NHL Eastern Conference Final - Rangers vs. Lightning Lines

NHL Playoff Rangers vs. Lightning Series Preview

The upstart New York Rangers, fresh off a dominant Game 7 road win over Carolina to advance to the Eastern Conference final, are all that stands between the Tampa Bay Lightning and a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa didn’t waste the opportunity either, hoisting Lord Stanley’s cup the past two seasons while winning 10 straight playoff series. The Lightning are a seasoned group with a number of players going for a third consecutive title and they are positioned as the favorite to win the East despite losing all three regular season games to the Rangers and starting the series on the road. If experience means anything Tampa definitely has the edge, but the Rangers are feeling good, especially with the likely Vezina Trophy winner between the pipes.

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New York Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Series Schedule

Game 1: Lightning at Rangers, Wednesday, June 1, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 2: Lightning at Rangers, Friday, June 3, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 3: Rangers at Lightning, Sunday, June 5, 3 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 4: Rangers at Lightning, Tuesday, June 7, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Game 5: Lightning at Rangers, Thursday, June 9 (If Necessary)

Game 6: Rangers at Lightning, Saturday, June 11 (If Necessary)

Game 7: Lightning at Rangers, Tuesday, June 14 (If Necessary)

Series Price at BookMaker.eu: Lightning -178 / Rangers +158

Tampa has been a model of greatness in the NHL for several years starting before they won their back-to-back Stanley Cups. With their core group intact in 2017-18 they reached the conference final only to come up short. The following season Tampa had the best record in the league winning 62 games. They were swept in the first round. That was apparently the turning point. They realized they don’t have to dominate the regular season to have playoff success.

Once again the Lightning are playing exceptional hockey when it matters most. They tossed a blanket over the top-seed Florida Panthers last round sweeping the series by giving up only three goals. And that was against the highest scoring team in the NHL so I guess you could say Tampa took its game to the next level. They’ve won six straight games allowing a total of seven goals in that streak while cashing the UNDER in the last five.

With two quality netminders who are seemingly at the top of their game, goals could be hard to come by. Andrei Vasilevskiy was a wall against Florida boasting a 0.75 GAA and .981 save percentage. If you were concerned about his workload don’t be. He’s played a lot backstopping the club to consecutive Cup titles and started 63 games this season. He’s also played every minute during the postseason.

On the other side New York’s Igor Shesterkin successfully bounced back from a string of uncharacteristic bad outings in the first round to oust Pittsburgh. After allowing 10 goals and getting yanked in Games 3 and 4, Shesterkin is 7-3 with 2.09 GAA and .939 save percentage. In Game 7 wins over Pittsburgh and Carolina he stopped 76 of 81 shots.

When you look at the regular season numbers the teams were remarkably similar. They each finished with 110 points while Tampa had a better goal differential by six. The Lighting were better offensively during the season while New York was stingier on defense. Those numbers have reversed during the playoffs. The Rangers average 3.43 goals while allowing 3.00. The Lightning average 3.27 goals and give up just 2.46.

Special teams always plays a big role but maybe more so in this series. The Rangers netted two power play goals in each of the last two games against Carolina with 11 goals total. Their 32.5 success rate with the man advantage is second-best this postseason. Tampa meanwhile has the best penalty kill among teams that advanced past the first round stopping nearly 88 percent of their shorthanded situations.

Both teams are more than capable on offense with Tampa having a deeper roster. And with Nikita Kucherov around things can get wild. Kucherov played just 47 regular season games recording 69 points. He leads the team with 15 playoff points. Several Rangers have better numbers but they’ve played more games this postseason. And New York had the benefit of going against second and third string goalies during their march to the conference final.

Rangers vs. Lightning Free Picks

The Lightning are the champs until someone knocks them off. They are built for the postseason with a deep roster, strong defense and great goaltending. The Rangers overcame deficits in the first two rounds winning both in Game 7, however, as long as Vasilevskiy stays healthy and if Brayden Point returns, I like Tampa moving on in what should be a close and long series.

Rangers vs. Lightning Series Pick: Lightning in 7 Games

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