It’s been a long time since the Icelanders and Lightning faced any kind of game, let alone a post-season clash. Specifically, 265 days have passed. In 2020 they met in the final of the Eastern Conference. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were no toe tips going into the regular season this year.
And while the score was the same as the final in Game 6 of last year’s battle, the result was different in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup semi-final series. In this, the Islanders were victorious, slipping to a 2-1 win.
Here are three purchases to win Game 1 in New York:
Delivered by Mat Barzal
As mentioned in the section Preview of the Sporting News series, Barzal’s game is critical to qualifying for the New York Stanley Cup Final. The islands need to be at their best. He struggled early in the playoffs, scoring just three points against the Penguins and went goalless in his first eight games. He then turned the switch around and scored six points in the last six games – three of them.
Barzal fired on Sunday. He scored the first critical goal, a defender making a five-hole effort, failing the net. After receiving a long episode of Josh Bailey, Victor Hedman passed the finalist of the 2021 Norris Trophy and buried the puck behind netmaker Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“I’d say it’s more that I’m just getting into the puck net,” Barzal said when asked what has changed in recent games. “I think my chances all season, in the playoffs, are always there. It’s just a win for a goalkeeper … This is a playoff, so sometimes in some of the games we’ve played, I don’t have to score a fifth goal when we’re 4-1. So the boys it’s just a matter of trying to get the boys there when they need me and do the right things.
Tampa Bay’s power game is deadly
Lightning came in halfway with an efficiency of 41.7 percent.
“Every time you play against a team like Tampa or Boston or anyone with deadly power, you don’t want to be up all night, just because you demand a loss,” Barzal said.
New York worked hard while not taking too many penalties – one of which ended in the last minute of the center frame (interference to Kyle Palmieri), and Brock Nelson stuck it out with 98 seconds left. Brayden Point had the only result in Lightning with the advantage of the last man, which was 6-on-4 with Vasilevskiy.
After going 1 and 2 in the Power game, the Lightning 42.1 is in efficiency. Needless to say, the islanders must continue to be disciplined.
2. The game will be interesting
It is clear that the islanders entered the Amalie Arena with a game plan, and executed it perfectly. They exploded 8-2 in the conference finals last year in Game 1. At this year’s premiere things were never the same.
“Number 1 is managing a puck,” Island coach Barry Trotz said when asked what the keys were on Sunday. “Two, we were disciplined. Three, we didn’t take big risks, we didn’t take unnecessary risks … I thought we made pretty good decisions.”
In the lightning chair, Jon Cooper was unhappy with his team’s decisions.
“Our work ethic was there, our competition was there, our heads weren’t there,” he said. “Some of our decisions were poor. That’s what happens when you dig deeper into the playoffs. There are only four teams left and you have to put everything together. We weren’t pretty tonight.”
New York did a good job of getting the Lightning away in front of the net, as goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov made just three high-risk shots in 5v5 and stopped 8 out of 9 overall (For each Natural Stat Trick). Varlamov made 30 stops while Vasilevsky dismissed 29 shots.
The Islanders would like nothing more than to move up to New York with a 2-0 series lead, but there’s a reason Lightning is the Cup winner. While this may be the first time he has continued in a series in 2021, Tampa Bay has a skilled gang that will not quietly enter at night.
“We knew it was going to be very tough,” said captain Steven Stamkos. “We’ve been in this position before, so there’s definitely no panic in this room. But we realize it’s going to be a very tight series and we have to expect that in the future.”