The Tampa Bay Lightning got back on track in Game 2 with a 4-2 victory. Adjustments were made and adjustments have to be made in this round because none of the four teams left standing have played each other this season. There is a learning curve to Game 1 and that extends to Game 2 as well because you get to see a different side of your opponent.
The Islanders and Lightning have seen a lot of sides of each other in this series, which has been mean and physical. New York is at home now at raucous and rowdy Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, so we’ll see what they bring to the table in an underdog role in this key swing game. The Lightning are priced in the -135 range at Jazz Sports with a total of 5.5.
Tampa Bay Lightning
A scrum at the end of the game in Game 2 could prove costly for Tampa Bay. Anthony Cirelli, who has been outstanding in the series, was taken down to the ice awkwardly and was not part of media availability or the team handshake after the game. He went straight to the locker room. Nothing has been said about his status, but the Lightning’s depth has been tested in this series because of the Islanders’ ability to roll all four lines.
To a large degree, the second, third, and fourth lines have been better than Tampa Bay’s first line, though superstar and former NHL MVP Nikita Kucherov had two sick assists in Game 2. He has four points in the two games and Brayden Point scored a key goal for the Lightning in that game as well. It was a much better effort from the top guys in Game 2 after mostly being passengers, especially at 5-v-5, in Game 1.
The game was hugely physical in Game 2. There were lots of squabbles at the net and a ton of physical play. We even saw a rare playoff fight between Pat Maroon and Matt Martin. The Islanders are succeeding at what they want to do by slowing down the game and making it more physical, but it seems like they may have underestimated Tampa Bay’s ability to play rough as well.
One key adjustment to Game 2 is that the Lightning used more stretch passes to soften the Islanders defense and get them to back up into the zone. Tampa Bay’s transition game was much faster and the Islanders weren’t able to mount as much of a forecheck because Tampa Bay’s speed was on display and line changes were needed following dump-ins. It will be up to Barry Trotz to adjust back.
New York Islanders
And Trotz is one of the best at making adjustments. For the Islanders, the last change is a very important detail. They were 21-4-3 at home during the regular season and lost more games than they won on the road. They’ve flipped the script a little bit here in the playoffs with their play on the road, but that last change is really pivotal, especially against Tampa Bay’s top line guys.
On the other hand, the Lightning have gotten a lot of scoring chances and pressure from their other lines. The speed of the Lightning forwards really seemed to have an impact in Game 2 and a lot of breakout passes up the boards sprung forwards for easy zone exits. The Islanders will have to do a better job of suffocating the weak-side forwards along the boards. The problem is that it puts pressure on the defense and that it also makes for some long shifts.
The Islanders cannot skate with the Lightning. They effectively controlled the pace in Game 1 and failed to do so in Game 2. They lost 4-2 as a result. Semyon Varlamov did give up a couple of goals that he had not in previous games, which also played a role. Andrei Vasilevskiy outplayed him. That can’t happen in Game 3.
Varlamov did exit the game briefly after getting run over by Brayden Point when Point was cross-checked into him in the first period. Ilya Sorokin stopped all six shots he faced and the Islanders scored a power play goal right after Varlamov left the game.
The referees got it back for the Lightning when Ondrej Palat ended a long drought with a goal in the second period. That goal was scored with seven guys on the ice. Hopefully we see better officiating in Game 3.
Lightning vs. Islanders Free Pick
Let’s see if the Chessmaster can adjust back. Barry Trotz has been so good in his career and in these playoffs. The Islanders have only lost consecutive games once in the playoffs. It does feel like Tampa Bay has made some adjustments and the deeper roster is really having an impact on the series. I’d have to look at the Bolts here, even though they face the uphill climb of the last line change. Their depth guys have been good at 5-v-5 in this series so far.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning