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Sport NHL playoffs 2021: Breakdown, predictions, odds for Lightning vs. Islanders Stanley Cup semifinal

16:36  11 june  2021
16:36  11 june  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

Lightning vs. Islanders: 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal preview

  Lightning vs. Islanders: 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinal preview For the second year in a row the Lightning and Islanders will play for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders are meeting for a chance to play for a trip to the Stanley Cup Final for the second year in a row, while it is the third time in four years that head coaches Barry Trotz and Jon Cooper have faced off in this round. There was obviously last year’s matchup, which the Lightning won in six games on their way to a Stanley Cup title, and also the 2018 matchup with Trotz’s Capitals topped Cooper and the Lightning on their way to the Stanley Cup.

Islanders and Lightning.

It's a series 265 days in the making. That's how long it has been since these two teams met in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals and when Tampa Bay won the series in six games. It's also how long it has been since they've faced each other in any kind of game.

And here's the plot twist: In reality, it's likely this would have been the Eastern Conference final pairing if things had been per usual this year. So while this round has a fancy new title for 2021 — Stanley Cup semifinal — it's just one more nudge that things are getting back to normal.

"It's a great opportunity for us seeing them again in the semifinals," said Anthony Beauvillier after his Islanders sent the Bruins golfing. "I think we're taking a lot of pride in what we do, and to get back to the spot that we were last year with some unfinished business, it's a great opportunity for us. Everyone is excited in the room and we're really looking forward to it."

Islanders-Lightning stream – Game 1 on NBC

  Islanders-Lightning stream – Game 1 on NBC Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and the NBC Sports app.For the second consecutive season (and for the second time in nine months), the Islanders and Lightning will meet in the NHL’s semifinal round. In the 2020 Eastern Conference Final in the bubble in Edmonton, Tampa Bay topped New York in six games before going on to win the Stanley Cup title.

Speaking of normal, both arenas should be rocking with fans back in the seats, especially the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Old Barn is closing its hockey doors when the Islanders' run ends, and the team is certainly sending it out in style. It has been 38 years since the home team gave Lord Stanley's Cup a twirl around the ice — 37 since it was in a Cup Final — and this club will be itching to do it one more time. On the flip side, the defending champion Lightning are aiming for a repeat and, this time, to give the fans a chance to see it in person.

But before they can even think about fulfilling their Stanley Cup dreams, they have to face each other.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders: Schedule, odds, breakdown, prediction

Stanley Cup semifinal schedule

Date Matchup Time (TV channel)
Sun., June 13 at Tampa Bay 3 p.m. (NBC, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Tues., June 15 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Thurs., June 17 at New York 8 p.m. (USA, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Sat., June 19 at New York 8 p.m. (USA, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Mon., June 21 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Wed., June 23 at New York 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Fri., June 25 at Tampa Bay 8 p.m. (NBCSN, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)

(* If necessary)

The Wraparound: Predators should unleash Duchene in Game 5

  The Wraparound: Predators should unleash Duchene in Game 5 Your daily look at the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.It’s still Saros making a ton of saves, and keeping the sometimes-overmatched Predators in playoff games vs. the Hurricanes.

Season statistics

The teams did not play against each other in 2021 because of COVID-19 restrictions. Here's a quick look at some stats against the seven other teams in their respective divisions (per NHL.com and Natural Stat Trick):

TBL STAT NYI
3.21 GF/GP 2.71
2.59 GA/GP 2.23
22.2 PP pct. 18.8
84.2 PK pct. 83.7
52.37 CF% at 5v5 48.6
98.57 xGF at 5v5 102.52
86.76 xGA at 5v5 94.62
58.12 HDGF% at 5v5 58.54

Odds

Lightning -250 Islanders +200

(Odds by FanDuel)

Offense

So here's the funny thing about all those season stats for the Lightning: Throw them out the window. They look all shiny, but they were missing one key element — Nikita Kucherov. The Russian missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery and has hit the ice running in the postseason. In 11 games, he has racked up 18 points (five goals, 13 assists), with 13 of those on the power play, and averaged an eye-popping 1.64 points per game.

If you're Barry Trotz and the Islanders, you're probably thinking, "Let's shut down Kucherov and we'll have a solid chance," right? Well, if you just focused on him, then you'd leave Steven Stamkos (13 points), Alex Killorn (12) Brayden Point (12) and defenseman Victor Hedman (11) open — and those are just the players with double-digit points. That's the thing about the Lightning; they have a balanced offense across all four lines and their blue-liners chip in, too.

Islanders Playoffs News: Game 1 against the Bruins will be tomorrow night

  Islanders Playoffs News: Game 1 against the Bruins will be tomorrow night Only a couple of days off for the Islanders.Let’s get at it.

