Eastern Conference NHL Playoff Update

Eastern Conference NHL Playoff Update

New York Islanders captain John Tavares retrieved his own rebound, circled behind the sprawling Florida Panthers goaltender and deposited the puck into a gaping net, blowing the roof off of the Barclay’s Center and sending his team into the second round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in over 20 years.

The Islanders will take on the battle tested Tampa Bay Lightning, led by rising star Nikita Kucherov in this historic matchup. The Lightning are just one season removed from a run to the finals where they came just one game short of a title; however, they will be without the services of top forward Steven Stamkos, who is slated to miss the remainder of the season due to a blood clot.

“Losing Stamkos will be tough for Tampa. They have some other skilled players that I think can take his place,” Ian Offenberg ’16 said.

Another interesting storyline is the Islanders’ goaltending situation. Thomas Greiss has stepped in excellently as the starter this season after never starting more than 20 games in a single season.

“I’ve been impressed by him, [Greiss] a guy with no playoff experience has really put the team on his back in the playoffs,” Offenberg said.

The other Eastern Conference matchup is equally as intriguing. Two of the most prolific goal scorers of the past decade, Sydney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, will go head to head as the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Washington Capitals.

While this series will have plenty of star power, avid Capitals fan Connor Rainey ’16 believes that role players will be the difference in this series, “Mike Richards will be huge, not for goal scoring, but look for board matchup wins and a lot of physicality out of him.”

Richards tallied just three goals this season, but logged valuable ice time and used his high tempo style to spark his team.

Rainey also believes that his team has a goaltending advantage, “Holtby is also clearly the better goalie so having him in net is huge.”

The two teams met five times this season, splitting the first four meetings before the Capitals edged the Penguins in overtime. Game one will be on April 28 at 8:00 in Washington, DC.