The NHL is closing in on the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup Finals. The Eastern Conference Finals continue on Thursday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Islanders meet up in Game 6 of their series. This should be a great game as the series has been back and forth throughout. This game will drop the puck at around 8:00 PM Eastern time on NBCSN.
Tampa Bay finished out the regular season with a record of 43-21-6. The Lightning went 2-1 throughout the round robin, which kept them in the second seed of the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay met up with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Boston Bruins in the first two rounds. The Lightning knocked them both out in five games. Now Tampa Bay will look to eliminate the Islanders on Thursday.
The Islanders put up a record of 35-23-10 throughout the regular season, which had them finish in seventh place of the Eastern Conference. New York met up with the Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals and the Philadelphia Flyers. The Islanders moved through all of them to book a spot in the Conference Finals. Now New York is looking to force a Game 7 with a win in this one.
These two teams have battled back and forth throughout this series. The Lightning are one game away from booking a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals. New York is coming off a strong matchup in Game 5, which could lead to some momentum coming into this one. I expect both teams to strike early as they try and earn a huge victory.
Game 1 of this series was back on September 7. Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee both finished with two points, but it was not enough. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point both put up huge performances each earning five points. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 22 of 24 shots as the Lightning were able to win 8-2 to take an early series lead.
The second game of this series was on September 9. Matt Martin opened up the scoring as the Islanders tried to bounce back. Victor Hedman tied it up late in the first period though. These two teams stayed tied throughout the second. Nikita Kucherov gave Tampa Bay the lead with eight seconds left as the Lightning took a 2-0 lead with a 2-1 win.
Game 3 of the series was on September 11. Mikhail Sergachev scored a goal and an assist for the Lightning. Josh Bailey had two assists, which helped propel New York. Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau all finished with a goal and an assist as the Lightning won 5-3 to cut the series deficit to 2-1.
The fourth game of this series was back on September 13. Brock Nelson opened up the scoring for the Islanders, but it still was not enough. Yanni Gourde and Nikita Kucherov both earned two assists. Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point both finished with a goal and an assist. Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 26 of 27 shots as Tampa Bay won 4-1 to take a 3-1 series lead.
The fifth and most recent game of this series was back on September 15. Ryan Pulock scored in the first period to give the Islanders another lead. Victor Hedman scored a goal to tie it up in the second period though. New York finally broke the tie in double overtime as Jordan Eberle scored to win 2-1. Semyon Varlamov turned away 36 of 27 shots to keep the Islanders alive.
The Lightning have had a solid special team’s run throughout the playoffs. Tampa Bay has capitalized on the power play 19.6 percent of the time. The Lightning’s penalty kill has stopped opposing teams power plays 83.1 percent of the time. In this series, Tampa Bay has capitalized on 4 of their 16 power play chances.
New York’s special team unit has struggled in this postseason. The Islanders have only been able to score on 15.8 percent of their power play attempts. New York’s penalty kill has posted an 80.3 percent kill rate. The Islanders have gone 2-17 on the power play against the Lightning in this series, including a goal in Game 5.
Tampa Bay has had the better special teams throughout this postseason and this series. The Lightning have struggled in the last two games, going 0-6 on the power play. Tampa Bay will look to get the power play going in Game 6 early, which will play a key role. The Islanders will look to keep killing off Tampa Bay’s power play though to even it up on special teams
Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in the crease for the Lightning in Game 6. Vasilevskiy finished out the regular season with a record of 35-14-3. He put up a save percentage of .917 and a 2.56 GAA throughout those games. Vasilevskiy has played great throughout this playoff run, posting a .930 save percentage and a GAA of 1.88.
Semyon Varlamov will get the nod in the net for New York on Thursday night. Varlamov put up a regular season record of 19-14-6 through his starts. He put up a .914 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA in those games. In the playoffs, Varlamov has earned a save percentage of .918 and a GAA of 2.17.
These two goalies have both put up strong numbers throughout the playoffs. Vasilevskiy has been the better goalie overall and has yet to lose back to back games in the playoffs. I expect him to bounce back in this one after a tough loss in overtime.
Tampa Bay has a great opportunity to finish off the Islanders on Thursday night, which I think they will take advantage of. The Lightning had a great chance to win Game 5, but could not find the back of the net. I expect Tampa Bay to get started early in this one as they look to take a dominant lead. If the Lightning can control this one, I expect Vasilevskiy to shut down New York in his end.
BetOnline has Tampa Bay listed as a -163 against the money line. This implies that the Lightning will win this game around 62 percent of the time. I believe this line is correct, but there is not a lot of value in it. Tampa Bay is also listed at +166 at -1 ½. I think Tampa Bay can dominate this one, which gives a lot of value to them against the spread on Thursday night.