The Wraparound: Islanders look to keep their run going

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The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

Well, here we go again.

A year after forcing off in the Stanley Cup Semifinals (or, Eastern Conference Final that time), the Islanders and Lightning have another chance to battle for a Stanley Cup Final berth.

Like they’ve been the entire playoffs, the Islanders are the underdog. For the first time, though, the Lightning have home ice.

Home ice, though, hasn’t mattered a ton these playoffs; both of these teams won their series as the lower seed. The Islanders won twice in Boston, and the Lightning clinched in Raleigh.

In some ways, they’re similar like that. In others, they are near opposite squads.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The odds never seem to like the Islanders, and yet, here they are. They’re a team that has likely the strongest cemented identity of all the teams remaining. They play the same style no matter who they are facing.

The Lightning are far different than the other teams the Isles have played this postseason, and the biggest difference might be in net. Tristan Jarry was not good for the Penguins. The Bruins’ Tuukka Rask was playing hurt. Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy is playing like the best goaltender in the world.

The Islanders biggest weakness is scoring. That hasn’t been an issue these playoffs, as they lit up the Penguins and had no problem activating their power play against Boston. Against a deeper — and healthy — defense and a better goalie, though, it might be a different story.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

The Islanders have been pretty good at shutting down top offensive players in their previous series; Sidney Crosby didn’t light anything up, and while Brad Marchand played really well, the general Bruins offense didn’t keep pace.

Tampa Bay has plenty of offensive big guns. Nikita Kucherov didn’t have any rust after missing the entire season, for one. Their depth has also been stellar, with guys like Ross Colton actually contributing.

Even if the Islanders defense — led by the top pair of Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech — shuts down the Lightning, again, it’s the offense to worry about. Mathew Barzal had a strong showing against the Bruins, but had a slow start with the Penguins. For the Islanders to win this series, they need Bruins-series Barzal; and Kyle Palmieri, too.

The Islanders are never the favorite. At this point, maybe that’s how they like it. Perhaps its unfair they haven’t been a favorite, either. There’s no reality though where people don’t fully expect the Lightning to go back to the Stanley Cup Final, so the Islanders will have to do what they do best to get there– beat the odds.

SUNDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Islanders at Lightning, 3 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 1: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)