The Islanders have a similar setup with their forward group, especially as of late. More known for shutting down the other team's high-octane offense, the guys from Long Island are led by . . . a guy from Long Island. Deadline pickup Kyle Palmieri has reignited the offense with a team-leading seven goals. But he's not the only one putting the puck in the net; the team boasted a 3.67 GF/GP against the Bruins in the second round. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (13 points), longtime Islander Josh Bailey (11) and Anthony Beauvillier (11) have double-digit points in the playoffs.

One guy the Islanders will need to keep pace to have any success the rest of the way is Mat Barzal. The 2018 Calder Trophy winner notched just three points in the six games against the Penguins, but he has turned it up as of late. In six games against Boston, he notched six points, including the game-winner in Game 4. Last season in the Eastern Conference finals, he contributed four assists in six games. The Islanders' points leader in 2021 will be critical to this squad getting past the defending champion.

The biggest X-factors for each Stanley Cup semifinalist

  The biggest X-factors for each Stanley Cup semifinalist Game breakers for the Lightning, Canadiens, Golden Knights, and Islanders.The last team standings are Vegas, tied for the most standings points in the NHL; Montreal, the underdog of the North who took down top-seeded Toronto; New York, an Islanders squad that’s smothered two higher seeds; and Tampa Bay, the defending Stanley Cup champions.

Edge: Lightning


Gallery: Which players have scored the most points in NHL postseason history? (Yardbarker)

Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr posing for the camera: When we think of the careers of NHL players, we think about their point totals. You know, how Wayne Gretzky has more assists than anybody else has points or Alex Ovechkin gunning for the Great One’s goal record. However, that’s all about the regular season. Let’s not forget the playoffs! After all, the goal is to hoist the Stanley Cup, right? Just as with regular-season points, playoff points are tallied and cataloged. Which players have the most career postseason points? These are the top 25, all of whom have scored 160 playoff points or more.
semyon-varlamov-ilya-sorokin-061021-getty-ftr.jpeg © Provided by Sporting News semyon-varlamov-ilya-sorokin-061021-getty-ftr.jpeg

Defense

Barry Trotz knows defense. Yeah, he knows how to squeeze every last bit of offensive juice from his players, but the man knows defense. His team had the second-lowest GA/GP in the regular season at just 2.23, and since Trotz shipped up north from Washington after winning the 2018 Stanley Cup, the Long Island team has boasted a league-best 2.46 GA/GP.

In the first round, Trotz sent the East Division's best team, the Penguins, into a downward offensive spiral. A crew that includes Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin went from 3.45 GF/GP in the regular season to 2.67. In the second round, the Bruins, who were at 2.93 for the 2021 season and 3.20 GF/GP for Round 1 against the Capitals, dropped to 2.83.

Tampa Bay sported a 3.21 GF/GP in the regular season, which isn't too shabby, but again, it didn't have Kucherov. The Islanders have one of the worst Corsi For percentages at 5v5 (42.20) — it's actually 15th out of 16 playoff teams — which means they don't have the puck a whole lot and they allow a whole lot of shots against. But they do have the best SCSV% (percentage of scoring chance shots against that were not goals, per Natural Stat Trick) at 92.23 and the third-best High-Danger save percentage (87.80).

Islanders tie series with Bruins with wild Game 2 overtime goal

  Islanders tie series with Bruins with wild Game 2 overtime goal Casey Cizkas took advantage of a deflection for a breakaway game winner.Casey Cizikas put a shot past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask 14:48 into overtime after a fluke play at the opposing blue line, sending the Islanders to a 4-3 overtime victory and tying their Second Round series 1-1.

Jon Cooper's Lightning are also solid on defense and, in fact, have posted a better GA/GP than the Islanders in the postseason (2.36 compared to 2.75). It surely doesn't hurt to have the 2020 Norris Trophy winner — and a 2021 Norris Trophy finalist — in the corps in Victor Hedman. Then there's Mikhail Sergachev, David Savard, Jan Rutta, Erik Cernak and Ryan McDonagh. All but Savard were on the 2020 Cup team, so this crew knows what it takes to get to the final round.

Edge: Islanders

Goaltending

This series may come down to the performances between the pipes. Andrei Vasilevskiy is up again for the Vezina, and for good reason. He led the league with 31 wins — the Lightning won 36 total — and had a shiny .925 save percentage. That was the regular season; as the importance of each game has risen, so has his level of play.

"I've been around a long time and I've seen a lot of goalies that are good, but he's as good as anybody I've ever seen," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said after his team was eliminated by the Lightning. "And how he affects the team and how they can play. That's kind of what I told him. And it's true."

In the playoffs, he's boasting a .934 save percentage, just .001 behind leader Carey Price, and has two shutouts, including one in the series clincher against Carolina. In 11 starts, he has a 3.57 Goals Saved Above Average and .921 High-Danger Save percentage at 5v5 (per Natural Stat Trick), both of which are the best among the remaining goalies.

