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Islanders vs. Lightning Game 1 Gameday News: Today’s the big day

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This afternoon’s Game 1 could set the tone for the whole series. It also may not do that.

New York Islanders v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Five
Kucherov will be dangerous.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Today is the day, folks. The New York Islanders begin their revenge tour this afternoon in Tampa Bay. The Lightning presents to the Isles their biggest challenge thus far, as was the case last September.

In the bubble’s Eastern Conference Final, the Bolts jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the series. The two-game deficit proved to be just too much for the Islanders to overcome against a hungry Tampa Bay Lightning squad looking to avenge its embarrassing first-round sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019. The Lightning kicked off the 2020 playoffs by slaying their demons, the Jackets, in five games; they never looked back after that.

But now it is the Islanders that are looking to avenge something. And they, too, get a rematch against the team that cut short their title dreams.

Last year’s Lightning did not lose back-to-back games in the playoffs, which made the two-game series deficit so insurmountable—the Islanders won Game 3, but the Lightning increased the weight that they put on the Isles’ throats in Game 4.

The Islanders snatched Game 5 in double overtime and nearly broke the Lightning’s streak of not losing consecutive games when Brock Nelson found himself on a breakaway in overtime of Game 6. But the Lightning was, undoubtedly, the team of fate last season, and they took Game 6 and, eventually, the Stanley Cup.

The key to this series, then, will be to earn a split on the road in Tampa Bay. In fact, let’s hedge our bets a bit: The Islanders would be wise to win today. That way, if the Lightning continues not to lose back-to-back games in the playoffs (and they have continued that streak in the 2021 playoffs), the Islanders could still win every other game and win the series.

That would mean two home losses, including in Game 6 with a chance to clinch. If that is what it takes, though, then so be it. But, as you know, the Islanders have done well in these playoffs when going home for Game 6 with a chance to clinch.

I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s win today and go from there.

Islanders vs. Lightning News

  • The Isles site previews Game 1. [Islanders]
  • One of the keys to Game 1 will be the Isles’ disciplined play. The Bolts’ vaunted power play has been the difference in their two previous series, which were pretty even at five-on-five.
  • Birthday boy Oliver Wahlstrom is close to being healthy enough to play, but it is no guarantee that he gets back in the lineup. I would expect to see him at some point. [Newsday]
  • The Post does the matchup thing. Mollie Walker picked the Lightning in seven, which I take as “too close to call.” [NY Post]
  • Sportsnet has another preview for us.
  • More words about the Lightning’s legal-but-shady Nikita Kucherov LTIR maneuver. Who cares, though? Let’s let the games speak for themselves. [NY Post]
  • The teams return mostly the same rosters from last year’s series. The Isles are “excited” for the rematch. [Islanders]
  • This Islanders playoff run, combined with their success in the bubble, has given this generation of fans, like me, a taste of the glory days. [NY Post]
  • Casey Cizikas has been feeling the love from Isles fans and wants to reward the love. [Newsday]
  • Cizikas especially is motivated by the second crack at the Lightning, as he had to leave the bubble after Game 2 of the 2020 series with a detached retina. [NY Post]
  • New York-area sports teams have met Tampa-based squads frequently in the last two decades. They get to tango again. [NY Post]

Non-Playoff Islanders News

  • Test your knowledge of our Islanders! The NHL site has a trivia quiz. I scored five out of five, baby. [NHL]
  • Matt Moulson reflected on his years with the Islanders and what it has been like watching the franchise’s turnaround. [IslesBlog]
  • If Bill Torrey was “The Architect,” GM Lou Lamoriello is “The Transformer.” [Best @ Newsday]
  • This is today, folks! Get your shirt, donate some food.

Beyond Long Island and North-Central-West Florida

  • No games again last night. But that ugly stretch of no hockey is over until one of the two semifinal series ends.
  • The Vegas Golden Knights know that it would be “foolish” for them to look past the Montreal Canadiens. [NHL]
  • The Habs’ injured regulars, Jeff Petry, Jake Evans, and Jon Merrill, will travel to Las Vegas with the team. [Sportsnet]
  • Yesterday, Sportsnet said that Andrei Vasilevskiy was the Conn Smythe front-runner. Today, the NHL says that it is Carey Price. [NHL]

Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum. He likely will be unavailable until January or February. [NHL]