The NHL is set up with Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders. These two teams have had strong playoff runs, which should lead to a good matchup on Friday night. Tampa Bay has taken a nice 2-0 series lead, which they will look to push to 3-0. This game will drop the puck at around 8:00 PM Eastern time on USA network.
Tampa Bay had earned a record of 43-21-6 throughout the regular season. The Lightning went 2-1 throughout the round robin, which secured them the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay went on to knock off the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins to secure a spot in the Eastern Finals. Now the Lightning will look to blow this series open with a big win.
The Islanders finished out the regular season with a record of 43-21-6. New York was listed as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference going into the Qualifying round. The Islanders went on to eliminate the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers to reach the Conference Finals. Now New York needs a win to stay alive in this series.
These two teams have had great playoff runs throughout this postseason. Tampa Bay is only two games away from reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. The Islanders will look to shut them down in this one to try and avoid a 3-0 series deficit. New York lost a heart breaker in Game 2 of this series, so they will need to respond quickly in this one.
The Lightning and the Islanders met up three times throughout the regular season. New York won the first game with a 5-2 win at home. The second game shifted to Tampa Bay, where the Islanders won 5-1. The final game of the season series shifted back to Tampa Bay. The Lightning won 3-1, but it was New York who won the season series 2-1.
Game 1 of this series was back on September 7. Jordan Eberle had a goal and an assist, but the Islanders did not have a chance. Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov both finished with five points. Victor Hedman scored a goal and an assist, while Kevin Shattenkirk finished with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 of 24 shots against him, which gave Tampa Bay an 8-2 win.
The second game of this series was much closer on September 9. Matt Martin opened up the scoring for the Islanders in the first period. Victor Hedman scored late in the first to tie it up. These two teams went through a scoreless second period to keep the game tied. Nikita Kucherov scored with eight seconds left as the Lightning took a 2-0 series lead with a 2-1 win. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 of 28 shots in the winning effort.
Tampa Bay’s special team unit has been lethal throughout this playoff run. The Lightning capitalized on 20.5 percent of their power play chances in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has shut down opposing teams on 82.5 percent of their power play opportunities. The Lightning have been able to score three goals on nine power play attempts in this series.
The Islanders have not been doing really well on special teams in this postseason. New York has only been able to score on 16.2 percent of their power play chances. The Islanders have also killed off 79.6 percent of the penalties against them. New York have only scored one goal on nine power play chances throughout the first two games of this series.
Tampa Bay has been the much better team on special teams in this postseason. New York neutralized the Lightning’s power play in Game 2, keeping them off the board. The Islanders will need to do this again in Game 3 if they want to earn a big win. Look for New York to change things up on their power play as well as they try and give themselves an edge.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in the crease for the Lightning in Game 3 of this series. Vasilevskiy earned a record of 35-14-3 throughout the regular season. He put up a save percentage of .917 and a 2.56 GAA in those starts. In the playoffs, Vasilevskiy has posted a .930 save percentage and a GAA of 1.92 to help lead Tampa Bay.
I expect Semyon Varlamov to get the nod in the net for New York in this one. Varlamov finished out the regular season with a record of 19-14-6. He posted a .914 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA during the season. Varlamov has put up a save percentage of .913 and a GAA of 2.22 throughout the postseason. The Islanders will need to lean on him in this one.
These two goalies have been big parts of their team’s success throughout the postseason. Vasilevskiy has been almost unbeatable at times, while Varlamov has picked up his game in big moments. The Islanders need to solve Vasilevskiy early in this one if they want to cut the series deficit. If Tampa Bay can limit their scoring chances though, it could be another win for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay has a nice 2-0 series lead over the Islanders, but I believe that New York will earn a big win in Game 3 of this series. The Islanders have put up a strong performance to get to the Eastern Conference Finals and I do not expect New York to go easily. Barry Trotz has done a great job adjusting in the playoffs and I expect him to help get the Islanders going in Game 3.
BetOnline has Tampa Bay listed as a -152 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Lightning will win this game around 60.3 percent of the time. I believe that Tampa Bay has earned this line, but I like the Islanders chances to win. As big underdogs in this one, I like the value behind New York, making them my pick of the night.