The New York Islanders are finally back in the Eastern Conference Final. However, can the surprise team of the Stanley Cup playoffs keep this remarkable run going?
On Saturday, the Islanders defeated the top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers 4-0 to complete a seven-game series win. New York will now play in the conference finals round for the first time since 1993.
But the Islanders will face their toughest challenge yet as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, who are coming off an impressive five-game series win over the Boston Bruins. Their series will get underway Monday night.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference, the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights and No. 3-seeded Dallas Stars will also go head-to-head for a spot in the Stanley Cup Final. They'll get the conference finals round started by playing Game 1 of their series Sunday night.
Here's a closer look at each of the four remaining teams, along with their odds to win the Stanley Cup, according to DraftKings.
Vegas Golden Knights (+145; bet $100 to win $145)
It's not a surprise the Golden Knights remain the betting favorite to win this year's Stanley Cup. Despite being the youngest franchise in the NHL (this is only their third season), they contested the Stanley Cup Final most recently among the four remaining teams, as they made it in their inaugural season in 2018.
Plus, Vegas looked dominant to begin the postseason. It went 3-0 in round-robin seeding play and then took down the Chicago Blackhawks in five games in the opening round. After winning their second-round opener against the Vancouver Canucks, the Golden Knights had won eight of nine to open the postseason.
They've since faced some adversity, though. Vegas went up 3-1 against Vancouver but scored only one total goal in Games 5 and 6, getting shut down by backup rookie goaltender Thatcher Demko as the Canucks evened the series at three.
But the Golden Knights notched a 3-0 win in Friday's Game 7 to advance, and they'll now take on the Stars, whom they beat 5-3 in their first round-robin game.
Vegas' strong offense, led by Mark Stone (six goals and nine assists), Reilly Smith (four goals and nine assists) and Alex Tuch (eight goals and two assists), has been tough for opponents to stop. If the Golden Knights get on an offensive roll, it's possible they'll win their first Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning (+180)
Last year, the Lightning were a popular pick to make a deep run through the postseason. Instead, they became the first No. 1 seed to get swept by a No. 8 seed in the first round, losing in four games to the Columbus Blue Jackets to bring their season to an abrupt halt.
Things have gone much better for Tampa Bay in this year's playoffs. After going 2-1 in round-robin seeding play, it has defeated both Columbus and Boston in five games. The only thing that could slow down the Lightning is the long layoff, as they'll have gone a full week between games when they open the Eastern Conference Final against the Islanders on Monday.
Alternatively, it may have allowed Tampa Bay to rest up and get healthy. It's made it this far without captain Steven Stamkos (lower-body injury), but it's unclear whether he'll return this postseason.
Despite Stamkos' absence, the Lightning have had no issues generating offense. Brayden Point (six goals and 12 assists) and Nikita Kucherov (four goals and 12 assists) have been a big reason for that, as Tampa Bay has scored at least three goals in each of its past four games.
And with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy coming off some of his best showings of the playoffs, the Lightning could be on their way to winning the second Stanley Cup in franchise history and their first since 2004.
New York Islanders (+500)
Because the Islanders had to play the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers in the first two rounds, there likely weren't many people predicting for them to make it this far. However, here they are in the Eastern Conference Final as a No. 6 seed, the lowest-seeded team still alive in this year's postseason.
Although goaltender Semyon Varlamov helped get New York into the second round, he struggled in back-to-back losses to Philadelphia in Games 5 and 6, both of which went into overtime before the Flyers secured victories. The Islanders made the right decision by starting Thomas Greiss in the goal in Game 7, and backed by a lockdown performance from their defense (only 16 shots allowed), they easily won to advance.
"Guys have worked their whole life to get this opportunity and get this far," New York center Brock Nelson said, according to ESPN's Emily Kaplan. "The fanbase is passionate and always talks about the wins back in the '80s and the teams and the Cups. ... Those guys are heroes. Everyone in the room now is trying to be a part of this story like that and write our own little chapter."
Nelson (seven goals and eight assists) has been a big part of the Islanders' offensive success, along with Josh Bailey (two goals and 15 assists), Mathew Barzal (five goals and eight assists) and Anthony Beauvillier (eight goals and four assists).
New York is set for its first conference finals appearance since 1993. After winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980-83, the Islanders haven't won one since, a drought they hope will soon come to an end.
Dallas Stars (+650)
The Stars may not be the lowest-seeded team still in the postseason, but they're the biggest betting long shot among the remaining squads. Yet that doesn't mean they don't have a chance to end the season by winning their first Stanley Cup since 1999.
Dallas got off to a slow start this postseason, losing four of its first six games. Then it won three straight to complete a six-game series victory over the Calgary Flames in the opening round. It jumped out to a 3-1 lead against the Colorado Avalanche in the second round.
After the Avalanche won Games 5 and 6 to even that series, the Stars showcased their resiliency by pulling out a 5-4 win in overtime in Friday's Game 7. It was a showing similar to many previous games by Dallas in the playoffs, as its offense has been on a roll.
Seven Stars players have 10 or more points this postseason, led by Miro Heiskanen (five goals and 16 assists) and Denis Gurianov (eight goals and seven assists).
This will be Dallas' first appearance in the Western Conference Final since 2008. Although it will have tough competition to face the rest of the way, perhaps its offense will power it to the second Stanley Cup in franchise history.