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Series Preview: Islanders vs. Lightning

by Cory Wright / New York Islanders

ISLES VS. LIGHTNING

FIRST-ROUND RECAP: 

The Islanders and Panthers didn’t officially go seven games, but three overtimes (including two double-overtimes) over six games made this one of the most closely-contested series’ of the first round. The Islanders played much of the series from behind, but their resiliency showed through, as they rallied in three of their four wins. John Tavares, who led the Islanders with nine points (5G, 4A), and Thomas Greiss (4-2, 1.79 GAA, .944 SV%) were co-MVPs for the Islanders, who found a way to get to the second round – the first time for the franchise in 23 years. 

The Tampa Bay Lightning made quick work of the Detroit Red Wings, dispensing of their Atlantic Division rivals in five games – the shortest series in the Eastern Conference. The losses of Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman didn’t hurt the Bolts, who saw Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson carry the load up front. The Lightning’s defense deserves credit too, for holding the Red Wings to eight goals over the five games. From Kucherov and Johnson, to Victor Hedman (averaging 27:01 TOI per game) to goalie Ben Bishop (4-1, 1.61 GAA, .950 SV%) the reigning Eastern Conference champions look to be back in playoff form.

SCHEDULE: 

Game 1 – Wednesday, April 27 (Amalie Arena) – 7 p.m.
Game 2 – Saturday, April 30 (Amalie Arena) – 3 p.m.
Game 3 – Tuesday, May 3 (Barclays Center) – 7 p.m.
Game 4 – Friday, May 6 (Barclays Center) – 7 p.m.
Game 5 – Sunday, May 8 (Amalie Arena) – TBD*
Game 6 – Tuesday, May 10 (Barclays Center) – TBD*
Game 7 – Thursday, May 12 (Amalie Arena) – TBD*
*If necessary

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SEASON SERIES:


The Islanders won the season series against the Lightning, going 2-1-0 over three fast-paced, high-octane meetings. The Islanders won the first meeting 3-2 in November, with Thomas Greiss stopping 29-of-31 shots, including a penalty shot against Steven Stamkos, as the Islanders rallied for three unanswered goals, culminating with John Tavares’ game-winner in the third period.  

That was the lone win for the road team, as the Islanders lost their next meeting at Amalie Arena 7-4 before rebounding with a 5-2 win over the Bolts at Barclays Center. The line of John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen was put together in the win, combining for six points (1G, 5A). 

TOP SCORERS:

JOHN TAVARES

Playoffs (6 Games): 5G, 4A

Vs. Lightning (3 Games): 2G, 3A

John Tavares was a beast in the first round against the Florida Panthers, scoring nine points (5G, 4A) in six games, putting him second in playoff scoring and tied for first in goals. The Islanders captain set the tone against Florida with his tenacity, often looking like a man possessed on the ice. Look for Tavares in the biggest moments, like in Game 6 when he scored the game-tying goal with 53.2 seconds to play in the third period and the series-clinching goal in double overtime. 

Tavares had five points (2G, 3A) in three games against the Lightning this season.


NIKITA KUCHEROV

Playoffs (5 Games): 5G, 3A

Vs. Islanders (3 Games): 1G, 1A

With Steven Stamkos out, Nikita Kucherov carried the Lightning’s offense in the first round. Kucherov scored five of Tampa Bay’s 12 goals against Detroit, tying him with John Tavares and Joe Pavelski for the playoff goal-scoring lead. Kucherov scored 66 points (30G, 36A) in 77 games this season – tops on Tampa – including a goal and an assist in three games against the Islanders. 

GOALIES:

THOMAS GREISS

Playoffs (6 Games): 4-2, 1.79 GAA, .944 SV%

Vs. Lightning (3 Games): 2-1, 3.38 GAA, .906 SV%

Thomas Greiss was the breakout star of the first round, as the German goalie backstopped the Islanders to the second round. Greiss, who took over the starting job after Jaroslav Halak was injured, went 4-2 in the first round with a 1.79 goals-against average and a staggering .944 save percentage. He was great in the clutch, helping the Islanders win three games in overtime and only allowing four goals over the final three games of the series. If there were any doubts about how Greiss would perform in the playoffs, they have been put to bed. 

Greiss played in all three meetings vs. the Lightning this season, going 2-1-0.

BEN BISHOP

Playoffs (5 Games): 4-1, 1.61 GAA, .950 SV%, 1 SO

Vs. Islanders (3 Games): 1-2, 4.41 GAA, .842 SV%, 

Ben Bishop had a Vezina-caliber season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, going 35-21-4 with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. Bishop’s .925 SV% ranked second among goalies with at least 40 starts, while his 2.06 GAA led the league. In the playoffs, Bishop had a 1.61 GAA and a .950 SV% in five games against the Red Wings in the first round and helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final last season. 

As good as the 6-foot-7 goaltender has been, the Islanders have had his number this season, averaging four goals per game against Bishop. 

ISLANDERS INJURIES:

RYAN PULOCK AND JOSH BAILEY INJURED IN ROUND ONE:

The Islanders did not get out of the first round unscathed, as Ryan Pulock suffered an upper-body injury in Game 4 vs. Florida, while Josh Bailey suffered an upper-body injury in Game 6. Pulock’s diagnosis called for him to be out 1-2 weeks, while Bailey’s is uncertain. Pulock had performed well in his first NHL playoff, racking up three points (1G, 2A) in four games. 

Jaroslav Halak skated before practice on Tuesday, but Head Coach Jack Capuano did not have an update on his condition. Mikhail Grabovski (upper body) and Anders Lee (broken fibula) are also out. 

LIGHTNING INJURIES:

STEVEN STAMKOS AND ANTON STRALMAN OUT TO START SECOND ROUND:

Steven Stamkos practiced Tuesday for the first time since being diagnosed with blood clots in his right arm, but will not be ready for the start of the second round. The Lightning captain is still on blood thinners and won’t be cleared to play until he’s off the medication. 

It’s a big blow for the Lightning, as Stamkos led his team in goals (36) and was tied with Nikita Kucherov with 64 points at the time of his injury. Last season, Stamkos had 18 points (7G, 11A) as the Lightning reached the Stanley Cup Final.

Anton Stralman missed the first round of the playoffs with a fractured left leg – suffered against the Islanders on March 25 – but is hoping to return in the second round. Stralman is in his fifth week of rehab, has shed his walking boot and is reportedly working out on an exercise bike, according to the Lightning’s official site. 

Stralman tied a career-high with nine goals this season and finished the year with 34 points playing on the top pairing with Victor Hedman. 

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