Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was explosive, but just for one team. The Tampa Lightning thrashed the New York Islanders to take a 1-0 series lead, with a pivotal Game 2 set to drop the puck Wednesday night in Edmonton.
Here is a preview for Game 2 between the Islanders and Lightning, along with a closer look into what transpired in Game 1 and a free pick for Wednesday. Currently, Tampa Bay is a big favorite at -175, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Once the goals started for the Lightning, they didn’t stop. Tampa Bay poured it on the Islanders 8-2 to take an early lead in the Eastern Conference Final. They won in large part to a power play that dominated, going 3-for-6 with the extra attacker, while outshooting New York 34-24.
Just over a minute into the game, center Brayden Point beat Semyon Varlamov to put the Bolts on the board. But the Islanders answered quickly when right-wing Jordan Eberle scored New York’s lone power-play goal to tie the game. But two more goals would come for Tampa Bay before the period was done, as d-men Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh helped to give the lead back to the Lightning.
Despite getting outshot in the second period, the Lightning found a way to extend their lead. Left-wing Yanni Gourde scored early on in the period, while Point tacked on his second of the night while on the power play.
In the third period, both right-wing Nikita Kucherov and left-wing Ondrej Palat joined the fun with goals of their own, while Gourde’s power-play goal was his second of the game and the eighth for Tampa Bay overall. Defenseman Nick Leddy scored the other goal for New York, coming close to halfway through the final frame.
Keys to Victory
New York will win if they create high-danger chances. It’s evident that the combination of Varlamov and Thomas Greiss is inferior to Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy as far as goaltending goes. So in all likelihood, since the Islanders can’t depend on goaltending giving them an advantage, they need to try to put Vasilevskiy in difficult positions as often as possible.
During the postseason, New York has averaged 12.9 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 action. However, during Game 1, they were held to just six high-danger chances.
Key offensive play-makers like center Matthew Barzel, right-wing Josh Bailey, and left-wing Anders Lee all struggled at even strength in Game 1. The Islanders will need bounce-back performances from them that include putting severe pressure on the Tampa Bay netminder.
Tampa Bay will win if the stars continue to shine. The Lightning is a team that routinely gets applauded for its all-around depth, which was on full display with six different players scoring goals in Game 1. But three of them, Kucherov, Point, and Hedman, are the ones who had dominant efforts in the win.
During Game 1, Point had a pair of goals and three assists, Kucherov meanwhile had four helpers in addition to his goal. Also, Hedman scored and had two assists, while also skating to a 69.5 percent expected goals rate when he was on the ice. These are three All-Star players that New York doesn’t have an answer for right now. If they continue to play at this high of a level for Game 2 and beyond, the series may be over faster than expected.
Game 1 was a dominant display on both ends by the Lightning. And while it’s unreasonable to expect a repeat performance like that, Tampa Bay has owned the Islanders over the last few seasons.
The Bolts are 13-4 in their previous 17 meetings against New York and paired with the issues the Islanders are having in net at the moment. I’m picking Tampa Bay to surge to a 2-0 series lead.
Pick: Lightning -175