Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders Prediction: Game 6 Picks
The New York Islanders will look to keep their season alive as they head back to the Nassau Coliseum for Game Six of their semi-final series against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders Prediction
Tampa Bay Leads 3-2
I don’t think anyone on this planet expected what we saw in game five of this series.
The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning were dead even through four games, with the series tied at two games a piece and the two teams near even in most metrics. The New York Islanders are well known for their defensive structure and their ability to hang in games.
Steven Stamkos scored 45 seconds into game five to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead, and Tampa Bay didn’t stop scoring for the rest of the night en route to an 8-0 victory.
The Lightning were clearly on top of their game and fed off the momentum created by scoring an early goal at home in a swing game. On the other side, it was obvious the Islanders weren’t on top of their game and by the time they even began to settle in, the game was already out of reach. The Lightning got some bounces to go their way to make the score look even uglier, and the Isles were clearly frustrated leading to powerplay opportunities for the Lightning where they did even more damage.
People will be quick to point out that the score of the game doesn’t matter one bit. Whether the Lightning won 2-1 in triple overtime or they won in an 8-0 blowout, the Isles would still be in the same exact spot: facing elimination in their own rink.
Playoff series aren’t determined on aggregate goals like they are in some soccer competitions. It’s simply a race to four wins and it doesn’t matter in which style those wins come. Ugly, lucky wins count just as much as dominant blowout wins.
For the Isles, the reality is now omnipresent. They need to win back-to-back games against the defending champions, or their season will end in the semi-final against Tampa Bay for the second straight season. This season, there’s a bit more on the line.
Nassau Coliseum has been home for the New York Islanders for almost every season since the team joined the league in 1972. A brief trip to Brooklyn a few years ago didn’t work, and the team returned to the Old Barn on Hempstead Turnpike on Long Island. The team’s new arena at Belmont Park will be ready for next hockey season, meaning when this Isles season ends, the doors to the Coliseum will close for the final time for the Isles and their fans.
The arena holds a tremendous place in the heart of the Islanders organization, their fans and the community as a whole. It’s one of the last old school “barns” in professional sports and the atmosphere at Isles games in these playoffs can be felt even through TVs at home. The Isles will look to do everything in their power to make sure this arena stays open for a few more weeks.
Thankfully for the Isles and their fans, there’s reason to hope they can come back in this series. New York is a veteran laden team, filled with players who have made deep playoff runs over the past three seasons. There’s very few players on the roster who haven’t played in big playoff elimination games. If there’s a team and coach who can wipe out the memory of Monday’s loss, it’s the Isles.
The Isles could also lean on head coach Barry Trotz, who has been in this exact situation before in his career. Back in 2018, Trotz’s Washington Capitals were down 3-2 to the Lightning. The Capitals won two games, not allowing the Lightning to score a single goal in either game, to come back and win the series. Washington went on to win the Stanley Cup that season.
Home-ice advantage is key for this Isles group under Trotz. He’s one of the best coaches in league history, so any time he can get some kind of advantage, it should be good news for his team. Trotz will likely match-up Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock against Tampa Bay’s top line featuring Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.
Point has scored in every single game of this series, and in eight straight playoff games when you go back to the second round. The Isles haven’t been able to slow him down, but now would be a good place to start.
I expect a much tighter effort from the Islanders in game six. The team realized that a lot of the pain in Monday’s 8-0 loss was self inflicted due to turnovers and puck management errors. I expect the Isles to tighten things up defensively, as they are well aware their chances to win drastically decrease if this game becomes a shootout.
The Isles were the victim of bad puck-luck a shocking amount in game five. Granted, they definitely deserved to lose the game, but six of Tampa Bay’s goals were shots or passes deflected either right to the Lightning or into the back of the net. Additionally, the Lightning scored three powerplay goals on five opportunities. Expect staying out of the box to be a key point of emphasis for the Isles.
Even if the Isles don’t win the game, I’d expect them to go down playing their style at home. They will try to limit Tampa Bay offensively and slow the game down. For that reason, I’d look towards playing the under in game six.