The Washington Capitals did what they had to do to survive last night, now it’s up to the New York Islanders to force another game in this best-of-7 series. The Islanders will have to do it on the road in Florida, after following behind in the series due to a Game 4 overtime loss. The Isles have done the job during these playoffs, against the Panthers and Lightning. They captured two wins against the Panthers on the road, and then opened this particular series against the Lightning with a win, 5-3. Goaltender Ben Bishop was off that night and the Isles were able to capitalize on the opportunity. They’re going to have to find it within them to pull out another road victory. To win the series the Islanders will have to win two more on the road, including win at home in Game 6. That seems like a lot to ask against a battletested Lightning squad.
The Lightning have been here before. In fact, they were made it right to the Stanley Cup Finals a year ago before falling to the Chicago Blackhawks. There is one significant difference between now and then. Steven Stamkos was the engine for the Lightning, he was the catalyst and leader. However, the fact of the matter is the Lightning understood at the start of the season he probably wasn’t going to be around next season. So, after Stamkos had the blood clot before the season began, a light may have clicked off, signalling the end of an era in Tampa. I think fellow players saw the writing on the wall and were already programmed to see a Stamkos-less team in the future. Perhaps it’s helping them out now, as they look to punch their ticket to the next round without Stamkos. The Islanders will try and fight out of the peculiar position they’re in down 3-1. Find my pick below in the lone NHL playoff game on Sunday.
N.Y. Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Playoffs Pick
Despite the Lightning up 3-1 in this series, it’s been closer than that says. The past two games went to overtime, with the same result unfolding. The Lightning got the better of the Isles with a 5-4 win and then a 2-1 win in Game 4. The way I saw it, the Islanders lost that game in the 1st period. The Isles thoroughly controlled that period. They could have easily had 3 goals and put a dagger in the Lightning off the bat. But they were unable to capitalize and didn’t score another goal beyond the first 5-minutes of the 1st period. They rang a shot off the post following a rebound, Bishop was in a vulnerable position as three Islanders were surging toward the net on an odd-man rush. Once I heard that sound, I had a strange feeling the Lightning were going to come out on top.
This series could have gone either way thus far. I will say one thing though, the good teams find ways to win the close games. Most games in the NHL are 1 goal games, so success is often based off a play here or there. The odds makers seem to believe that the series is over. They have set the Lightning as convincing favorites, expecting a kill shot tonight. I don’t see the Lightning as -160+ favorites, however. To me the Lightning should be -150 to -155. It’s been a close series, and I don’t see why not taking a shot on +149 with the Islanders. Especially a team who is in a do or die spot that has competed.
PICK: ISLANDERS TO WIN +149