Eastern Conference Final
Rangers vs Tampa Bay
Madison Square Garden (New York, USA)
Tampa Bay are unbeaten in the NHL playoffs in ten straight series. Will Gerard Gallant's team be able to stop the Lightning's winning streak now? We predict that the defending champion will be stronger again!Get Your Welcome Bonus!
The Rangers last reached the main playoff net in the 2016/17 season, when they lost in the second round to Ottawa. After that, New York embarked on a stuff rebuild that could not be combined with solving big problems. The New York team gradually emerged stronger and more experienced, and before the start of this season, the experienced Gerard Gallant was appointed as their new head coach. Under his guidance, the Rangers finally made their way into the cup battles, having strengthened the squad beforehand.
The Rangers' path to the current Stanley Cup would be short since the players did not have much cup experience. Already in the first round, Gerard Gallant's men were on the verge of relegation, losing to Pittsburgh 3-1 in the series. Nevertheless, they managed to add to their lead in the decisive seventh game, where a precise shot by Artemi Panarin in overtime pushed the New York club into the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
In the second round, the Rangers would face a stronger and more organized opponent, who had started the series at home, while Carolina had not yet lost on home ice in the current playoffs. Rod Brind'amour's squad picked up two straight home wins against the Blue Jackets, but even here, the New York club pulled through to the deciding point. In the seventh game, Gerard Gallant's charges left the Hurricanes no chance for success - 6-2.
Tampa Bay are the best team in the NHL for the last two seasons. The Lightning managed to win the Stanley Cup twice in a row, but in the offseason, they had to get rid of several important players on the championship roster to stay within the salary cap. Jon Cooper's team spent the regular season without much fanfare. Still, the recruits benefited from that time, as they adapted to the coaching staff's requirements and developed the necessary chemistry in the lineup.
Tampa Bay, of course, advanced to the playoffs, albeit from fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Lightning fell to Toronto in the first round, which had an impressive roster. In the first game, the Maple Leafs showed the champion that they were ready for a battle, winning 5-0, but gradually the situation in the series leveled up. It came to the seventh game, where Jon Cooper's wards managed to win on the experience, 2-1, reaching the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
In the second round, Tampa Bay faced a geographical neighbor, Florida. In last year's regular season, the Panthers set numerous club records and won the President's Trophy, finishing first in the standings. It looked like it would be extremely difficult for the Lightning to succeed now, but the Blue and White showed from the first game that they were stronger than their opponent, 4-1, and then won three more in a row, making it to the eastern final.
History of head-to-head encounters between the Rangers and Tampa Bay
The teams have only played each other in one playoff series in their history. In the 2014/15 season, Tampa Bay's players celebrated a 4-3 victory in the confrontation. In the last regular season, the rivals played three head-to-head games. The Rangers hockey players were stronger in each game - 4:3, 4:0, and 2:1.
Expert Betting Tips
The Rangers approach their clash with Tampa Bay with little to no trump card to beat the strongest team of the last two seasons. Yes, the New York team starts the series at home, but the Lightning also started on the road in the previous two rounds, which did not prevent them from achieving the final success. Yes, the Rangers won all three head-to-head meetings in the last regular season, but Jon Cooper's team in the regular season and Jon Cooper's team in the playoffs are two different teams. Their tremendous cup experience, ability to pull off key plays, and the extra week off should justify a bet on Tampa Bay's victory with a handicap (-1.5) for 2.10 in the series.
The Rangers and Tampa Bay are also a rivalry between two Russian goalies who continue to perform at their highest level this season. Andrei Vasilevskiy is the Vezina Trophy winner, while Igor Shesterkin is a contender for the title this season. Both goalies are in terrific form, and both teams' stellar defensive lines have helped them post such solid successes. Don't expect a goal extravaganza. There's too much at stake for both teams to concentrate on defense. With that in mind, we'd like to bet on Total Under 33.5 pucks in the series.
At the beginning of their cup campaign, the Rangers played outstandingly and productively against Pittsburgh, scoring numerous goals time and time again. There was an obvious reason for that. The Penguins had both their goalkeepers injured, so they had to open their game up by playing attacking hockey. On the other hand, against Carolina, the New York team did not have a single game in which they were ineffective. Tampa Bay also had only once scored ten goals against Toronto in their previous 11 games, while the rest had significantly fewer goals. In such a situation, a bet on Total Under 8.5 in the highest-scoring game of the series for 2.03 is worth a closer look.
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