Top scorers: Season — Lightning, Nikita Kucherov 30-36—66; Islanders, John Tavares 33-37—70. Playoffs — Lightning, Kucherov 5-3—8; Islanders, Tavares 5-4—9.
Outlook: The Lightning had fewer points during the regular season but got home-ice advantage because the Islanders made the playoffs as a wild-card team. In the absence of Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay's dynamic line of Kucherov, Tyler Johnson (two goals, seven points) and Alex Killorn (three goals, five points) dominated Detroit. Goaltender Ben Bishop (1.61 goals-against average, .950 save percentage) can win games almost on his own. Tavares was magnificent in the Islanders' first playoff series win since 1993, but he'll need scoring support. Goalie Thomas Greiss (1.79, .944) was solid against Florida. but must prove he can sustain that level.
Helene Elliott's pick: The Lightning's playoff experience will prevail. Tampa Bay in six.
Game 1 | Wednesday at Tampa Bay, 4 Game 2 | Saturday at Tampa Bay, noon Game 3 | Tuesday at New York, 4 p.m. Game 4 | May 6 at New York, 4 p.m. Game 5* | May 8 at Tampa Bay, TBD Game 6* | May 10 at New York, TBD Game 7* | May 12 at Tampa Bay, TBD *if necessary; times PDT
Outlook: Alex Ovechkin and Crosby will meet in the playoffs for the second time; the first was in the second round in 2009. Ovechkin led the NHL in goals (50) and Crosby awoke after Mike Sullivan became the coach and ranked third in scoring. MVP candidate Braden Holtby of Washington leads goalies in postseason play at 0.84 and .968. The Capitals will need Backstrom to play as well as he did in the first round, and they'll have their hands full with Pittsburgh's deep scoring and mobile defense. The key will be rookie Penguins goalie Matt Murray (1.33, .955) and his ability to handle pressure.
Helene Elliott's pick: If Justin (Mr. Game 7) Williams' clutch play rubs off on his teammates, Capitals in 7.
SCHEDULE Game 1 | Thursday at Washington, 5 p.m. Game 2 | Saturday at Washington, 5 p.m. Game 3 | Monday at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m. Game 4 | May 4 at Pittsburgh, 5 p.m. Game 5* | May 7 at Washington, TBD Game 6* | May 10 at Pittsburgh, TBD Game 7* | May 12 at Washington, TBD *if necessary; times PDT