The New York Islanders have been a paragon of resilience during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and after beginning as a sixth seed, they're in the Conference Finals to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Monday's Game 1.
It wasn't easy to weather a rally from top-seeded Philadelphia, yet the Isles prevailed 4-0 in Game 7 after letting the Flyers force a decider from down 3-1 in the conference semifinals. Tampa Bay took care of Boston in its Game 5 and is therefore much fresher right now.
For more on this East finale face-off, read the rest of abe Insights' preview, which has the best odds from across all major sportsbooks, a breakdown of the essential betting lines, stats to know and more key info.
Date: Monday, September 7
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Islanders 43%; Lightning 60%
Spread: NYI +1.5 (-210); TB -1.5 (+190)
Moneyline: NYI +135; TB -150
Semyon Varlamov's struggles are Thomas Greiss' gains. New York made the bold call to replace the embattled typical starter with Greiss in Game 7 versus Philly, and did it ever pay off, as the fresher netminder stopped all 16 shots he faced. It'll be interesting to see if coach Barry Trotz rides the hot hand.
The silver lining for Greiss being pressed into action was the Isles discovered they have two viable goalies. That's not so much the case for the Lightning, who rely on Andrei Vasilevskiy as their workhorse between the pipes. Well, it's worked so far, as he's 10-3 with a 1.91 GAA in the playoffs.
12.47 vs. -2.79: The net postseason Corsi rating in 5-on-5 ice time for these clubs shows Tampa Bay with a massive edge in shots (counting blocks) per 60 minutes. It goes to show how loaded the Lightning are on the attack, and how aggressive they are in pressing the action on the forecheck.
-0.599 vs. 0.138: When it came to save percentage above expected during 2019-20, Vasilevskiy ranked eighth among goalies with 31 or more games played, per MoneyPuck.com. Greiss' total is the second number, although he's come up with some big stops on quality chances in his couple playoff starts.
89 vs. 60: Tampa Bay led the NHL in second-period goals this season, as the Isles struggled in the middle stanza with the sixth-lowest quantity. That'll be a marker to watch for tonight after the clubs feel each other out in the opening 20 minutes.
Is the layoff going to hurt or help Tampa? That's the chief burning question whose answer will only be revealed once Game 1 plays out. The Bolts definitely have an edge in talent when it comes to goaltending and forward depth, yet the Isles are constantly stepping up on offense during these playoffs to match whoever they're facing.
Although New York has the deserved reputation as a grinding, hard-nosed team, Tampa Bay is forging that into its philosophy as well. There's an indubitable load of skill even without injured superstar Steven Stamkos. However, this Bolts bunch isn't the same one swept from the first round a year ago against Columbus.
Last season's Presidents' Trophy winners would've probably caved at any point during the first couple rounds. Instead, they disposed of the Blue Jackets in a mostly painless five-game rematch and sent the new NHL regular-season champs, the Bruins, packing early, too.
Boston and Columbus ranked first and third respectively in goals allowed in 2019-20. That didn't stop Tampa Bay from averaging three goals per game in the postseason, which was down from its league-leading 3.47 clip during the regular year, yet still enough to get the job done in expectedly low-scoring affairs.
There seems to be a different buzz about the Bolts these days. Let's see if their supreme-performance-induced hiatus takes any of their edge off. Because you know the Islanders will come firing out of the blocks even after going the distance against the Flyers.
Every time the Isles are counted out, they seem to rise to the occasion. Instead of wagering on their spread, bettors would do better to scroll props pages at sportsbooks to see if they can get New York's puck line.
But in terms of where the public are going to skew their bets, it'll heavily favor the Lightning's spread based on the current numbers. While moneyline bets should be fairly even, look for a slight edge to New York thanks to a superior payout.
Note: Odds current as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Monday, September 7.
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