The Islanders and the Chargers have not faced off in any kind of game for a long time, let alone the playoffs. To be precise, it has been 265 days. That was when they met in the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they did not face each other head-on in this year’s regular season.
Although the score was exactly the same as the score in the sixth final of the match last year, in the first game of the 2021 Stanley Cup semi-final series, the result was completely different. In this game, the Islanders were the victorious team, winning 2-1.
Here are the three main points of New York’s first victory:
Mat Barzal delivered
As mentioned in Sports news series preview, Balzal’s play is essential for the New York team to enter the Stanley Cup final. Kojima needs him to stay at his best. He performed poorly at the start of the playoffs, only scored three points in the game against the Penguins, and did not score in the first eight games. Then he flipped the switch and scored 6 points in the last six games-three of them.
Balzal continued to roll on Sunday. He surpassed the defender, hit the net, and scored the crucial first goal with five holes. After receiving a pass from Josh Bailey, he overtook the 2021 Norris Cup finalist Victor Herdman and buried the puck in the network administrator Andrei Vasilevsky Behind.
“I would say even more so, but I was actually hitting the ball into the net,” Balzal said when asked what has changed in the past few games. “I think that throughout the season, in the playoffs, my chances always exist. It’s just a matter of defeating the goalkeeper… This is the playoffs, so sometimes, in some of the games we played In, I didn’t need to score the fifth goal when we were leading 4-1. So, it’s just trying to help the boys when they need me and do the right thing.”
Game of Thrones in Tampa Bay is deadly
The Chargers entered the semifinals with an efficiency of 41.7%.
“Anytime you are with a team like Tampa or Boston, or any team with lethal strength, you don’t want to stay in the penalty area all night, because that’s just, you’re just asking to lose,” Balzal Pointed out.
New York did a good job in a tough game without receiving too many penalties-in the last minute of midfield (interference with Kyle Palmieri), it killed one, cloth Rock Nelson was sticky with 98 seconds left in the game. Brayden Point did indeed get the only record for the Chargers in the last man advantage, which was actually in the 6 vs. 4 that Vasilevskiy pulled down.
After playing with a 1-on-2 power, Lightning now has an efficiency of 42.1. Needless to say, the islanders need to maintain discipline.
The second game will be fun
Obviously, the islanders walked into the Amalie Arena with a game plan and executed it perfectly. In the conference finals last year, they lost 8-2 in the first game. This year’s opener is definitely different.
“The first place is just to manage a hockey puck,” said Islanders coach Barry Trotz when asked what is the key on Sunday. “Two, we have strict discipline. Three, we did not take too many risks, unnecessary risks… I think we made a good decision.”
On the Chargers bench, Jon Cooper was not satisfied with the team’s decision-making.
“Our professional ethics are there, our competition is there, our thoughts are not there,” he said. “Some of our decisions are terrible. This is what happens when you go deep into the playoffs. There are only four teams left and you have to make everything work together. We just aren’t there tonight.”
New York did a great job keeping the Lightning away from the net because goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov faced only 3 high-risk shots in 5v5 matches and stopped 8 of 9 (Every natural statistics technique). Varlamov made 30 saves, while Vasilevsky had 29 shots.
There is nothing that interests the Islanders more than returning to New York with a 2-0 series lead, but there is a reason the Chargers are the defending champions. Although this may be the first time it has fallen behind in the 2021 series, Tampa Bay has a skilled team that will not sneak into the night.
“We know it will be very difficult,” said captain Steven Stammkos. “We have been in this position before, so there is absolutely no panic in this room. But we do realize that this will be a very tight series, we just need to look forward to the future development.”