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The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning meet in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight.
The Islanders are coming off a win in Game 7 over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night, while the Lightning knocked out both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins in five games each. The Islanders did win two of three matchups against the Lightning this season, that said, they were outshot by a margin of 97-68 in those games.
On paper, I think it’s clear that Tampa Bay should be the favourite here, even without Steven Stamkos, who’s been out since February, after core muscle surgery. With the likes of Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point leading a deep forward group, one of the best defenders in the league in Victor Hedman on the back end and the defending Vezina Trophy winner, Andrei Vasilevskiy, between the pipes, the Lightning have a star-studded lineup.
That said, the way New York has been able to shut teams down at times in the postseason could make this really interesting. When the Islanders have been on their game, they’ve given up so few quality chances that their opponents really couldn’t generate much offense at all. However, if New York takes periods off like they did at certain points during their series against the Flyers, they’ll get burned.
For the Islanders, I’d expect Thomas Greiss to start, after his shutout against Philadelphia in Game 7. He’s been great in his limited playoff action thus far and in my opinion, it should be his starting job to lose now.
If the Islanders are able to stick to their game, I think we could be in for quite a series.
Puck drop is at 8 p.m.
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OTHER ISLANDERS ARTICLES FROM SEPTEMBER:
Game 5 Preview: Islanders vs. Flyers
Notes from Game 5: Islanders vs. Flyers
Game 6 Preview: Islanders vs. Flyers
Notes from Game 6: Islanders vs. Flyers
Game 7 Preview: Islanders vs. Flyers
Islanders advance to ECF: Notes from Game 7 vs. Flyers