Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin have made a lot of key saves for the New York Islanders in the NHL Playoffs. Perhaps none have been as big as the one that Ryan Pulock made in the waning seconds of Game 4.
The Islanders are back in the Sunshine State to start a best-of-three series with the Tampa Bay Lightning. New York’s Game 4 win by a 3-2 count evened up the series and guaranteed a return trip to Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Before that game, though, we’ve got Game 5 in Tampa on Monday with the Bolts priced in the -185 range at BetOnline Sportsbook with a total of 5.
New York Islanders
Ryan Pulock’s sliding block across what was temporarily a wide-open crease should give the Islanders a second wind. Who knows what would have happened if the game went to overtime. It would have been hard for the Isles to come back out after intermission for the overtime period and not have some sort of hangover or sense of impending doom. Instead, the series is tied 2-2 and is a three-game series.
The Islanders deserved a better fate in Game 3, so maybe this was justice for that tough 2-1 loss. New York was decidedly better than Tampa Bay in that game, but fell on the short end of the scoreboard. Game 4 was a very even game at 5-v-5 across the board, but the high-danger chances that Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped in Game 3 went into the net in Game 4.
Three of the four games in this series have been decided by one goal and you have to give the Islanders a ton of credit for forcing Tampa Bay to play a low-scoring, physical brand of hockey. That is exactly what New York wanted and the fate of the series now hangs in the balance of Game 5 in all likelihood.
After recording more losses than wins on the road during the regular season, the Islanders have played well away from home in these playoffs, including the Game 1 win in this series. The Isles are 5-3 on the road in the playoffs and 5-3 at home. Every Islanders series has been tied 2-2 after four games. The Islanders have won Game 5 on the road twice.
Semyon Varlamov may not have had the biggest save of Game 4, but he had a solid effort and now has a .920 SV% in the series. He stopped 28 of 30 shots on Saturday night. Things did get a little bit dicey, as the Islanders were up 3-0 and won by the 3-2 count, but Varlamov was strong early and that gave the Islanders the ability to take the lead.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Brayden Point had the hot hand once again for the Lightning in Game 4 with a goal, his 12th of the playoffs, but it was another game in which guys like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman had the best scoring chances. Nikita Kucherov has been invisible at times in this series and it doesn’t even feel like Steven Stamkos is playing. The Lightning need more from their best players.
Credit to the Islanders for having a good game plan and the right matchups to slow down Tampa Bay offensively, but there are a lot of guys for the Lightning that are not consistently producing right now. It was nice to see Tyler Johnson get rewarded for one of his better games of the postseason, but the Bolts really do need some guys to step it up for Game 5.
Tampa Bay did make some home adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 and probably played the best game of the season in that 4-2 victory. The Lightning were finally able to use their speed a little bit with stretch passes in the neutral zone and a direct north-south game. For the Lightning to have success in Game 5, a similar offensive style should be employed and getting the proper matchups with the last line change should help.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has stopped 107 of 115 shots in this series. He’s played well and been tested a bit more than expected, as the Islanders have been able to hold their own at 5-v-5 with a more talented team. Vasilevskiy gives the Lightning the confidence to play a little more open and we should see them take a few more chances in this game.
Islanders vs. Lightning Free Pick
Something tells me that this game is going over the total. The Lightning should try to force the issue with more speed now that the series is back on home ice. They should look to stretch out the Islanders and take advantage of the last change and try to get some more power play opportunities. The Islanders have done well to stay within themselves and play that disciplined system, but I feel like this series is ripe for a higher-scoring game.
Pick: Over 5