The New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning are set to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals with a trip to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals on the line. The NHL playoff series will showcase the best offense in hockey against the top goaltender in hockey.
New York didn’t have an easy time advancing in the postseason, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Washington Capitals in the second round. Tampa Bay’s series with the Montreal Canadiens was just the opposite, as the Lightning won the first three games, eventually putting away the winners of the Atlantic Division in six games.
Goalie Henrik Lundqvist has easily been the most important part of the Rangers’ playoff run. He’s posted the best 2015 playoff numbers of any goalie that’s played more than four games, allowing just 1.6 goals per contest with a .944 save percentage. Lundqvist continued his dominance in Game 7, saving 35 of 36 shot attempts in a 2-1 overtime victory.
Tampa Bay will put their top-scoring offense to the test against the league’s No.1 goalie. The Lightning led all teams in the regular season, averaging 3.2 goals per game. Steven Stamkos led the team through 82 games with 43 goals, while both he and Tyler Johnson tied for 14th in the NHL with 72 points each. Johnson’s been the NHL’s top goal-scorer through the first two rounds, scoring eight times.
Former Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was fifth on Tampa Bay with 54 regular-season points, and he’s a game-time decision for Game 1 on Saturday. Callahan had an emergency appendectomy on Monday, and missed Tampa Bay’s Game 6 clincher over Montreal.
Even with Callahan in the lineup, it will be tough for the Lightning to get by the Rangers. Tampa Bay has the NHL’s best offense, but New York isn’t far behind, finishing third in goals per game this season. The Lightning have hockey’s best record at home, but the Rangers have home-advantage, as well as the league’s top road record.
The Rangers won this year’s President’s Trophy, and should prove they are the best team in the East behind an exceptional attack and an inspired Lundqvist.
Game 1: at New York, Saturday, May 16, 1 p.m. ET, NBC
Game 2: at New York, Monday, May 18, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 3: at Tampa Bay, Wednesday, May 20, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 4: at Tampa Bay, Friday, May 22, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
Game 5: at New York, Sunday, May 24, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network*
Game 6: at Tampa Bay, Tuesday, May 26, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network*
Game 7: at New York, Friday, May 29, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network *
New York-130, Tampa Bay+110 [Bet Online]
New York in six