The New York Islanders have John Taveres. The Tampa Bay Lightning have Victor Hedman. The Lightning won their first round in five games. The Islanders won three overtime games, two that went to double overtime.
These teams play at Amalie Arena tonight (7 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m.) before traveling to the Islanders.
So which team has the advantage?
The Islanders have Taveres, who will be the most talented man on the ice. He led the Islanders to their upset of the Florida Panthers, and he’s been difficult to deal with when the teams have played. The Lightning counters with its latest version of the Triplets: Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn scored 10 of the team’s 12 goals in the Red Wings series. For Tampa Bay to succeed, it will need scoring from other parts of the roster.
Edge: New York.
If Anton Stralman can get back quickly, this becomes an edge for the Lightning. Matt Carle has played well – he was scratched at times this season – but there is doubt if he can hold up for 20 minutes a night. Johnny Boychuck and Nick Leddy lead the way for the Islanders, who rallied in three of their four wins.
Edge: New York.
This is the Lightning’s biggest edge, and in hockey, it’s the most important edge to have. Bishop has been spectacular for most of the year, and a fan can still scratch his head and wonder how he lost 21 games this season. Thomas Greiss had an impressive first round against the Panthers, but his body of work doesn’t match Bishop’s.
The Bolts need to stay out of the box, but man, have they played well when the other team had an advantage. Against Detroit, they stopped 24 of 25 power plays. The Lightning’s own power play sputters at times. Getting a couple of goals during the series would help.
The Lightning have reinforcements coming. Stralman, and perhaps Stamkos, could rejoin the team soon. Meanwhile, a rested Tampa Bay has home ice advantage.
Jon Cooper hasn’t had a smooth ride this season. He was blamed in the contract negotiations with Stamkos, with the handling of Jonathan Drouin. He has lost players to injuries. It’s been much more of a struggle this year than last. But Cooper wins, as the fact he’s into the second round shows. Jack Capuano has New York in the second round for the first time in more than two decades.