We have now completed the first two rounds of the 2021 Stanely Cup Playoffs and are now down to the final four teams. And we have a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders. Last year the Lightning finished off the Islanders in 6 games. Will it be different this time around?
The Lightning finished 3rd in the central division while the Islanders finished 4th in the East division. Tampa was able to fight the Panthers in the first round in six games and then sent the Hurricanes packing in 5. The Isles knocked off the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins in 6 games and then ripped the heart outs of the Boston Bruins.
The Lightning went into PNC Arena and took games one and two by the score of 2 to 1 in both games. The Canes snagged the 3rd game in the series, but that was all they were going to get. The Lightning then took games four and five to close out the series. Tampa outscored the Hurricanes 14 to 9.
The Lightning are led by none other than Nikita Kucherov. He has played all of 11 games these playoffs and the man has tallied 13 assists and has scored 5 goals. He is the playoffs leading scorer and one of the favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. As much as a team like Tampa didn’t need that type of boost, no one from Tampa is going to complain. In addition to Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn both sit in the top 10 of point-getters this playoff. Brayden Point and Victor Hedman also sit in the top 15. Then you can’t forget about the Russian brick wall in the net. Andrei Vasilevskiy who has a 2.24 GAA and a .934 SV%. This team is no joke and they have a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions for a reason.
Not many people had predicted that the Isles would make it past the Bruins. But once again this Islanders team lead by head coach Barry Trotz has found a way to push the Islanders into the final four. After closing out the Penguins in six games the Isles had to take on the Boston Bruins. Many thought that the Isles were outmatched and that the B’s would easily advance. Namely the rest of the Tarps Off website. But I can proudly say that I was the lone wolf who correctly predicted the winner of this series.
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After game one it looked like the Isles were going to be in trouble after a 5 to 2 loss at the TD Garden. The Isles took game two after a 4-3 OT win. The B’s took game three at the Coliseum, but the Isles took game four with a convincing 4 to 1 victory. Game five back at the TD Garden was a high-scoring affair that saw the Isles come out on top with a 5 to 4 win. Back at the Coliseum for game six, the Isles were ready to knock the Bruins off their feet and send them back to Boston with couch reservations for the rest of the playoffs. The game finished with a 6 to 2 Islanders win and their reward is a date with the devil. The Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Isles have played 12 games these playoffs and JG Pageau is the team’s leading point-getter with 13 points. He is also the 2nd highest point-getter of players still in the playoffs. Josh Bailey, Anthony Beauvillier, and Brock Nelson are the other three players for the Isles that have double-digit points in their first two series. Between the pipes, the Islanders have used both of their left-handed Russian goaltenders. Semyon Varlamov has appeared in 7 games while Ilya Sorokin has appeared in 5 games. Sorokin got the four wins needed to get past the Penguins. While Varlamov got the four wins needed to defeat the Bruins. Combined the two tendies have a 2.75 GAA. Trotz will probably throw out Varlamov in game one against the Lightning. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sorokin at some point if Varlamov starts to slip up.
The mainstream hockey media will tell you that this is a boring matchup and that the series will be a cakewalk for the Lightning. But we have learned that time and time again the “experts” are wrong, a lot. They have underestimated the Islanders all playoffs and they probably will again in this series. The Islanders are here because they are a good hockey team and they have a great coach. This series will be a lot closer than many are expecting it to be. However, it is really hard to bet against the defending Stanley Cup Champions and a team that is $18 million over the salary cap. I hope I am wrong but Bugzy says Lightning in 6.
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