Tampa Bay and Long Island, two hockey hubs with passionate fan bases. These teams will be part of an exciting playoff series to determine who plays for the Stanley Cup, and revenge is on the minds of the Islanders after what happened last year. The Lightning beat them in the semi finals and then went on to win it all.
For the rematch, not much has changed in terms of both teams personnel. The matchup that is the most interesting is one you may not expect, the best fourth line in hockey going up against the most physical third line in hockey. The Isles identity line of Matt Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck have solidified themselves as starters and go-to options against the opposing top lines. Other teams have been hesitant to start the best line against them, and as a result not getting off to a good start. Same idea with the Tampa Bay third line of Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde, and Blake Coleman who have basically become the best third line in the league that isn’t built for scoring. Expect these lines to start against each other all series long, and whoever has last change will take advantage and try to get favorable matchups against the other team’s main scorers.
The goalies and defensemen in this series are equal, so scoring and scrong depth will be extra important. The Tampa Bay first line has the edge compared to the Islanders due to regular scoring prowess. The line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, and the insanely talented Nikita Kucherov can beat you from every direction. The Islanders first line is centered by Matt Barzal who has been on a tear, but left wing Leo Komarov and right wing Jordan Eberle haven’t been as consistent in the playoffs. The same can’t be said about the Killer B’s, aka the second line for the Islanders. Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Josh Bailey lit up the Bruins and are coming in hot. With Tampa’s third line trying to shut down the Barzal line, it’s possible that the Tampa Bay fourth line of Ross Colton (rookie), Tyler Johnson, and Patrick Maroon may be tasked to stop the Killer B’s. One thing we all know about Pat Maroon, he loves being a disruptor.
With all the talk of matchups and who is shutting down who, that leaves one line left for each team in this series that will look to lift their respective teams over the top. The Tampa second line of Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli, and Steven Stamkos bring a balanced attack of physical play and scoring ability, and the New York third line of the red hot Kyle Palmieri (deadline add from New Jersey), Jean- Gabriel Pageau, and Travis Zajac (deadline add from New Jersey) also have the ability to make plays and a lot of playoff experience between the three of them. This fireworks show of a series could come down to the wire, and the Lightning have home ice advantage if it comes down to a game seven.
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