New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning series preview
The New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning playoff series is expected to be a competitive one as the teams battle to get to the Stanley Cup Final. It is also a rematch of the last time the Rangers were in the Eastern Conference Final, falling in 7 games to the Lightning.
That year was 2015 and a rebuild letter was soon to follow just a few seasons later. The trade that kicked it all off was Ryan McDonagh being shipped to Tampa in 2018.
Flash forward to this season and this young Rangers squad have home ice advantage on the strength of one more regular-season win.
During their three meetings this season, the Rangers actually dominated the Lightning sweeping them by a 10-4 scoring margin.
“They’re a great team and they’ve got great players that have won Stanley Cups,” Gerard Gallant said on Tuesday. “We’re going to worry about playing our game. We’ve had good success against them in the regular-season which means nothing. We’re going to attack and play our game.”
New York Rangers vs Tampa Bay Lightning Schedule
|GM 1: Wednesday, 6/1 @NYR||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 2: Friday, 6/3 @NYR||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 3: Sunday, 6/5 @TB||3PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 4: Tuesday, 6/7 @TB||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 5: Thursday, 6/9 @NYR*||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 6: Saturday, 6/11 @TB*||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
|GM 7: Tuesday, 6/14 @NYR*||8PM ET||(ESPN, CBC, SN, TVAS)|
Rangers vs Lightning Season Recap
NYR: 52-24-6, 110 points (2nd place in Metro)
TBL: 51-23-8, 110 points (3rd place in Atlantic)
Dec. 31 at TBL (W, 4-3 -SO): Barclay Goodrow scores twice against his former team and Mika Zibanejad wins it in the shootout. Igor Shesterkin stops 25 shots.
Jan. 2 at NYR (W, 4-0): Shesterkin pitches a 38 save shutout, while Andrei Vasilevskiy gives up 4 on 21 shots. Mika Zibanejad registers a hat trick.
Mar. 19 at TBL (W, 2-1): Mika Zibanejad’s PPG is the difference at Shesterkin (28 saves) out-duels Vasilevskiy (25 saves).
NYR win season series 3-0 (10 GF – 4 GA)
Rangers vs Lightning Playoff Matchup
The New York Rangers come into this series with a 3.05 goals per game average on the season ranked 17th. The Tampa Bay Lightning ranked higher with a 3.48 goals per game average at 8. In the postseason, it’s New York at 3.43 to Tampa’s 3.27.
Mika Zibanejad was the Rangers star offensive player during the regular season recording 4 goals in 3 games against the Bolts. Chris Kreider and Adam Fox each notched 3 assists.
For the Lightning, they struggled mightily against the Rangers defense and Shesterkin. Three players (Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Brayden Point) topped out at 2 points in 3 games.
Let’s take a look at each team’s top five offensive players (minimum 40 games played) during the season.
|Artemi Panarin||1.28||Nikita Kucherov||1.47|
|Mika Zibanejad||1.00||Steven Stamkos||1.31|
|Chirs Kreider||0.95||Victor Hedman||1.04|
|Adam Fox||0.95||Brayden Point||0.88|
|Andrew Copp||0.74||Alex Killorn||0.72|
Playoff Scoring Top 3
Lightning: Nikita Kucherov (15), Victor Hedman (10), Ross Colton (8)
Rangers: Mika Zibanejad (19), Adam Fox (18), Andrew Copp (12)
This one is close but with Brayden Point likely to miss the start of this series, I will give it to the Rangers.
Verdict: Slight Edge Rangers
The New York Rangers were one of the top defensive teams starting around March until the end of the season. A really good time to tighten things up defensively. That did not carry over into Round 1 where they struggled in their own zone. However, the Rangers slowly started to figure it out and ripped off three straight wins to overtake the Penguins from down 3-1 in the series.
Against the Carolina Hurricanes, they were much better. Despite giving up plenty of shots, the Rangers did a great job keeping the Canes to the outside.
On the season, the Blueshirts finished second in goals allowed at 2.49. Meanwhile, the Lightning came in sixth with a team GAA of 2.78. The Rangers and Bolts were also close in shots allowed per game (NYR 30.8 versus TBL 29.8).
In the post season, the Rangers have brought their GAA down 4.14 in the first round to 3.00 overall. That’s due in large part to only allowing 1.86 GAA against the Hurricanes in Round 2. The Lightning are at 2.45 GAA for these playoffs.
Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin is the clear favorite to win the Vezina Trophy this season and he is also up for the Hart Trophy. The 26 year-old posted a 36-13-4 record. His .935 SV% and 2.07 GAA top the league. Against the Lightning he dominated going 3-0 with a 1.30 GAA and a .958 SV%.
Andrei Vasilevskiy comes into these playoffs as the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner after leading the Bolts to their second straight Cup. On the year he recorded a 39-18-5 record with a 2.49 GAA and a solid .916 SV%. In the postseason, he’s 8-3 with a 2.22 GAA and a .932 SV%.
So will Vasilevskiy’s regular season struggles play against the Rangers in the ECF? He went 0-2 with a 3.03 GAA and a .875 SV%.
Like Gallant said, the regular season meetings mean nothing now. This will be an incredible matchup against two great goalies and the better one will decide the series.
When it comes to special teams the New York Rangers were great scoring 55 power play goals and adding 8 shorthanded goals, while only giving up 2. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning were strong as well with 62 man-advantage tallies, drawing a lot more power plays.
|TEAM||PP%||PP GF||PK%||SH GF||SH GA|
Here’s a look at how the special teams are performing in the playoffs.
|TEAM||PP%||PP GF||PK%||SH GF||SH GA|
This is another one that is too close to call as it would be advisable for both teams to stay out of the box.
Rangers vs Lightning Prediction
New York will be turning it around in just a day after beating the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night in Game 7. Meanwhile, Tampa will need to shake off 9 days worth of rust after sweeping the Florida Panthers in Round Two.
This series is going to come down to goaltending as two of the game’s very best in Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin square off. The team that can cause the most traffic in front and screen the goalie will win this series.
For the Rangers, they are as resilient a team as I’ve ever seen. After winning 27 games in comeback fashion during the regular season, they’ve won 5 straight elimination games in these playoffs.
New York finished with one more win than Tampa which is why they have home-ice in the ECF. That could be the difference with the Lightning have played so much hockey in winning two Cups in consecutive seasons.
Prediction: Rangers beat Lightning in 7
The New York Rangers are going to the ECF after eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes. Recap and relive it all here. Read more.