The New York Islanders are continuing to do things the hard way. For the third straight series, the Islanders will have to climb out of a 2-1 series hole after falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night by a final score of 2-1 inside Nassau Coliseum. The game-winning goal came courtesy of Lightning forward Brayden Point, who has goals in six straight games. He has been a thorn in the Islanders’ side dating back to last year’s Eastern Conference Final. If the Islanders want any shot of winning this series, they have to figure out a way to stop Point from scoring. And if they cannot do that, this is going to be a short series. That is something the Islanders players and their fans do not want.
Islanders Have A Brayden Point Problem
Slowing Down Brayden Point
The key for the Islanders heading into Game 4 and the rest of the series is slowing down Brayden Point. Through three games he has three goals. In the Lightning’s six-game victory over the Islanders in the bubble, Point recorded seven points (three goals and four assists). Granted good players will find ways to score, but the Islanders defence has to slow him down and make the other lines beat them. It was a strategy, the Islanders used so well against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins. Now, the Lightning are a much team than the Penguins and Bruins, but that has to be the strategy. It is definitely a tall task for the defence of the Islanders, but they have shown they can do it.
In the first round, the duo of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech shut down Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, and Bryan Rust. The Islanders held Crosby to two points in the six games series. Then in round two, the Islanders defence was able to keep David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand in check. New York forced Boston’s depth to beat them and they could not. But now the Islanders are running into a team that has more depth than Boston and Pittsburgh combined. This Lightning team knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup because they’ve done it.
The Lightning’s top line is so dangerous with Point, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat. Kucherov and Point have been playing a lot on the power play. Barry Trotz is doing his best to get Pulock and Pelech out against them as much as possible. However, Lightning coach Jon Cooper has been able to get them out against the Islanders second and third defensive pairs. So that means Scott Mayfield and Nick Leddy need to step up their play. But it is on the entire line to step up and stop the top line for Tampa going forward.
Islanders Depth Offence Must Produce
The one thing the Islanders had going for them in the previous two rounds was that their second and third lines outscored their opponent’s second and third lines. However, in this series with Tampa Bay, the second line of Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey has been quiet. So has the third line of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Kyle Palmieri, and Travis Zajac line. While the third line has been generating chances, Barry Trotz wants more out of his second line. Nelson’s lone goal in the series has come on the power play. Meanwhile, Tampa’s depth is generating more 5-on-5 chances and it showed in Game 3.
The Lightning’s grind line consists of Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde, and Barclay Goodrow. The trio connected on the opening goal for the Lightning in Game 3. They are just throwing pucks on the net and gathering their own rebounds to make things happen. The Islanders are trying to get too cute with the puck. They need to shoot the puck more. Instead of passing up the opportunity in the slot, the Islanders must shoot. You never know what can happen. If the Islanders want to get back into this series and have Nassau Coliseum see one more playoff game, they need more from their offence.
Lightning Power Play Still Clicking
As it was discussed in the series preview, the Islanders must stay out of the penalty box against the Lightning. That power play is too deadly to keep taking penalties. Now the game-winner in Game 3 was not a power-play goal. However, it took some time for Adam Pelech to get from the penalty box to the defensive zone. The Lightning have scored on the power play in two of the first three games. Now the Islanders have limited them to one goal, but that is one goal too many. The Islanders are being aggressive on the penalty kill not allowing the Lightning time and space. However, Tampa Bay is starting to change up their looks on the power play to confuse the Islanders.
It is impossible not to be penalty-free in any game. But the Islanders have to limit the Lightning’s chances. With so many weapons on the ice at once, it is hard to stop every one of them. But the Islanders have to stay out of the box.
If the Islanders are going to win this series, Game 4 is a must win. They did it in the previous two series, so history is on their side. It will be interesting to see if the Islanders make any lineup changes to match the speed of the Lightning.
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