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Tampa Bay Lightning's Pat Maroon (14) celebrates his goal with Yanni Gourde (37) during third-period NHL Eastern Conference final playoff game action against the New York Islanders in Edmonton, Alberta, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lightning Look to Advance to the Stanley Cup Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

The Tampa Bay Lightning lead the series 3-2 over the New York Islanders as the two teams meet for game 6 tonight at 8. After taking the first two games, the Lightning have dropped two of the last three matchups. If the Lightning win tonight, it will be their first time to the Stanley Cup Finals in five years.

The Isles knocked off Tampa Bay in a double-overtime thriller on Tuesday thanks to Jordan Eberle’s fifth goal of the playoffs. New York now trails by just one game in the series needing two more wins to reach the finals.

Islanders head coach, Barry Trotz, called game six “grueling mentally and physically for both teams.” Coming off a confidence-surging win, however, Trotz said the team is carrying “a little more jump in [its] step” heading into Game 6.

Game Six Preview

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) and New York Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier (18) look for the puck during the first period of Game 5 of the NHL hockey Eastern Conference final, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020, in Edmonton, Alberta. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press via AP)

Starting goaltenders, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Semyon Varlamov will continue to play key roles in determining the outcome of the series. Both goalies have been remarkable in the series thus far, starting every game and combining for nearly 300 saves.

Lightning captain, Steven Stamkos, remains out due to a lower-body injury. Stamkos has yet to play this postseason. Tampa considers its leading playoff goal-scorer, Brayden Point, a game-time decision after missing Games 3 and 5. Despite missing two games, Point has notched 7 points in the series.

In the event that Point does not play, the Bolts will lean heavily on winger Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov has been on a tear this postseason. He leads all players in assists (19) and is tied for the lead in points (25).

As for New York, it will need to rely on an ultimate team effort to force game 7. The Islanders currently have a league-leading eight players with double-digit points in the playoffs.

Playing in the Bubble

The Eastern Conference bubble in Toronto has had similar consequences as the NBA’s bubble in Orlando. A major advantage of playing in the bubble, according to Barry Trotz, is that it “takes a little bit of the edge off the travel because the travel is part of the grind.”

That being said, the tradeoff is the fact that “the bubble is not part of the grind in any other year.”

Stanley Cup Finals

The Eastern Conference Final winner will travel to Edmonton, the host of the Western Conference bubble, to face the Dallas Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. Dallas cruised past Vegas in the Western Conference Final in only five games. The date and time of game 1 are to be determined.

About Griffin Foll

Sophomore at the University of Florida studying journalism sports & media. I help contribute radio and website content for ESPN Gainesville. Additionally, I broadcast high school games for The Prep Zone and cover UF softball for ChompTalk.com.

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