The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers will square off for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference final on Monday night. The Rangers drew first blood with a 2-1 win in Game 1 but can they cash on the NHL lines and edge them out in Game 2 again?
The Tampa Bay Lightning Can Win Because…
They aren’t going to spend so much time in their own zone. The Lightning were ineffective in Game 1 because the Rangers bottled them up in their own zone. Tampa Bay is a team that likes to get out there, get in transition and skate but it’s hard to do that when you’re caught in your own zone and the Rangers blue liners are intercepting your neutral zone passes. The Lightning had Sunday to work on this in practice and find a way through, so look for them to be better in that regard.
Tampa Bay has much room for improvement, as evidenced by the stats. They only had 24 shots on net, which is mediocre by their standards. They only had a total of five shots on net in the third period. On top of that, they were outhit 30-18 and they had fewer takeaways.
Look for them to play better in Game 2 and get this series leveled up.
The New York Rangers Can Win Because…
They dictated the pace of Game 1 and they’ll do it again in Game 2. When you look at the final score, the Rangers – again – won 2-1. In case you haven’t noticed, that now makes it seven times that the Rangers have won by a count of 2-1 this postseason (seven out of their nine wins). They find ways to grind out wins and the Pittsburgh Penguins had no answers, the Washington Capitals couldn’t handle it and now the Lightning couldn’t either.
While the Lightning are sure to make some adjustments, it’s hard to get around the facts: no team in the Eastern Conference – or maybe even the NHL – has a blue line as deep as the Rangers. That’s mostly why the Lightning struggled as their stellar offensive weapons were met with great blue liners at every turn. Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Kevin Klein, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle are a huge handful and Tampa Bay is going to be challenged getting through that. And if they do, they’ll need to get through Henrik Lundqvist, who now has a .945 save percentage in the playoffs.
We hear it time and time again: good defense beats good offense. Well, here we go again.
Game 2 is a tough one to call on the side as there’s too much juice to lay with the Rangers on the NHL betting odds, and the game will probably be a coin flip. One bounce here or a goal there is going to be the difference; I don’t expect this to be a 5-2 result.
Under figures to be the safest play in my books as both goaltenders are hot. The Rangers offense has averaged just 1.8 goals per game in their last six while the Lightning are having a tough time with the Rangers defensive corps. Look for this to be another conservative, low-scoring affair here, so go under with your NHL picks.
NHL Picks: Under at The Greek