The Eastern Conference Finals are now set. The high scoring Tampa Bay Lightning will take on the defensive minded New York Rangers in what is sure to be a fantastic matchup.
It will be Tampa Bay’s first time back in the Conference Finals since 2011 when they lost in 7 games to the Boston Bruins. For New York, it is their second consecutive Conference Final appearance, and third in the past four years. It’s shaped up to be an amazing series featuring possibly the two fastest teams in the league.
Let’s take a look at how each team got here, how they match up against each other, and who you can bet on the win the series.
Road to the Conference Finals
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Tampa Bay got here by squeaking by Detroit in 7 games in the first round, rebounding from a 3-2 series deficit. Then past the unbeatable Carey Price and the Montreal Canadiens in the second round in 6 games. The Lightning struggled to find their game early in the playoffs, but have found a rhythm now. With Bishop playing well and the ‘Triplets’ line playing outrageously, Tampa Bay will be hard to beat.
The Lightning are led offensively by Tyler Johnson, who leads the NHL in goals with 8, and is third in points with 12 in 13 games. Behind him is Nikita Kucherov, with 11 points in 13 games, Steven Stamkos has 10 points, and Alex Killorn has 9. In the pipes, Ben Bishop has improved each game, posting a 1.81 GAA with a .931 SV% thus far.
New York Rangers:
New York had to go through the Pittsburgh Penguins, with Sidney Crosby and company, in the first round in 5 games. Then they overcame a 3-1 series deficit in the second round for the second consecutive postseason, against the Washington Capitals to win in 7 games. The Rangers last 13 straight playoff games have been decided by one goal, in which they have won 8 of them.
The Rangers feature a team with extreme depth in which each line contributes. Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan are first in team points with 8 points in 12 games. Then Rick Nash has 7 in 12 games, Ryan McDonagh has 6 points, and Chris Kreider has 5. Henrik Lundqvist has been ridiculous in net for New York, posting a 1.60 GAA and a .944 SV%.
How They Matchup
The Tampa Bay Lightning went 3-0-0 against the New York Rangers this year. Tampa Bay scored a whopping 15 goals, while New York scored 7. The Lightning power play was 4 for 12 over the three games, while the Rangers went 3 for 10. Tampa Bay outshot New York by a total of 80-70.
In net, Ben Bishop went 3-0-0 with a 2.34 GAA and a .900 SV%, while Henrik Lundqvist struggled, going 0-3-0 with a 4.74 GAA and a .823 SV%.
Rick Nash, Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard each had 3 points in the three games against Tampa Bay, with only one goal between them however. For Tampa Bay, there were seven players who scored at least a point per game. Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson led the way with 7 and 6 points, respectively. Ryan Callahan had 4 goals and Victor Hedman chipped in 3 points in one game.
Tampa Bay Lightning Stats: New York Rangers Stats: Advantage:
3.16 Goals/Game 3.02 Goals/Game Tampa Bay Lightning
2.51 Goals Against/Game 2.28 Goals Against/Game New York Rangers
18.8% Powerplay 16.8% Powerplay Tampa Bay Lightning
83.7% Penalty Kill 84.3% Penalty Kill New York Rangers
29.6 Shots/Game 31.5 Shots/Game New York Rangers
27.9 Shots Against/Game 29.5 Shots Against/Game Tampa Bay Lightning
412 SAT -77 SAT Tampa Bay Lightning
204 SAT Behind 104 SAT Behind Tampa Bay Lightning
88 SAT Ahead -101 SAT Ahead Tampa Bay Lightning
As you can see, the Tampa Bay Lightning hold the advantage in 6 of 9 major statistical categories. Putting together their head-to-head matches during this season, in which the Lightning won all three, and the advantages in team categories, it looks like the Tampa Bay Lightning should hold the edge in this series. However, you’ll notice that New York will come in as the definite favourites. That leads to a major opportunity for an upset in the Eastern Conference Finals this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning in 7.
This series is certainly going to be a barn burner between two of the fastest teams in the NHL. In my opinion, the Tampa Bay Lightning have too much fire power and have proven time and time again in the regular season that there is a way to beat Henrik Lundqvist. But, on the other hand, the New York Rangers boast unparalleled depth in their lineup, and in the playoffs, goaltenders can steal the game on any night. In any case, this series is certain to be a classic with a high pace, lots of physicality, and end to end action.
Who do you predict will win the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals?