The Isles won 2 of 3 in the regular season between the teams, equaling the Lightning 11-4. But that was all months ago. Who will win the series this September?
Note: Advanced stats are from Hockey Reference, Natural Static Trick and Evolution Hockey
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What we learned in the second round: The Islanders are making their first trip to the conference finals since 1993, the same year the Lightning wrapped up their first year as a franchise, finishing in the Norris division with 53 points. Yes, it’s been a while. Barry Trotz’s group is known for their team-oriented defense (1.94 goals allowed per game in the playoffs) and medial depth (Simeon Varlam and Thomas Grease are both highly capable), but the Islanders’ greatest strength has been to keep the games. Has the ability to shut down. He outscored opponents 22-7 in the third period. And while the defense gets a lot of love (rightly so), the crime is a very big story. The Islanders are the highest-scoring team remaining in the playoffs, averaging 3.38 goals per game; This is a significant increase to his 2.78 rate in the regular season, which ranks 22nd in the NHL.
The Lightning are the only team in the Final Four with a full one-week hiatus, to demolish the Boston Bruins winning the Presidents Trophy in five weeks of play. Considering that much is needed of the rest, Tampa Bay did nine overtime through its first two rounds, totaling 134: 29. Time Off has given star Nikita Kucharov (injured in Game 5) time to recover, as he is skating back with the team and should be good to go for the series. This will not be quite enough for Steven Stamkos, who has already been ruled out for the series. Tampa Bay switched several personnel this season to provide more physicality and patience to the team, which has thus far paid off. It looks like he will have to face his playoff Achilles heel once again to reach the Stanley Cup Finals: a stingy, structured, defensive team (not unlike the Blue Jackets of 2019).
First line: New York’s top trio of Jordan Eberl, Matthew Barzl and Anders Lee are buzzing; Although he did not contribute too aggressively to the Game 7 victory over the Flyers, coach Barry Trotz called it Barzal’s best game as a pro. In 16 games, he has scored just nine goals; But they too have been on the ice for only four goals, outscoring opponents from 141–88. He has an expected target percentage of 63.91. Tampa Bay is rolling out Ondrej Palat, Breyden Point and Kucherov, which are just prominent and slightly better than the top trio of the Isle. Through 13 games, Tampa Bay’s top group have scored 16 goals, and they are on ice for six, going 138–78 against opponents. He has an expected target percentage of 70.70. The Ising: Pointe already has two overtime game winners in the 2020 playoff game. Advantage: Electricity.
Further Depth: The postseason’s biggest breakout in New York is Anthony Bevillier’s second line with Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson, two of whom are Islanders with the longest tenure. The trio has been on the ice for 15.3%, and is up against just seven with expected goals for 65.38 percent. The move of the Islands to acquire Jean-Gabriel Pagu at the trade deadline is paying dividends; He has been given a major boost to move to center depth on the third line. However, there is a significant decline with the rest of the bottom six, especially compared to Lightning. The second line of Tampa Bay is not as productive as Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killarn and Tyler Johnson as we predicted. But the third line, featuring trade deadline acquisitions, was dominated by Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow (77.78 goals for percentage) and Grit Julienne Brisboys has been injected into this team – including fourth-lineer Patrick Maroon – to make Tampa Bay more Is balanced. . Advantage: Electricity.
Defence: While the Islanders have no true Student No. 1 defenseman more than Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, Isles’ strength to protect the team lies in his total commitment. The Isles blocked 18.92 shots per 60 minutes from any of the remaining teams in the tournament, and are the only team to allow at least two goals per game. Ryan Pullock and Adam Pelech have re-captured the top pair, and even trade deadline acquisition Andy Green forced Johnny Boyochuk (a $ 6 million cap hit) as a healthy scratch in the third. The value is added on the pair. For the Lightning, Hedman has been a full force (26:00 average ice time per game) and has embarked on a career renaissance for fellow Zac Bogosian. There are no weak links in Lightning’s top six; Ryan McDonagh and Eric Cernak are strong, while the third pair of Kevin Schtenkirk and Mikhail Sergachev are tracking their grooves. Advantage: Tie.
Goaltending: Tampa Bay is the best goalkeeper in the series under the reign of Vezina Trophy winner – and 2020 nominee – Andrei Vasilevsky. The Russians lead all goals this summer with 10 wins (and just three defeats), along with a .931 save percentage and 1.91 goals-against average. Islanders, meanwhile, find strength in their tandem. Verlasum has 14 games started, going 9-4 with a 2.00 GAA, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts; However, he was involved in Game 7 after allowing 9 goals on 63 shots in Game 5 and 6 goals against the Flyers. Greiss stepped in for a 16-save shutout and has a .960 save percentage and 1.08 GAA in three appearances. Trotz’s strategy is in this postmason: “You try to ride the hot man for as long as you can, and then you go to the next man.” Advantage: Tie.
Coaching: While John Cooper has led the Lightning to new heights, he will always carry extra baggage until he can lead this team to a championship. Barry Trotz, meanwhile, joined the Islanders in 2018 shortly after winning the Stanley Cup in Washington, which allowed him to shed the label of “good regular-season coach”. Trott’s team has a clear identity, in total buys and, as Nelson said, after the Game 7 victory against the Flyers, he raised the level of the entire organization when he came in. Advantage: Islanders.
Special teams: Both teams have approximately equal numbers on the power play; New York is clicking 17.0% in 16 games, Tampa Bay at 17.1% in 13 games. And kills their punishment? Pretty much the same way, too. New York is at 82.2%, Tampa Bay at 81.3%. Advantage: Tie.
Prediction: Lightning at Seven. The Islanders have proved that they are not just defensive jugglers. They are the only team to emerge from the qualifying round, and they have done this thanks to their defense and productive offense. It just feels like electric time, though. Tampa Bay has superior top-end talent, a deep forward group and – thanks to new additions this season – enough physicality to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.