Rangers and Lightning are set to collide in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, all while a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals hangs in the balance. Can the Rangers come through on their favorable odds? Find out as we preview this series and serve up our NHL picks.
Eastern Conference Finals
Top favorites New York Rangers have underscored their Stanley Cup betting odds to reach the Eastern Conference finals. Right from the start, the Rangers were seen as the team to beat. After finishing runners- up to Los Angeles Kings last year, the Rangers went back to work this season, producing one of their best regular season runs behind a President Trophy winning account. Now they stand on the brink of a second straight Stanley Cup Finals with only the electric Tampa Bay Lightning standing in their way. Can they come through as the -140 series favorites at the expense of the Lightning and book their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals?
Rangers vs. Lightning Matchup
The Rangers clinched top seed in the Eastern Conference behind a 53-22-7 mark on the season, a regular season run that delivered the President Trophy as well. In the postseason, it's not been smooth sailing.
Against the Penguins, the Rangers got off to a slow start splitting the first two games before hitting their stride to win three in a row and clinch the series in game 5. The second round of the NHL playoffs saw the Rangers fall behind 3-1 to the Capitals before reeling off three straight wins to clinch the series in a dramatic game 7 with an overtime goal.
To put it simply, these Rangers don't faze easy. This penchant to go the distance however can come back to bite them as it did last year when they simply ran out of gas in the Stanley Cup Finals. On one hand, it makes for dramatic NHL betting and thrilling entertainment for viewers. But it would be a whole lot better if they didn't make things so agonisingly difficult for themselves.
Tampa Bay Lightning are sure to take a page from the Washington Capitals and look to make things as difficult as possible for the Rangers. They may be the underdogs of the series at +120 NHL betting odds and long shots of the last four at +370 futures on the Stanley Cup odds board, but they'll fancy their chances. After all, they are one round away from the coveted Stanley Cup finals and they are through to this enviable position by knocking out some stiff opponents.
Tampa Bay Lightning finished the regular season behind a 50-24-8 account and clinching third seed. They opened the postseason as the sixth overall favorites at +1000 NHL pick to win the Stanley Cup finals. True to form, they didn't have an easy time of it at all and they come into the Eastern Conference finals having played the most games (13) of all the teams left standing in the NHL Playoffs. In the first round, they went the distance against a gutsy Detroit Red Wings side, coming back from 2-3 down to win the series in game 7. In the second round, they avenged last season's loss to the Canadiens by eliminating their northern neighbours in game 6. They were up 3-0 in the series, however, and did themselves no favors by dropping the next two games before finishing the job at home with a 4-1 win.
NHL Betting Verdict
NHL bettors buckle down. For this could be another long series to trade on in NHL betting markets. Both these teams come into the Eastern Conference finals having put in a lot of ice time. The Rangers have played 12 games to get here while the Lightning have played one more. Obviously, these are tired legs. Still, it's the name of the game and these players know exactly what it takes and what's at stake here: the Stanley Cup.
Predictably, the odds makers give the edge to the Rangers on the NHL odds board at -140 to win outright to clinch the series. They are also trading the Rangers at -140 to win game 1 of this series at Madison Square Garden. They have the momentum behind three straight wins that salvaged their postseason campaign. The momentum they are enjoying together with home advantage lends weight to these NHL odds. One wonders though whether they won't be suffering the hangover effect of the heroic comeback over the Capitals yet. It's also worth mentioning that the Lightning won both their visits to Madison Square Garden in the regular season, steamrolling the Rangers 11-4 combined and they've won four of their last six olayoff road games. These aren't underdogs to take lightly at all.
NHL Prediction: Rangers build on their semi-final run with a strong start to game 1. Take the Rangers to win the opening game at -140 and to clinch the series in seven games.
NHL Picks: Rangers to win at -140, both game 1 and series in game 7