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Tampa Bay Looks to Defend Home Ice with Stanley Cup Finals Spot at Stake

Tampa Bay Looks to Defend Home Ice with Stanley Cup Finals Spot at Stake

Game 7. The two greatest words in sports. Friday night’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders will occur with a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line.

On Wednesday night, the Islanders erased a 2-0 second period deficit and beat the defending champs 3-2 in overtime. Nassau Coliseum was electric the whole night and the crowd went home happy after Anthony Beauvillier scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

Unfortunately for the Islanders, game seven will not be played on home ice. The Lightning will have home-ice advantage for this winner-take-all matchup.

Rebounding Effort by Tampa or Emotional Letdown by New York?

Tampa Bay was less than two periods away from going back to the Stanley Cup finals for the second consecutive year. The Lightning should come out re-energized and hungry especially in front of a home crowd in game seven.

Andrei Vasilevsiy in particular should be eager to return to the ice after giving up three unanswered goals. Three goals are tied for the most goals that Vasilevskiy has conceded in this playoff series with the Islanders.

On the flip side, the Islanders gutted out a desperate win to extend this series to a seventh game. It wouldn’t be shocking if there isn’t much energy left in the tank for a seventh game.

Will Nikita Kucherov Play?

Tampa Bay Looks to Defend Home Ice with Stanley Cup Finals Spot at Stake
Nikita Kucherov left game six early with an injury. Image Courtesy of theathletic.com

Nikita Kucherov was injured early in Game 6. He hobbled off of the ice and didn’t return to the game. Whether or not he plays could make a huge difference in the game. Kucherov hasn’t registered a goal in the first six games against the Islanders, however, he has notched nine assists in the first five games of the series.

Not counting Game 6, Kucherov’s nine points in five games average out to almost two points per game. In a series when the Islanders are struggling to score three goals, that would be a huge blow for the Lightning.

The silver lining for the Lightning in this case is that they just played a 56-game regular season that saw Kucherov not step on the ice for the team, so they are used to playing without him.

Star Players Showing up in Big Games

Matthew Barzal played amazing in game six. He led the Islanders in points with two assists. He carried the puck with purpose and had one of his best games of the series. Jordan Eberle also had a strong game for the Islanders, adding a goal. Eberle may have scored just one goal but he created a lot of good scoring chances for the Islanders.

Tampa Bay Looks to Defend Home Ice with Stanley Cup Finals Spot at Stake
Brayden Point has scored in each of the last nine playoff games. Image Courtesy of Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

Brayden Point found the back of the net for the ninth straight playoff game on Wednesday night. Point also added an assist, giving him a two-point night. If Point scores on Friday, he will tie the record of consecutive playoff games with a goal, a record held by Reggie Leach.

Anthony Cirelli also had two points on the night with one goal and an assist. With Kucherov down with an injury and New York’s focus on Point and Steven Stamkos, Cirelli has had three points the last two games. If Kucherov is out for game seven, it may be up to some of Tampa’s other players like Cirelli, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson to step up and make some offensive contributions.

Cover Image Courtesy of theathletic.com

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