Our NHL consultant previews the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Lightning and Rangers. This revealing betting article concludes with his money line series selection.
NHL Eastern Conference Finals
The 2015 Eastern Conference Finals series is etched in stone with the Rangers and Lightning set to square off. The Rangers entered the playoffs as the #1 overall seed in these 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Tampa Bay was a #3 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket. According to the NHL betting odds at Bovada, the Rangers are -150 and Tampa Bay is +130 to win this series. The Lightning defeated the Rangers in all three of their regular season meetings, and each of those games went over the total.
Upstart versus Stalwart Goaltending Matchup
Ben Bishop has made the first playoff starts of his career during the 2015 postseason. If there was an early grade posted to his performance, then he’s thus far passed with flying colors. Bishop has gone 8-5 in the first two series, and compiled an outstanding .931 save percentage in doing so.
What can you say about the Rangers Henrik Lundqvist which hasn’t been conveyed already? He’s assuredly one of the top five goaltenders on the planet, possesses a plethora of big game experience, and that includes playing in the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals. During the 2015 playoffs, he’s gone 8-4 with a superb .944 save percentage. He was clutch in the Rangers last three wins which enabled them to overcome a 3-1 series deficit versus Washington. In those outings he had an outstanding .955 save percentage. On a negative note, he was 0-3 this season versus the Lightning, and had an uncharacteristically poor .822 save percentage.
John Cooper has done a terrific job since taking over as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning prior to the start of the 2013-2014 NHL campaign. Since that time, the Lightning have a regular season money line record of 96-68 (.585), and they’re 8-9 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Cooper won the 2013 AHL Calder Cup Championship as the head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, and that team set a league record by winning 28 consecutive games in a row at one point.
Alain Vigneault is certainly the more experienced and accomplished head coach in this series. His teams have reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 with Vancouver, and in 2014 with the New York Rangers. Unfortunately on both occasions he came up short of capturing the Stanley Cup. He also won the Jack Adams award (NHL Coach of the Year) for the 2006-2007 NHL campaign in his first year with the Vancouver Canucks. He has a 98-66 (.605) regular season money line record in his two years with the Rangers, and “The Blue Shirts” have won five of six playoff series under his guidance.
Prior to the start of the playoffs I picked the Rangers at NHL betting odds of +550 to win the Stanley Cup. There’s no sense in me making a u-turn at this juncture. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that this will be an extremely tough series regardless of that selection. It wouldn’t shock me in the least if this goes a full seven games. I’m taking the Rangers at -150 to win the series for one of my NHL picks.
NHL Pick: Rangers as -150 money line price to win the series over Tampa Bay at Bovada.