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Islanders Have Minor Adjustments to Make Moving Forward

The New York Islanders are moving on to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1993 after absolutely dominating the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7 last night.

The Islanders got back to their game, executing it perfectly in a win-or-go home scenario.

“It was an unreal game, best game I’ve seen the team play,” Greiss said after his first Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7. “They took most of the stuff away. Happy we got the win here.”

The Isles will now move to Edmonton and take on the Tampa Bay Lightning for a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals.

It’s been a long time since any of us could say that.

The Game 7 victory against the Flyers was done so in an extremely convincing fashion. The Islanders held the Flyers to just 16 total shots through three periods. In Games 5 and 6, the Isles got away from their game, but rebounded in Game 7 with a relentless forecheck, defensive structure, and dominant puck possession. This is the type of game they will have to play moving forward against a dangerous Lightning team.

Taking on Tampa

Head Coach Barry Trotz has done an outstanding job in getting the Islanders to look ahead rather than looking back. The team knows that although last night’s victory was great, they still have plenty of work to do. The team will celebrate the victory, but quickly switch focus for what’s next.

The Lightning were able to close the door on an elite Boston Bruins team in five games, and they did so without their captain, Steven Stamkos.

“You have to celebrate the moments because those moments don’t come by very much,” Trotz said. “We understand we’re halfway. By winning an extra round [the best-of-five qualifying series against the Panthers], it seems like the journey is a little longer for us. We’ve won three playoff rounds and we’re going to play a real good Tampa team.”

Stamkos’ availability is unknown going into the series, but they’re a team with a lot of firepower regardless. This despite their 3.00 goals for per game, which is .38 less than the Islanders.

Still, the Bolts have players who can change the game such as Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman.

With the Lightning scoring “below expectations” according to graphs above, the Islanders are going to have to bring the same defensive structure we saw in Game 7 against the Flyers for the entire series.

It was evident in the second round that the Islanders have a habit of not giving a full 60 minutes each game, and that is exactly what cost them each of their three losses against the Flyers. Consistency on the backend is going to be a huge factor going forward, and Trotz will have to have the defense prepared for every single shift.

The Lightning are also slightly better than the Flyers in the goals-against department with a 2.31 goals-against per game, .19 better than Philly. Carter Hart was outstanding for the Flyers, but Andrei Vasilevskiy is four years older and has four more postseasons under his belt.

We have all been waiting for Jordan Eberle to finally find the back of the net, it’s been 10 straight games since his last goal. He’s been skating well and helping create opportunities on the first line. Heading into Edmonton, he will have to find a way to put the puck in the net.

What’s encouraging is that there is no shortage of opportunities.

Who’s in Net?

It seems as though Trotz is going with the next man up mentality.

Thomas Greiss got the nod for Game 7 after a poor performance from Semyon Varlamov in Game 6. Varlamov got the Isles to where they are for much of the way, but Greiss has been lights out when called upon.

In the 2020 playoffs, Griess sports a .949 save percentage, and a 1.68 goals-against average; Varlamov has a .921 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average. Both have great numbers, and both have had lights out performances.

However in Griess’ limited amount of starts, he has yet to show any signs of weakness. In an NHL that’s moving towards 1A/1B goalie tandems being regular, this is a good problem for Trotz to have moving forward, however, expect Griess for Game 1 against the Lightning.

The Islanders have a few adjustments to make to their game going into the third found of the playoffs. At this point, no one team outmatches the other. The playing field is even.

A ticket to the Stanley Cup Final is in reach and the Islanders need to stick to the system that Trotz has instilled.

There is no reason why they can’t clinch a spot to the grand stage.

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