We knew the Tampa Bay Lightning would be a tough opponent for the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final, but I don’t think many were expecting things to go down the way they did in Game 1.
The Lightning took the first game of the series in convincing fashion, beating the Islanders 8-2 last night. I’m not going to walk through each goal like I usually do but I will highlight some of the key things I noticed.
For starters, the Lightning came out flying and New York wasn’t able to slow them down. If the Islanders are going to be succeed in this series, they have to clog up the neutral zone to make entering the zone much more difficult for Tampa Bay’s forwards.
Speaking of zone entries, New York was having a very, very hard time breaking into the Lightning’s end at times, even on the power play. In the first period, I watched Mathew Barzal carry the puck up the ice three or four times within a span of about two minutes and get denied entry every time, whether it was a pass that got broken up or just losing control of the puck.
The Islanders also can’t give that much time and space to Tampa Bay’s defensemen at the point. It was blatant on Ryan McDonagh’s goal, but New York’s forwards weren’t pressuring the point nearly enough, especially considering that the Lightning have multiple defensemen who can shoot the puck well.
Then there were also the dumb mistakes, like Devon Toews’ giveaway on Tampa Bay’s seventh goal, that just can’t happen at this stage in the playoffs. Plus, if the Islanders are going to give the Lightning six power play opportunities in a game, it’s not going to go well.
There’s obviously a lot more that went wrong but I’ll leave it there. Now, we just trust that Barry Trotz can make sure this team is ready to go for Game 2 tomorrow night.
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