Lightning Round: Tampa Bay Lightning to face New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final

Out west it’s going to be a battle of offensive stars as Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers take on the Colorado Avalanche and Nathan MacKinnon. In the east, it will be a battle of the goaltenders with the Tampa Bay Lighting and Andrei Vasilevskiy heading up to take on Igor Shesterkin and the New York Rangers.

Goals will be a premium as the two teams meet in the playoffs for the first time since the 2015 Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers scored early and shut down the Carolina Hurricanes throughout the night as they won yet another Game Seven.

Chris Kreider scored twice in the 6-2 win to bring his total to 15 career goals in elimination games. That’s pretty impressive (and one off the all-time record). For the first time in the series the road team won a game. Carolina had been 7-0 at home in this year’s postseason (but 0-6 on the road).

With the win, the Rangers will host the Lightning in the ECF, a rematch of the 2015 series. However, don’t expect too many current Ranger players to care about the outcome of that series as Kreider is the only player that was around for that series.

He had 2 goals and 2 assists in the series. Ryan McDonagh was also on that New York squad (he had 1 goal, 2 assists) and will now return to the Big Apple as the enemy.

The Lightning have six players left on the roster from that team (Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy). It was a back-and-forth series that featured close games and blowouts (the Lightning dropping Game Six, 7-3 at home with a chance to clinch the series had everyone writing them off).

Ben Bishop pulled a Vasilevskiy in Game Seven, though, shutting out the Rangers, 2-0. Goals by Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat were the difference and sent the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.

During the regular season the Lightning went 0-2-1 against the Rangers, although two of the losses came when Tampa Bay was dealing with their COVID issues during the holidays.

Anthony Cirelli, Erik Cernak, and Vasilevskiy were out on the New Year’s Eve 4-3 loss shoot-out loss. The trio returned for the follow-up game, a 4-0 loss a few nights later where Shesterkin turned aside 38 shots.

Their final meet-up came in mid-March as Mika Zibanejad scored with 16 seconds left in the game for the 2-1 win. Shesterkin had 28 saves on 29 shots in that one. The young netminder made 91 saves on 94 shots against the Lightning in the regular season. Something to keep an eye on.