New York Islanders vs Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions
The Tampa Bay Lightning look to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with a win over the New York Islanders in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Dallas Stars already punched their ticket on Monday night from the Western Conference.
The New York Islanders comeback attempt took a huge hit on Sunday. Tampa Bay defeated them by a score of 4-1 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. Not only did the game not go the way the Islanders wanted, but Tampa Bay got Brayden Point back from injury.
Point left mid-way through game two with an injury and missed game three. His absence helped even out the talent level between the teams which gave the Islanders the opportunity to get back into the series. They took advantage in Game Three, but Point’s return proved to make a difference in Game Four as he scored a big third period goal for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay has clearly been the better team in this series and they deserve to be up three games to one. In this series, Tampa has had nearly 56% of the expected goals and over 58% of the high danger chances. Not helping things is the fact that the Islanders only have an 88.8% save percentage at 5v5 in this series.
The Islanders absolutely need more from their top line. Mat Barzal is the Islanders’ best player, but the dynamic center has just two assists in the series. Anders Lee also only has two points, both in Game One, an 8-2 loss. Jordan Eberle, the third member of the top line, also doesn’t have a point since Game One.
On the flip side, Tampa Bay’s best players have been their best players. We already mentioned Brayden Point, who had 5 points in Game One and then scored a big goal in his return in Game Four. Nikita Kucherov has nine points in the four games he has played in this series. One group of top players is producing, while the other has been quiet.
The reason the Isles top line has been so quiet is the play of Victor Hedman. Mat Barzal played nearly 9 minutes against Hedman in Game Four, and when the two were on the ice together at 5v5, the Islanders did not record a single shot. The Islanders had no high danger chances. They had only four shot attempts, compared to 15 against. Bottom line, Victor Hedman is one of the best defensemen in the league and he has made one of the best young centers in the sport a complete non factor for most of the series.
The Islanders top pairing of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech has not been able to do the same to the Lightning top line. Kucherov played nearly nine minutes against the Islanders’ top shutdown defenseman in Pelech and still managed nearly 60% of the expected goals.
I’m not sure if it was due to the afternoon time slot on Sunday, but the energy in Game Four was nowhere near the energy of Games Two and Three. If you recall, Game Three ended with four players being ejected and a fight between Matt Martin and Barclay Goodrow. There was even a pregame altercation in warmups prior to Game Four that got attention.
But the game itself lacked that. The Islanders scored first and within 30 seconds, the Lightning had the lead. It was as if the Isles goal woke up Tampa Bay and they quickly decided to put out the fire.
Is the magic coming to an end for the Isles? Unfortunately, I think it might be. This team was predicted by nobody to make a run in this postseason. In fact, I recommended taking a futures shot on them at 50-1 prior to the start of the playoffs. Hopefully you’ve hedged that ticket if you have it.
It can’t be ignored that Dallas advanced to the Western Conference Finals already. They are waiting and will be resting while the Eastern Conference Final is decided. Tampa Bay saw firsthand the benefit of a team getting additional rest while their opponent plays an extended series. The Islanders needed a Game Seven to eliminate Philadelphia last round, while Tampa finished off Boston in five. The Lightning waited and then trounced an exhausted Isles team 8-2 in the first game of the series. They do not want to give Dallas that advantage and have motivation to end this series quickly.
I think Tampa Bay has always been the better team, especially with Point in the lineup. I think they take care of business on Tuesday night.
I wouldn’t lay -175 on the moneyline, therefore I would look towards betting the Lightning on the puck-line at plus money. The Islanders don’t have the talent to keep up with them scoring-wise, and if things are close late, the Isles will pull their goalie, giving the Lightning an opportunity to pad their lead.
PICK: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+165)