It’s hard to imagine the New York Islanders picking themselves off the mat after what they’ve endured in the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Game One was an absolute abomination. New York got blown out with the final score being 8-2.
Game Two was a completely different story. New York came out hard and played the Lightning very tough. They had many opportunities on the powerplay to take control of the game. The Lightning were down to nine forwards after Alex Killorn was ejected and Brayden Point left with an injury. The Islanders were in position to head into overtime where they would have the advantage and fresher legs.
Instead, with 30 seconds left, a comedy of errors in the defensive zone left Nikita Kucherov wide open to one-time a cross-ice pass from Ryan McDonagh past Semyon Varlamov. That quickly, Tampa won the game and took a 2-0 series lead.
However, if you look at the odds and compare them to the first two games of the series, you’ll notice the oddsmakers are giving the Isles somewhat of a shot to make this a series in Game Three. Game One saw Tampa Bay as a consensus -165 favorite. Game Two saw that shoot up to -170 after the Isles’ performance in Game One. Heading into Game Three, it seems the Lightning are settling closer to -155 favorites.
Game Two was exactly what we expected from the Islanders. This is a team that has bounced back constantly under Barry Trotz. Trotz is one of the top coaches in hockey and his focus is his defensive system. The goaltending was much improved, and after giving up eight goals in game one, the Islanders held Tampa Bay to just one through the first 59 minutes and 51 seconds in Game Two.
One factor that probably caused the decrease in offense from Tampa Bay as well as the decrease in price on the Lightning moneyline is the availability of Brayden Point. Point left early in the second period where it looked like he suffered a hip injury that caused him pain simply by entering the bench. Point is clearly the Lightning’s second best forward and is the catalyst on the Nikita Kucherov line.
The Lightning are already without Steven Stamkos in these playoffs. If Brayden Point is out for the game, Tampa will be short two of their top three forwards. Kucherov is still an elite player, but it’s much easier to shut down one guy compared to multiple players. In addition, with the Isles becoming the defacto home team in Game Three, Barry Trotz will get to pick what line and defensive pairing he wants to put out on the ice against #86 for Tampa.
Tampa already has some issues with their forward depth. In fact, they made the decision to play just 11 forwards and 7 defensemen in Game Two. Point’s injury isn’t the only factor that could test this depth. Alex Killorn is suspended for Game Three after he delivered a nasty hit from behind on the Isles’ Brock Nelson.
It appears only nine of the forwards from the Lightning’s ideal line-up will be available to them for Game Three. It’ll be interesting to see who slots in for them, and whether coach Jon Cooper trusts the new entries into his lineup to play big minutes. If not, fatigue could become an issue, especially against an Islanders team that rolls four lines pretty consistently.
The Islanders should have scored more than one goal in Game Two. Matt Martin opened the scoring in the first two minutes of the contest, but the Isles got nothing else past Andrei Vasilevskiy all night. The team had a five minute powerplay after Killorn’s ejection and they also had a 5on3 for over half a minute in the third period. It’s nice to get a goal from tough-guy Martin, but the big names like Anders Lee, Mat Barzal and Brock Nelson need to contribute offensively.
There’s two schools of thought here. You might think this series is over, and you might think that the thought has creeped into the minds of the Islanders. Giving up a goal in the final 10 seconds has to be hard to recover from.
However, New York is a team that has recovered from adversity in these playoffs and the past two seasons under Barry Trotz.
Without Point and Killorn, Tampa’ depth will be challenged. Barry Trotz will be able to get the matchups he wants which should open up more space for his talented forwards and get them away from Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh.
I think the Isles still have some fight in them. I don’t expect them to come back and win the series, but I think they’ll make it interesting by putting up a real challenge to Tampa on Friday night.
There’s a rogue +145 on FanDuel, but the consensus line has the Isles moneyline at +135. If you can bet on FanDuel, obviously that’s an ideal number to grab New York at.
The Pick: Islanders ML @ +145