Trotz has called on both his netminders — Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin — in the postseason. Varlamov has started seven games while the rookie Sorokin has gotten the tap five times. Both are displaying sparkling save percentages — Sorokin is at .934 and Varlamov is at .925 — but the latter has been getting the gigs lately. After Sorokin faltered in Game 1 against the Bruins — and despite winning three straight vs. the Pens — Varlamov has been the one in net.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar cleared for Game 6 vs. Vegas

  Avalanche coach Jared Bednar cleared for Game 6 vs. Vegas Colorado coach Jared Bednar has been cleared to work Game 6 following a COVID-19 scare that involved Bednar producing an irregular test result. He missed Thursday's morning skate, but it was hoped hours before the club's confirmation that he'd ultimately be behind the bench. No Avalanche players missed out on the skate because of COVID-19 concerns. According to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the NHL's website, Bednar did not speak with reporters after learning of the update. However, defenseman Devon Toews said Thursday's practice was "pretty much business as usual" with other coaches leading the session.

Edge: Lightning

Special teams

There's really not too much to say here other than Tampa Bay's power-play is connecting at 41.7 percent effectiveness. The Islanders' penalty kill is 61.5 percent effective. Translation: You CANNOT take penalties if you're the Islanders. The Islanders' power play, by the way, is working at a respectable 28.1 percent and the Lightning's penalty kill percentage is 77.8. But, again, you CANNOT take penalties if you're the Islanders.

Edge: Lightning

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: brayden-point-lightning-061021-getty-ftr.jpeg © Provided by Sporting News brayden-point-lightning-061021-getty-ftr.jpeg

Key players to watch

Brayden Point (TBL): The Calgary, Alta., native has been red-hot as of late with five points in the last three games, including the series winner in Game 5 against the Hurricanes. In 11 games this postseason, he has notched eight goals and 12 points and is well on his way to besting the 14 times he hit the back of the net in 23 contests in 2020 bubble hockey. He's boasting a 6.83 Expected Goals For at 5v5, which is fourth-best on the club, and has won 57.26 percent of his faceoffs taken, per Natural Stat Trick. Last postseason, he played in just four of the six games against the Islanders and still skated away with seven points.

Kyle Palmieri (NYI): Acquired via trade around the deadline along with fellow longtime Devil Travis Zajac, Palmieri has made himself quite at home on Long Island, which shouldn't be a shocker since the Smithtown, N.Y., native grew up about 30 miles from Nassau Coliseum. After potting just four points in 17 regular-season games, he has turned it up in the playoffs with seven goals and two assists in 12 games. According to Natural Stat Trick, he's seventh in the league with an individual xG of 2.65. The 30-year-old forward, who is growing back his magnificent beard for the playoffs, is also riding a five-game point-scoring streak.

Lightning vs. Islanders playoff history

It should also be noted that the two times these teams have met in the postseason (regardless of round) and the Lightning have won, they went to win the Cup.

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar could miss elimination game due to 'irregular' COVID-19 test?

  Avalanche coach Jared Bednar could miss elimination game due to 'irregular' COVID-19 test? Goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila handled whistle duties on Thursday morning with Bednar absent.As Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the NHL's website noted, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar missed Thursday's morning skate due to what's being called an "irregularity" with his COVID-19 test result. As of early Thursday afternoon, Bednar's status for the must-win game was up in the air.

YEAR RESULT
2020 TBL def. NYI in conference finals in six games
2016 NYI def. TBL in second round in five games
2004 TBL def. NYI in quarterfinals in five games

Last five playoff appearances

Tampa Bay Lightning

YEAR FINISH
2020 Won Stanley Cup
2019 Lost in first round to CBJ in four games
2018 Lost in conference finals to WSH in seven games
2016 Lost in conference finals to PIT in seven games
2015 Lost in Stanley Cup Final to CHI in six games

New York Islanders

YEAR FINISH
2020 Lost in conference finals to TBL in six games
2019 Lost in second round to CAR in four games
2016 Lost in second round to TB in six games
2015 Lost in first round to WSH in seven games
2013 Lost in conference quarterfinals to PIT in six games

Lightning vs. Islanders prediction

It's hard not to think the Islanders will pull this one out — and they just may because, as we've learned, you never bet against the mastermind, Barry Trotz — but the Lightning are, soup to nuts, the more stacked team. This club has been to the promised land. It knows what it takes and, when all is said and done, it should have a chance at going back-to-back.

Prediction: Lightning in 6

Avalanche coach Jared Bednar could miss elimination game due to 'irregular' COVID-19 test? .
Goaltending coach Jussi Parkkila handled whistle duties on Thursday morning with Bednar absent.As Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the NHL's website noted, Colorado head coach Jared Bednar missed Thursday's morning skate due to what's being called an "irregularity" with his COVID-19 test result. As of early Thursday afternoon, Bednar's status for the must-win game was up in the air.

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