NHL Playoff Bracket 2020: Dates, TV Schedule, Game Times, Odds and Picks

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2020

Tampa Bay Lightning's Kevin Shattenkirk (22) congratulates goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy after the team's 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins in an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Boston. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
Winslow Townson/Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from finalizing the 2020 Stanley Cup Final matchup with a 3-1 advantage over the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Final. 

If the Lightning take Tuesday's Game 5, they would match the series result earned in the Western Conference Final, which saw the Dallas Stars reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 2000 with a come-from-behind overtime victory to eliminate the Vegas Golden Knights in five games.

            

Updated NHL Playoffs Schedule

Tuesday, September 15

Game 5: New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

     

Thursday, September 17 (if necessary)

Game 6: Tampa Bay vs. New York Islanders (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

     

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Odds

Eastern Conference Final Game 5

Tampa Bay (-177; bet $177 to win $100)

New York Islanders (+150; bet $100 to win $150)

    

To Win Stanley Cup

Tampa Bay (-162)

Dallas (+150)

New York Islanders (+3200)

Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.

        

Picks

Tampa Bay over New York Islanders in 5

Tampa Bay has followed a similar blueprint to Dallas' success to open up its 3-1 advantage over the Islanders. 

The Lightning have played strong defense in each of their three victories, allowing a total of four goals. However, the difference between Tampa Bay and Dallas is the explosiveness of the Lightning offense, which started the series with an eight-goal outburst. 

In total, the Lightning have outscored the Islanders 17-9. New York's highest-scoring game featured five tallies in Game 3. 

Tampa Bay's top forwards have been the primary difference-makers throughout the series, as Nikita Kucherov has nine points and Brayden Point has three goals and four assists. 

Kucherov's plus-minus of eight is also five digits higher than the two positive numbers on the Islanders roster combinedScott Mayfield is plus-two and Brock Nelson is plus-one; the rest of New York's squad either sits at zero or in negative numbers. 

In addition to having its top forwards in great form, Tampa Bay has received some impressive play in net from Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning netminder owns a .930 save percentage and has turned away 106 of the 114 shots he has faced through four games. 

Vasilevskiy's one poor outing occurred in Game 3, when the Islanders put four goals past him, but the goalie still made 31 saves in that contest.

The Islanders, though, are capable of staying alive to force a Game 6. Mathew Barzal noted his team will not go away easily, per NHL.com's Brian Compton:

"We're not going to go away lightly here. Personally, this is exactly where I want to be and exactly where we want to be; maybe not down 3-1, but in the Eastern Conference Finals. What an opportunity for our group. … We're going to come out swinging tomorrow and give it our best. Our backs are against the wall, so all we can do now is put our best on the ice and hopefully get this thing to a Game 6 and then a Game 7."

The confidence inside the New York locker room is admirable, but until the Islanders figure out a consistent way to outscore Tampa Bay and break down the defensive hold enforced by Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman and others, it is hard to see it reversing a 3-1 deficit. 

If Tampa Bay closes out the series, it would earn its third-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance and first since 2015.

            

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.

Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.