Islanders vs. Lightning: three takeaways from New York’s Game 1 win
It’s been a long time since the Islanders and Lightning faced each other in any type of game, let alone a playoff clash. To be exact, it’s been 265 days. That’s when they met in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they did not face each other in the regular season this year.
And while the score was exactly the same as in last year’s Battle Game 6 final, the result was different in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semi-Finals Series. Here, the Islanders were the victorious team, taking a 2-1 victory.
Here are three takeaways from New York’s victory in Game 1:
Mat Barzal delivered
As mentioned in Overview of the Sporting News series, Barzal’s play is essential to bringing New York to the Stanley Cup final. The islands need him to be at his best. He struggled early in the playoffs, collecting just three points against the Penguins and dropping the score in his first eight games. Then he flipped the switch and scored six points, including three goals, in the last six games.
Barzal continued to ride on Sunday. He scored the first critical goal with a five-hole effort passing the defender, crushing the net. After receiving an extended pass from Josh Bailey, he passed 2021 Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman and buried the puck behind goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“I would say it’s more true, I just put the puck in the net,” Barzal said when asked what had changed in the last few games. “I think my chances throughout the season, in the playoffs, are still there. It’s just a matter of beating a goalie. . . . It’s the playoffs, so sometimes in some games we’ve played I only have to score the fifth goal when we’re leading 4-1. So it’s just about trying to be there for the boys when they need me and doing the right things. “
Tampa Bay’s power play is deadly
The Lightning entered the semifinals with a powerplay efficiency of 41.7%.
“Anytime you’re up against a team like Tampa or Boston or anyone with a lethal power play, you don’t want to be in the box all night because it’s just that you’re just asking for a loss,” noted Barzal.
New York did a good job playing a tough game without taking too many penalties – one at the last minute from the middle frame (interference on Kyle Palmieri) which she killed, and a high stick from Brock Nelson with 98 seconds left. to play. . Brayden Point got the Lightning’s only tally on that last men’s advantage, which was effectively a 6-on-4 with Vasilevskiy drawn.
After getting 1 for 2 on the power play, the Lightning is now at 42.1 efficiency. Needless to say, the Islanders need to stay disciplined.
Game 2 will be interesting
It’s obvious the Islanders walked into Amalie Arena with a game plan, and they executed it to perfection. Last year, in the conference final, they lost 8-2 in the first game. Things were definitely not the same in this year’s opener.
“The No.1 just manages a puck,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said when asked what the keys were on Sunday. “Two, we were disciplined. Three, we didn’t take a lot of risks, unnecessary risks… I thought we made some really good decisions.”
On the Lightning bench, Jon Cooper was anything but satisfied with his team’s decision-making.
“Our work ethic was there, our competition was there, our spirits were not there,” he said. “Some of our decisions were bad. That’s what happens when you get this deep into the playoffs. There are only four teams left and everything has to work in unison. We weren’t quite there. tonight.”
New York did a good job keeping the Lightning out of the net as goaltender Semyon Varlamov faced just three high danger shots at 5v5 and stopped 8 of 9 in total (by trick of natural statistics). Varlamov made 30 saves while Vasilevskiy repelled 29 shots.
There’s nothing more the Islanders would love to return to New York with a 2-0 lead in the series, but there’s a reason the Lightning are the defending Cup champion. While this may be the first time he’s been hanging out in a series in 2021, Tampa Bay has a qualifying squad that won’t go quietly overnight.
“We knew it would be extremely difficult,” said captain Steven Stamkos. “We’ve been in this position before so there is certainly no panic in this room. But we realize this will be an extremely close series and we just have to expect it to continue.”