Our world-class NHL capper previews the Eastern Conference Semifinals between Islanders & Lightning. Read on to get vital information needed to make the right NHL pick.
Islanders/Lightning Eastern Conference Semifinals Preview
The Islanders and Lightning series will begin on Wednesday in Tampa Bay with a slated 7:05 PM ET faceoff. These teams have met three times during regular season play, and the Islanders won on two of those occasions. Current NHL odds have Tampa Bay as a -145 money line favorite at The Greek to win this series, and the Islanders are +125.
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals Results
The Islanders pulled off a mild first round upset by knocking off Florida in six games. Florida entered the postseason having earned the second most points in the Eastern Conference. Three of the six games required overtime. The Islanders won each of those three extra session contests. They also prevailed in two of three games played at the BB&T Arena in Sunrise, Florida. The islanders enter this series against Tampa Bay having won five of their last six away games. That's certainly a good sign considering they won't have home ice advantage to begin with.
Tampa Bay had a much easier time disposing of Detroit in five games during first round action. They never relinquished their home ice advantage by winning all three games at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. The Lightning surrendered just 8 goals during the five games versus Detroit. One note of concern in regards to Tampa Bay, they've gone just 4-7 during their previous eleven road games, and their only loss during the Red Wings series took place at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
Both clubs special teams play was exceptional during the first round. The Islanders were a stellar 5-23 (23.8%) on the power play, and they killed off 13 of 15 (86.7%) power play chances against them. Conversely, Tampa Bay went a halfway decent 4-23 on their power play attempts, and denied Detroit on 24 of their 25 (96.0%) man advantage opportunities.
The Islanders Thomas Greiss spent the majority of this season as a backup to Jaroslav Halak. However, Halak has been sidelined by injury, and Greiss assumed the role as the Islanders #1 goalie. He's certainly seized the opportunity, and that's been especially the case since postseason action began. Greiss started in all six games of the Florida series, and had a terrific .944 save percentage. He was called upon to make 41 saves or more on three separate occasions through the course of those six games.
Ben Bishop was equally impressive against Detroit. Bishop compiled an excellent .950 save percentage, and allowed just 8 goals in five starts. On a negative note, Bishop started all three regular season games against the Islanders this season, allowed 12 goals combined, and had a brutal .842 save percentage during those outings.
Final Take and Series Pick
Tampa Bay was able to advance to the next round of these playoffs without superstar Steven Stamkos. They also were without defenseman Aaron Stroman (9-25-34/+16). He's recovering from a fractured fibula suffered in a late regular season game against these very same Islanders. They also lost forward J.T. Brown during Game 2 of the Detroit series, and he's pretty doubtful to see action in this Eastern Conference Semifinal. Brown won't wow you with his scoring statistics (8-14-22), but he's a vastly underrated two way player that also served as one of the Lightning's main penalty killers. Those losses will eventually hurt them as they get deeper into the playoffs, and very well may do so against the Islanders.
The Islanders are one of the most disciplined teams in the NHL. They just don't beat themselves. They've been an excellent penalty killing team, not only since the playoffs began, but all season long for that matter. They were whistled for the eighth least amount of minor penalties during the 2015-2016 NHL regular season campaign. The Islanders also possess arguably the most underrated players in all of hockey with bona fide superstar John Tavares. Thomas Greiss was undeterred by the bright lights of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and that's certainly a good sign going forward. My lean will be on the underdog (Islanders) in this series for one of my NHL picks.