Series Preview: Islanders vs. Lightning (Eastern Conference Final)
Host Jeremy Ganes and analysts Jacob Cheris, Logan Bourandas and Jordan Mansberger preview the 2020 NHL Eastern Conference Final between the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
We are nowdown to just two teams on the Eastern side of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, and these teams could not be more different. The Tampa Bay Lightning have flown through the first two rounds, losing only two games as the conference’s No. 2 seed. The New York Islanders had to beat the Florida Panthers in four games to even make the playoffs and are coming off an emotional Game 7 win over the conference’s No. 1 seed Philadelphia. One team has been led by its stellar offense while the other has had great defense and goaltending. One team has been in this spot recently while the other is here for the first time since 1993. But as the series’ location moves over to Edmonton, both teams are just four wins away from a shot at the Stanley Cup.
The Lightning come into this series well rested, not having played since Aug. 31, when they won a double overtime game against the former Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins. In that series, they managed to score at least two goals in every game, maxing out at seven in Game 3. Tampa Bay is led by young superstar Brayden Point, who leads the team with 18 points in these playoffs. Point recorded eight of those points in the five-game series against the Bruins. The Lightning will not have captain Steven Stamkos during this series, as he was ruled out with a core muscle injury.
The Lightning came into the bubble with the most to prove as, the year prior they were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite winning the President’s Trophy. This year, they beat those same Blue Jackets in five games in this year’s opening round. The Lightning have made the playoffs in all but one year since 2013, but they still have not made it over the hump, as they only made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015, losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.
When the Lightning last made it to the conference final in 2018, they lost to the Washington Capitals, led by Barry Trotz, who is now the coach of the New York Islanders. This year, Trotz accomplished something that hasn’t been done since the end of the Islanders’ ‘80s dynasty by making it to the second round in back-to-back seasons. After taking care of his former team rather easily in the first round, Trotz made a bold decision by benching goalie Semyon Varlamov for backup Thomas Griess, who was only making his second start of the playoffs. The move worked out, as Griess and the Islanders shut out the No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Flyers 4-0, giving New York enough of a cushion to not blow a 3-1 series lead.
Unlike the Lightning, the Islanders have relied on their strong goaltending to get the job done. Varlamov continued his hot streak from the Capitals series into the start of the Flyers series, as he gave up just seven goals in the first four games, including one shutout. Offensively, the story has been the duo of Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 for the Islanders in points. Bailey leads the team with 15 assists during the playoffs with four of them coming off Nelson goals during the Flyers series.
Both of these teams have a lot to prove in the conference final. The Lightning are trying to right the ship after an embarrassing first round upset from a year ago, while the Islanders are looking to continue their underdog story as the only remaining team from the qualifying round. The first puck drops on Monday at 8 p.m.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.