New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction: Game 7 Picks
The Montreal Canadiens will be playing for the Stanley Cup, as they eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in game six on Thursday. Who will their opponent be? We’ll find out Friday night as the New York Islanders head south to Tampa Bay to face-off against the Lightning. The two best words in sports: game seven. Read on to see my Islanders vs. Lightning prediction for game 7!
New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Prediction
Series Tied 3-3
It all comes down to this. Will the Tampa Bay Lightning continue their quest for back-to-back championships, or will the Isles continue on their fairytale run? There’s no shortage of storylines and narratives as these teams prepare for game seven.
The last time these teams played, in game six on Long Island, the Isles erased a 2-0 deficit and then won the game in overtime thanks to an Anthony Beauvillier goal. It was a wild scene at the Coliseum as it was their team’s biggest win at the building in over 30 years. Those are happy and positive memories for the Isles.
However, the last time these two teams played in Tampa Bay, the memories aren’t quite as good for New York. In game five, the Tampa Bay Lightning were absolutely dominant and the Isles no-showed en route to an 8-0 victory for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos scored 45 seconds into the game and the Lightning didn’t stop scoring all night.
However, things have changed since then. The Isles evened the series, which is obviously extremely important. However, there’s a single storyline that could have massive implications.
Nikita Kucherov took a cross-check from Scott Mayfield on his first shift of the game in game six. He then tried to throw a hit on Mat Barzal. Once play stopped, Kucherov immediately went down the tunnel and didn’t play for the rest of the game. Coach Jon Cooper had no update on Thursday in terms of his status for game seven.
The Kucherov storyline is interesting for a multitude of reasons. Most noticeably, he’s the leading scorer in these playoffs across the whole league. He has 27 points, his linemate Brayden Point has 20 points and nobody else in the whole league has more than 17 points.
Without Kucherov, not only would the Lightning lose his 27 points, but Point’s production would also likely take a hit. Kucherov is also a huge part of the Lightning powerplay that’s converting at nearly 38% in these playoffs. Tampa Bay’s abilities with the main advantage has been their main way of separating from teams in these playoffs as their 5-on-5 play has hardly been impressive.
There’s also the fact that Kucherov did not play the whole regular season. Kucherov had hip surgery in the off-season, and the Lightning held him off the roster for the whole regular season in order to manipulate the salary cap ceiling. This allowed the Lightning to play these playoffs with a payroll nearly $17 million over the cap ceiling.
Without Kucherov for the whole season, the Lightning were still a very good team. However, they weren’t nearly as elite as they were in past seasons or as they’ve proven to be in these playoffs. The Lightning finished third in their division behind Carolina and Florida. Their metrics weren’t as dominant as they usually are. It’s safe to say if they are without Kucherov, the Lightning do take a significant hit.
There’s other narratives at play here. This is the first time the Lightning are facing elimination in the playoffs since their embarrassing first round sweep against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. They didn’t face elimination a single time en route to winning the Cup last season and that streak has carried into these playoffs until now. The last time the Lightning played in a game seven? 2018 against the Washington Capitals. The Lightning lost that game by a score of 3-0. Washington’s coach in 2018? Barry Trotz, the current head coach of the Islanders.
Speaking of Trotz, in the last two game 7’s he has coached, his team has outscored the opponent by a score of 7-0. They were the road team in both games, though the Isles’ game seven win against Philadelphia last year occurred in front of no fans in the bubble. Trotz is known for his defensive genius, and it seems like he digs even deeper for the big games.
At the same time, over the past two playoffs, goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning have a 13-0 record in the game immediately following a loss. Vasilevskiy just had another streak broken in game six however. Heading into game six, the Lightning goalie had recorded a shutout in three straight elimination games. Not only did the Isles score on him, but they won the game. Vasilevskiy is 0-2 in two career game sevens.
If you’re a fan of these numbers and trends and making your Islanders vs. Lightning predictions based on them, let’s keep it going by shifting the focus to game sevens. Since 1996, the NHL has seen 82 game sevens. 13 of those games landed exactly on the total, so a pushed or cancelled bet was the result. In the other 69 games, the under has hit 41 times, good for a winning percentage of almost 60%.
Why is that the case? Well, there’s a whole list of reasons. There are obvious ones such as the fact the season is on the line. Nobody wants to be the player to make a mistake and cause your team’s season to end and summer to begin. Therefore, there’s a tremendous emphasis on making the correct decision with the puck, avoiding risky plays and keeping the play in front of you by chipping it in rather than trying to create laterally.
There’s also the whole officiating thing. If you watch hockey, you know that regular season and playoff hockey are two completely different animals when it comes to how games are called by the stripes. In the regular season, teams are often getting four or five opportunities a game with the man advantage. In the playoffs, that comes down to two or three. In game sevens, those whistles are swallowed even more.
Just like a player doesn’t want to be scapegoated and responsible for his team’s season ending, referees feel the same way. They don’t want to put themselves in a situation where their calls can decide the outcome of a game. They’d rather swallow the whistles and let teams decide the game at 5-on-5, without the influence of special teams. It goes without saying that goals happen at a higher rate when a team has a powerplay than when they play at even strength, so the less penalties called, the lesser chance for goals.
In the regular season, 31 of Tampa Bay’s 56 games either went under the total or pushed. For the Isles, 35 of their games went under or pushed. Both of these teams are comfortable playing low scoring games. In this series, we’ve seen 30 goals scored in six games, and that includes the 8-0 outlier in game five. This series has been low scoring for the most part.
The Lightning will potentially be without the leading point producer of the playoffs. Barry Trotz has a history of shutting teams down in game sevens. Game sevens traditionally go under the total. This series has been low scoring. All signs point to an under on Friday. As usual, there’s a few sportsbooks with the total still listed at 5.5 goals. If you can get the hook, I’d recommend it as my Islanders vs. Lightning prediction. However, I’d feel comfortable betting under a flat five goals at plus-money as well.