals, three
assists) are as dangerous a line as you can find in the postseason.
Andrei Vasilevskiy may be in line to win his second career Vezina
Trophy this season after being a finalist for the fourth consecutive year. So
far in the playoffs, Vasilevskiy is second in save percentage (.934) and sixth
in GAA (2.23).
However, the particularly impressive stat is his .891
high-danger save percentage (HDSV%), second in the playoffs. That’s a tall
order to maintain, especially when Vasilevskiy is the only goaltender in the
playoffs to have seen more than 100 high-danger shots against (he’s seen 110).
Vegas’ Marc-André Fleury has the slight edge in HDSV% (.893), but Fleury has
seen 26 fewer high-danger shots.
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