New York Rangers expect a tough Lightning team in Tampa

ny rangers game tonight
Jun 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (88) makes a save as Tampa Bay Lightning center Anthony Cirelli (71) and New York Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) battle for the rebound during the second period in game two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers are expecting their hardest challenge yet in these playoffs as the Eastern Conference Final shifts to Amalie Arena in Tampa. Up 2-0 in the series, the Lightning will put it all on the line in order to avoid going down 3-0 to the Blueshirts.

On Saturday, head coach Gerard Gallant made it clear that this is another game and a fresh slate for both teams.

“The games at the Garden are behind us,” Gallant said. “We had good success playing really good hockey, but now we come to Tampa and we have to play real well in here. Tough game [Sunday] afternoon.”

Tampa’s bench boss Jon Cooper is expecting his team to come out angry.

“You get frustrated when you lose a couple,” Cooper explained. “There’s no doubt. How can you not be? I’d be if the guys weren’t down or frustrated about losing two. It’s about how you respond. That’s the one thing with the group, they’ve responded.”

New York Rangers just two wins away from the Stanley Cup Final

This has been an amazing season for the New York Rangers that has exceeded expectations. A team that many people were wondering if they could make the playoffs are two wins away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final.

It’s certainly something to marvel at, but at the same time, the Rangers they believe in themselves and in each guy in the room.

“We heard all year that this team wasn’t going to have playoff success and we’ve said it all year the belief in the room is high,” Adam Fox said after the Game 2 victory. “The outside opinion doesn’t really affect anyone.”

Fox, 24, leads all defensemen in playoff scoring with 22 points (5G – 17A) in 16 games. He’s been receiving high praise from his teammates and former Rangers legend Mark Messier, who compared him to Brian Leetch on Friday.

Yesterday, Tampa coach Jon Cooper also commented on Fox’s play.

“It’s like he’s got ice in veins. It’s actually pretty impressive to watch,” he said. “His shooting doesn’t stand out and his skating doesn’t stand out. He’s not elite in any of these areas but he’s an elite player. His vision is exceptional. He sees everything so well. The game slows down for him.”

Tampa Bay Lightning have backs against the wall

igor shesterkin
Jun 3, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (31) makes a save against Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) during the first period in game two of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers will have their hands full on Sunday because Tampa knows how tough Madison Square Garden is to play in. Expect to have the kitchen sink thrown at the Blueshirts.

Tampa has just lost consecutive games in the playoffs for the first time since 2019, when the Columbus Blue Jackets swept them in the first-round. So being down in a series 2-0 is unfamiliar territory for the Lightning.

“We can’t hang our hats just because we are going to home ice,” Tampa’s Victor Hedman said. “It’s going to be great to be in front of our fans and try and get the next game.”

For Tampa, their biggest challenge is trying to solve Igor Shersterkin.

Since struggling in Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4, where Shesterkin was pulled twice allowing a total of 10 goals in those contests, he’s been elite. From Game 5 of the first-round on, Igor’s stats are all-world. He’s 9-3 with a 2.08 GAA and a .929 SV%.

Meanwhile, Andrei Vasilevskiy continues to struggle against the Rangers high-paced style.

Coming into the Eastern Conference Final, Vasilevskiy was 8-3 with a .932 SV% and a GAA of 2.22. However, after two games, he’s 0-2 and sporting a .855 SV% with a 4.60 GAA.

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