Surprising Rangers Eyeing First Eastern Conference Title Since 2014
When the season started, no Eastern Conference team had better odds to reach the Stanley Cup Finals than the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The New York Rangers were more of a longshot with seven teams ahead of them. That is a key part of the Lightning vs Rangers preview.
None of that matters now. The teams will meet in a best of seven-game series with a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals on the line. Tampa Bay is well-rested thanks to a four-game sweep of the President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers while the Rangers needed to win Game 7 on the road to eliminating Metropolitan Division champion, Carolina.
These are the two worst faceoff teams in the postseason with the Lightning winning 45.3 percent of their draws and the Rangers coming in at a frightening 41.4 percent. Something will have to give in that department with the teams meeting each other. An NHL betting tip would be to keep an eye on which team dominates on the draws early in the series.
Tampa Bay (+225) trails only Colorado in the odds to win the Stanley Cup championship. The Rangers come in at +500.
Lightning vs Rangers Game Information
- Game: Lightning (51-23-8 in the regular season) Rangers (52-24-6)
- Location: Madison Square Garden
- Day/Time: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
- Television: ESPN
Lightning Could be Without One of its Top Forwards
The extra rest hasn’t changed much with the status of center Brayden Point. Point, who had 28 postseason goals in the last two championship runs, hasn’t played since being injured in Game 7 of the series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He has not been on the ice in the recent practices which puts his status for the early portion of the series as questionable.
Although the Lightning swept Florida without Point, his absence will be felt as always. He won 51.1 percent of his faceoffs during the regular season. He was second among Tampa Bay’s forwards in time on ice during the regular season.
While the Lightning lost forwards Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, and Barclay Goodrow off last year’s title game. They combined to score 15 playoff games last season.
Ross Colton and Corey Perry are tied for the team lead with five postseason goals so they have tried to pick up the slack left by the offseason departures as well as Point’s injury.
The quartet of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Ondrej Palat will continue to do the heavy lifting. Time will tell if they have enough among their bottom-six forwards to finish off another title run. They certainly will be front and center in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Rangers Going the Distance
The New York Rangers came into the postseason with significantly less playoff experience than the Lightning. They have made up for some of that by surviving in seven-game series against Pittsburgh and Carolina.
Veterans Mika Zibanejad (seven goals, a team-leading 19 points), Chris Kreider (team-high eight goals), and Artemi Panarin (four goals, seven assists) have risen to the challenge for the Rangers. The acquisition of Andrew Copp at the trade deadline was an understated part of New York’s current postseason.
The lack of experience is especially evident on defense. Jacob Trouba came into this season with 27 playoff games to his credit. Fellow top-four defenseman Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren played in three postseason games for the Rangers in 2020 while Ke’Andre Miller made his playoff debut this postseason. Lindgren leads the Rangers with a +7 defensive rating while Fox has five goals and a team-leading 13 assists.
Speaking of youth, the Rangers put recent first-round picks Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Filip Chytil on the same line. They have combined for eight goals and eight assists in the playoffs.
Lightning vs Rangers Betting Preview
The last time the teams played in the postseason came in the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals with the Lightning winning in seven games. The Rangers failed to score a goal in Game 5 and Game 7 losses. That result won’t factor into the Lightning vs Rangers preview.
More recently, the Rangers won all three games during the regular season. Mika Zibanejad had four goals which matched the Lightning’s scoring output in the season series. Igor Shesterkin stopped 91 of 95 shots in the three games. Vasilevskiy was 0-2 with a 3.03 ‘goals-against’ average against the Rangers. Tampa Bay lost 4-0 in the only game during the season played between the teams at Madison Square Garden.
Don’t expect a wild affair like the 8-6 game between Colorado and Edmonton in the opening game of the Western Conference Finals. The losing team in the series between the Lightning and the Rangers hasn’t scored more than three goals in a game in more than a decade! Thus, the reason we give you a fair, Lightning vs Rangers preview.
The Rangers saw the return of Goodrow, one of the few players with extensive playoff experience, for the final two games of the Carolina series.
The Rangers have the second-ranked power play in the postseason as New York has converted on 32.5 percent of its power plays. Among the teams left, Tampa Bay’s penalty-killing percentage of 87.8 is tops in the NHL.
The early money is on Tampa Bay winning the series in six games as that carries a payout of +300 followed by the Lightning winning in either five or seven games. The Rangers winning in seven games carries a Moneyline of +550.Follow us on Twitter