The New York Islanders get another crack at the Tampa Bay Lightning this postseason. Tampa ended the Isles Stanley Cup hopes last season in the bubble. However, the Islander’s current power play groove could be the difference-maker in beating the Lightning this year.
Last year in the playoff bubble the blue and orange were a very tough out for the Lightning. The series went to six games with Game 6 needing overtime to declare Tampa Bay the winner (remember that Brock Nelson breakaway in OT).
Even though the Lightning has a lot more star power the difference between them and the New York Saints, sorry, the Isles, was not a huge margin.
New York Islanders current PP groove
After Game 1 in last year’s, Conference Finals versus Tampa, every game was neck and neck between New York and the Lightning. If you remember there was a ridiculous turnaround for the blue and orange, as they won Game 7 versus Philadelphia on Saturday night, September 5th, and then flew across Canada (Toronto to Edmonton) and played Tampa on Monday night September 7th.
For the rest of the series, all the games were nip and tuck with two of them going to overtime (Game 5 needed double overtime). The Islanders were right there with Tampa.
One big difference between this year’s Islander run and last year’s is their power play. Despite being without their captain and net-front presence Anders Lee, the Islanders are in a much better groove this post-season with the man advantage. The Isles are moving the puck much quicker and they are shooting more on the power play. Also, the Isles are getting more bodies in front of the net as well. They are being so much more decisive with the man advantage this post-season.
It sounds so simple but this has resulted in the Islanders having a 28.1% power-play percentage during this year’s playoffs through the first two rounds. Keep in mind during the regular season, Pittsburgh had the 5th best penalty-killing unit and Boston had the 10th.
When one looks back at key stats at last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Isles went just 2 for 19 (10.5%) with the man advantage against Tampa. When one plays a long series where the difference for most games is one-goal margins, two or three extra power-play goals during the series could be the difference between winning and losing.
The Islanders also have last year’s experience versus Tampa in the bubble to draw from as well. That along where their power-play is currently at (6 power-play goals in the Boston series) could be difference-makers for the blue and orange.