Islanders: The good, bad, and ugly of facing the Tampa Bay Lightning

Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Islanders get set for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tonight, the New York Islanders hit the ice for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Through shortened the 2019-20 regular season, the Isles held a 2-1-0 record against the Lightning. But as we know, a regular-season record doesn’t always mean anything come to the playoffs.

After advancing past the first round for the first time in 23 years back in 2016, the Islanders ran into the Lightning in round two. It took five games for the Bolts to dispatch the Islanders. In the 2015-16 regular season, the Isles went 2-1-0 against the Lightning.

Thirteen players from that series are still in the Islanders lineup. They remember how that series went and how they had bested the Lightning two times during the season but failed to match that in the postseason.

Typically, after the Isles win a series I do a pro and con to see what matchup would be better. Going into the Eastern Conference Finals means there only possible opponent. It’s the Lightning and that’s it.

So, rather than do a pro and con, how about a good, bad, and ugly of a series against the Lightning.

What is in the Islanders favor, what is perhaps not too great for us, and what is not good at all?

Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Good

They’ve been waiting a while

The Tampa Bay Lightning last played on August 31st. They’ve been waiting for six days. While that certainly gives them time to rest up and heal. It also creates rust. We’ve seen how teams typically perform after a break and the other team hasn’t stopped.

In the 2016-17 season, teams struggled after the league-mandated bye-week. Teams coming off a bye were 4-12-4. So while getting a break allows you to refresh, the team who hasn’t stopped playing is in game shape and they seem to hold an advantage.

We also saw that play out in 2018-19 when the Islanders sat for nine days after sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the opening round. The Hurricanes swept the Isles in round two even though they hadn’t enjoyed the same time-off the Islanders did.

Stamkos is out

It sucks when guys are hurt, but it’s still an advantage when they aren’t there. For the Lightning, they’ll be missing one of the better snipers in the game with Steven Stamkos still out. According to Jon Cooper, Stamkos will not suit up in the ECF for the Lightning.

Stamkos has 53 career points (with 23 goals) in 70 playoff games. Not having in the lineup is an advantage for the Islanders.

They have a hard time against a defensive team

The Lightning had a difficult time getting through the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the playoffs. All four of their wins were by a single goal and two needed overtime to resolve, including a five-OT win in Game 1 of that series.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a hard time against a defensive first team like Blue Jackets and the Islanders. The difference between the Isles and Blue Jackets is that he Isles are more skilled offensively.

CBJ had a hard time getting more than two goals in their opening-round series against the Bolts. They averaged 2.4 goals-per-game. The Isles have averaged 3.38 goals-per-game, the third-most in the entire postseason.

The Tampa Bay Lightning react after being defeated by the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning react after being defeated by the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images) /

The Bad

Plenty of talent

While they may not have Stamkos anymore, the Lightning are a very talented team.

Both Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov have double-digit points with 18 and 16 respectively. Defenseman Victor Hedman and forward Ondrej Palat aren’t far off with nine points each.

Their blue line is staked with good players from Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, and Kevin Shattenkirk making up their three pairs. And we already know about the quality they have between the pipes with Vasilevskiy.

Their bottom six is staffed with guys like Yanni Gourde who may have had a down year in the regular season but he’s still a guy to be worried about. Guys like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman may not be as talented as Gourde but are great depth players that have chipped in with a combined ten points in the postseason. Not to mention fourth-liner Pat Maroon who is coming off a Stanley Cup win with St Louis last season.

The Tampa Bay Lightning are a staked team.

Been there done that

Since 2011, the Tampa Bay Lightning have gone to the Conference Finals four times. In those four attempts, they’ve succeeded only once, beating the Rangers in seven games back in 2015. This is their fifth time in the top two of the East in ten years.

It probably should have been six years if not for a shocking sweep in the opening round of the playoffs at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets last year.

This Lightning team has a ton of experience going this late into the postseason. That’s not the case for the New York Islanders.

As a franchise, the Islanders haven’t been to the Eastern Conference finals since 1993. Some of their guys have been there before. Guys with rings like Leddy and Boychuk. Even guys who don’t have rings like Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Derick Brassard. But it doesn’t compare to the Lightning who’ve been there before (multiple times) as a collective.

Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Ugly

Beat Boston in five games

Boston was the best team through the regular season with a 44-14-12 record. They were the only team to hit 100 points before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

And while the Bruins were without the services of Tuukka Rask in the playoffs, they still had Halak in net. The former Islanders goalie picked up 18 wins in 19-20 and averaged a 2.38GAA and 0.919SV% for the Bruins.

But Tampa ran through Boston like they weren’t even there.

The Bruins had the eighth-best offense in the regular season but only managed nine goals in five games.

The Bruins had the best defensive record in the league during the regular season but still allowed 19 goals against. Again, it’s like Boston wasn’t even there. If the Lightning can do that to Boston, it’s ugly to think what they could do against the Islanders who were the eleventh ranked team in the 19-20 season.

A good goalie

Carter Hart had a great series against the Islanders. He was a big reason why that series went to seven games. The Islanders will once again face a good goalie with Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes for Tampa.

The Russian goalie has been rock solid in net this postseason, averaging a 1.91GAA and 0.931SV% through 13 games.

The Islanders aren’t that talented that we should expect their offense to click as it did throughout the postseason so far. Vasilevskiy’s 5.90 GSAA shows that even when teams get chances, he still finds a way to stop them.

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The Islanders found it tough at times against the Flyers because of Carter Hart. The Isles were the better team throughout the series, yet they still needed a Game 7 to progress. All because of Carter Hart. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a better goalie. That’s going to be a big problem for the Isles.

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