The President’s Trophy winning New York Rangers, who had the best overall record in the NHL this season, will be taking on the third-seeded Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final. The Rangers ousted the Washington Capitals in overtime of game seven to reach the third round while the Lightning disposed of the Montreal Canadiens in six after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. This is the Rangers third trip to the Conference Final in the past four years. They won it last season and went on to face the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup Final, where they were eventually beaten. For the Lightning, it’s their first visit to the final four since the 2010/11 campaign.
New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning NHL Betting Preview – bet365 lists the Rangers as the favorites to win the series at 4/5 with Tampa Bay 21/20
The Rangers were down 3-1 against the Capitals and have now made NHL history by becoming the first team to win a series two years in a row after falling behind 3-1. They also beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven last season. In addition, the Rangers have set a record by playing in 13-straight one-goal games in the playoffs, stretching back to last season. They beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round in five games, all by a goal. Eight of the Rangers’ 12 playoff games this season ended in 2-1 scores with four of them going to overtime.
Home-ice advantage could be huge in this series since the Rangers win over Washington means they’ve never been beaten in a seventh and deciding game at Madison Square Garden. They’re now 7-0 at home in game sevens and have the home-ice advantage against the Lightning. Tampa went 18-16-7 on the road during the regular season, but are 4-2 away from home so far this postseason. In addition, Tampa beat the Rangers in all three regular-season meetings including a pair of wins at Madison Square Garden.
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Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop is participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time and has been quite impressive so far with an 8-5 record along with a save percentage of 93.1 and a goals-against average of 1.81. This is bad news for the Rangers since their postseason offense ranks 15th out of the 16 teams that made the playoffs. Tampa ousted the Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round after trailing 3-2 in the series.
Rangers’ netminder Henrik Lundqvist is 8-4 in the postseason with a 94.4 save percentage and a 1.60 goals-against average. He just set an NHL record by winning his sixth-straight game seven outing in the series against Washington. Lundqvist let in one goal at the most in those six games and has now won 10 straight outings at home when the Rangers were facing elimination. However, he struggled in the regular season against Tampa by going 0-3 with an 82.3 save percentage and a goals-against average of 4.75. The Lightning outscored the Rangers 15-8 in their three season meetings.
The Rangers’ penalty killing in the playoffs stands at 89.3 per cent to lead the four remaining clubs as they’ve killed off 26 of 29 penalties. Tampa’s power play was 30 per cent against Montreal at six for 20 and it went four for 14 for 33.3 per cent against the Rangers during the regular season. As well as being hot with the man advantage in the postseason, the Lightning also have two shorthanded goals.
The Rangers will need to keep an eye on Tampa captain Steven Stamkos as he’s racked up 24 points against New York in 22 outings. However, he’s a minus-seven against the Rangers during his career. New York is hoping to have forward Mats Zuccarello back in the lineup against Tampa. He missed the Washington series with a concussion and his status is still unclear. Tampa should have forward Ryan Callahan back in time to face the Rangers. He missed the last game against Montreal after having an emergency appendectomy. Jonathan Marchessault took Callahan’s spot in the lineup, but he has just five games of NHL experience.
Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan lead the Rangers playoff scoring with eight points each while Tyler Johnson of the Lightning leads the league with eight playoff goals. Tampa’s regular-season 3-0 record against the Rangers could be a little deceptive since all three wins came early in the season between November 17 and December 1 when New York had an 11-12 record. The Rangers then caught fire and won 50 of their final 70 games and have proven to be a handful so far in the postseason.