Fresh off a seven-game series victory over the Carolina Hurricanes, the New York Rangers have had little time to rest and get ready for the Eastern Conference final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Rangers excelled against Tampa Bay in the regular season with a perfect record of 3-0. The Rangers also will have home ice advantage in this series after putting up 110 points on the back of 52 wins over the regular season. Despite this, they are heavy underdogs in this series, coming in at odds of +155 to defeat Tampa Bay on Caesars Sportsbook New York.
Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
- Game 1: Tonight at New York, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
- Game 2: Friday, June 3 at New York, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
- Game 3: Sunday, June 5 at Tampa Bay, 3 p.m. (ESPN)
- Game 4: Tuesday, June 7, at Tampa Bay. 8 p.m. (ESPN)
- *Game 5: Thursday, June 9 at New York, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
- *Game 6: Saturday, June 11 at Tampa Bay, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
- *Game 7: Tuesday, June 14 at New York, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
The Goaltender Matchup
The path sports betting New York players watched the Rangers take to make the Eastern Conference final was relatively simple and was exactly the same route they took to their strong regular-season finish.
That formula is special teams, scoring from top stars and, most important, the strong play of star goaltender Igor Shesterkin.
Shesterkin is a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the heavy favorite to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goalie. He routinely led the Rangers to wins in the regular season.
After a shaky start to the playoffs in the first round against Pittsburgh, Shesterkin has regained his form and was the clear MVP of the second-round series against Carolina.
Shesterkin will meet his toughest goalie matchup thus far with two-time Cup champion and reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy manning the crease for Tampa Bay.
Like Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy started the playoffs slow but has been incredible since, putting up a .980 save percentage in Tampa’s Round 2 sweep of Florida.
Rangers Need Power Play to Continue Clicking
The Rangers’ power play against Carolina was phenomenal, scoring seven goals on 21 opportunities against the Hurricanes’ league-best penalty kill, a similar rate to what they scored in the first round.
With Tampa Bay being one of the league’s most penalized teams in the regular season, the Rangers no doubt will be looking to the power play to stay hot and allow them to get a lead in this series.
Mika Zibanejad led the way offensively with goals in the last four games to end the series and linemate Chris Kreider finally heated up, scoring two goals in the Game 7 victory.
Adam Fox has been excellent on the back end. With 18 points in 14 games; he trails Zibanejad by one point for the team playoff lead.
Artemi Panarin, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, has yet to play to that level in the playoffs. If he gets going, that just adds another threat to the Rangers’ offensive arsenal.
Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafreniere and Kappo Kakko team up on the third line and had a very effective series against Carolina, giving New York three scoring lines to roll out against Vasilevskiy.
Trying to match New York’s scoring will be Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman of the Lightning.
Tampa Bay looks likely to be without Brayden Point for the bulk of the series, a big loss as Point has led the league in goals in each of the past two playoffs.
Breaking Down the Matchup
Caesars rates the four semifinalists’ chances in NHL betting of taking it all: Colorado Avalanche (-105), Tampa Bay Lightning (+220), New York Rangers (+525), Edmonton Oilers (+950).
If Shesterkin can curtail Tampa Bay’s three big guns, the rest of the Lightning will have a tough time keeping pace with the Rangers.
While rest and experience are on Tampa Bay’s side, the plus money on the New York Rangers to win this series is impossible to ignore against a team that they swept in the regular season and matched in overall points.
Igor Shesterkin gives the Lightning something they have yet to see in a playoff opponent, and that is a goalie who can outplay Vasilevskiy when he’s at his best.
At +155, this is a great bet for New York bettors.
For those looking to bet Game 1 odds, BetMGM Sportsbook New York has the Rangers as a +105 moneyline underdog on home ice, with an over-under of 5.5 goals.
The momentum from the Rangers’ Game 7 win should more than counteract the effects that fatigue could have on this team.
Just like their previous series, betting the under will be the most profitable route for bettors to take with the elite goalie matchup and the tight-checking playoff hockey we have seen in the Eastern Conference.