Eastern Conference Finals Game Two: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs
Eastern Conference Finals Game #2
#2 Tampa Bay Lightning at #1 New York Rangers
Rangers Lead Best of Seven Series 1-0
Monday, May 18, 2015, 8:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBC Sports
Madison Square Garden – New York City, New York
Opening Line: New York -135 / Tampa Bay +115
Current Line: New York -140 / Tampa Bay +120
Opening Total: over 4 1/2 -125 / under 4 1/2 +105
Current Total: under 5 -160 / over 5 +140

Tampa Bay looks to even the series against New York in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tampa Bay looks to even the series against New York in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Dating back to last year’s Stanley Cup Final, when the New York Rangers lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings, New York has played in 15 straight post-season games decided by one goal. Saturday’s game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals was no exception, as the Rangers escaped with a 2-1 victory. Game two is Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

New York, coached by Alain Vigneault, won the President’s Cup for having the best record in the league during the regular season with a 53-22-7 record and 113 points. The Rangers easily won the Metropolitan Division. In the playoffs the Rangers beat the wild card Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1 in the first round and the #2 seed Washington Capitals in seven games in the conference semifinals. The Rangers trailed the series 3-1 against the Capitals but won 3 straight games including game seven in overtime. Nine of their thirteen post season games have been 2-1 games this season, including 7 wins for the Rangers.

Tampa Bay, coached by Jon Cooper, finished second in the Atlantic Division with a 50-24-8 record and 108 points, two points behind the Montreal Canadiens. The Lightning beat the #3 seed Detroit Red Wings in seven games in the first round, despite trailing 3-2 in the series. Tampa Bay took a 3-0 series lead against the Canadiens in the second round, but ended up winning the series in six games. Tampa Bay is back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2011.

In Game one Saturday afternoon, both goaltenders were on the top of their games. Neither team scored until Rangers center Derek Stepan scored with 13 seconds left in the second period, assisted by Chris Kreider and Ryan McDonagh. Tampa Bay tied it up 7 minutes into the third period on a power play goal from left wing Ondrej Palat, assisted by Tyler Johnson and Victor Hedman. With just under 5 minutes left, New York center, Dominic Moore was called for tripping. The Rangers killed off the penalty, and Moore returned to the ice. Thirty seconds later, Moore scored what would be the be winner assisted by Kevin Hayes and Derick Brassard. The Rangers would hold on for the 2-1 win.

New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed one goal on 24 shots. Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots. New York was 0/2 on the power play and Tampa Bay was 1/4. The Rangers had 30 hits to 18 for the Rangers. Tampa Bay had 16 turnovers to 12 for New York. The Lightning won 30 faceoffs to 23 for the Rangers.

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Tampa Bay is outscoring teams 2.50-2.14 in the playoffs this season. The Lightning are #4 in scoring and #5 in goals allowed. The Lightning are 10/54 (18.5%) on the power play in the playoffs and 41/47 (87.2%) on the penalty kill. The Lightning have 2 short handed goals and have allowed 2 as well. Tampa Bay averages 27.1 shots per game and opponents average 27.9.

Goalie Ben Bishop is 8-6 in the playoffs with a 1.82 goals against average. He has a save percentage of .931 with one shutout. Bishop was benched in one of the games against Montreal in favor of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Center Tyler Johnson has 8 goals and 5 assists. Nikita Kucherov has 6 goals and 5 assists. Steven Stamkos has 3 goals and 7 assists. Alex Killorn has 3 goals and 6 assists. Ondrej Palat has 4 goals and 5 assists. Hedman has seven points in the playoffs. Valtteri Filppula has six points in the playoffs.  Former Ranger captain Brian Callahan returned to the lineup after undergoing an appendectomy last week. Another former Ranger Brian Boyle missed game one with an undisclosed reason and is questionable for game two.

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New York is outscoring teams 2.00-1.62 in the playoffs. Of the sixteen playoff teams, New York is 15th in scoring but #1 in goals allowed. The Rangers are 6/40 (15%) on the power play in the playoffs and 26/32 (87.5%) on the penalty kill. New York averages 32 shots per game and allow 29 per game.

New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is 9-4 in the playoffs with a 1.56 goals against average. He has a .945 save percentage with no shutouts. He has been the only goalie for the Rangers in the playoffs.

Center Derick Brassard has 5 goals and 4 assists for the Rangers. Derek Stepan has 4 goals and 5 assists. Rick Nash has 2 goals and 5 assists. Ryan McDonagh has 2 goals and 5 assists. Chris Kreider has 5 goals and one assist. Six other players have 4 points in the playoffs including Carl Hagelin, Dan Boyle, former Lightning captain Martin St. Louis, and Dan Girardi. Left wing Mats Zuccarello is questionable with a concussion.

Tampa Bay is 8-2 on one day rest, 6-2 after scoring 2 goals or less, 5-2 after allowing 2 goals or less, and 2-5 in conference finals games. The Lightning have won 4 of the last 5 against the Rangers.

New York is 4-0 at home, 5-1 in Monday games, 51-19 overall, 8-3 against Atlantic Division teams, 41-16 after scoring 2 goals or less, 38-15 against Eastern Conference teams, 5-2 in conference finals games, 37-15 after a win, 38-16 on one day rest, 65-29 against teams with losing road records, and 35-16 after allowing two goals or less.

Tampa Bay dominated the series against New York in the regular season winning all three games by a combined 15-7 score. The playoffs are a different story though. I don’t know how long the Rangers can keep living on the edge like this and playing so many close games, but it has worked so far. Still, I think Tampa Bay earns a split before the series shifts south for games three and four.

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