Quick Bit: Two of the best goalies in the league go head-to-head with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final on the line.

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The champs from the Bay against the kids from Broadway. That’s what we have in the 2022 Eastern Conference finals.

The Lightning and the Rangers square off in the conference finals after winning their respective second-round series. Tampa Bay is making its third consecutive conference finals appearance while New York is in the third round for the first time since 2015.

The opponent in that series? The Lightning, who defeated the Rangers in seven games to reach the franchise’s second Stanley Cup Final.

The Lightning have had arguably the most impressive showing in any series thus far, sweeping the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers. Florida’s high-flying offense managed just three goals in four games and the power play failed to capitalize on a single opportunity. Tampa Bay could not be more confident heading into the conference finals.

At the helm of the offense is Nikita Kucherov, who continues to step up his game in the postseason. He has 15 points in 11 games entering the conference finals.

On the other side is a Rangers team that continues to show its resiliency. After falling down 3-2 in the series to the Carolina, New York won Games 6 and 7, in the process handing the Hurricanes their first home loss of the postseason with a 6-2 win in the final game of the series.

Leading the way is goalie Igor Shesterkin, who looked a lot more like his regular-season self than he did in the first round against the Penguins. He allowed just 12 goals on 244 shots against in the series vs. the Hurricanes. On offense, Mika Zibanajed continues to be fantastic as the team’s top-line center. He has recorded 19 points in 14 games so far in these playoffs.

The Rangers swept the season series against the Lightning, winning all three contest, but the playoffs are a different animal.

SCHEDULE: Bracket, dates, times, TV channels for every series

Here’s everything you need to know about the Eastern Conference finals between the Lightning and Rangers:

Key storyline: Can Igor Shesterkin match Andrei Vasilevskiy in the crease?

The best goalie in the regular season against the best goalie in these playoffs: This series will most certainly come down to the two men in the crease.

After a shaky first series, Vasilevskiy was stellar in the second round against the Panthers, limiting Florida to just three goals against in four games. The 2021 Conn Smythe winner is 8-3 this postseason with a 2.22 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. His 11.0 goals saved above expected is second behind only Shesterkin, and he is coming off a series-clinching shutout of the Panthers.

Shesterkin followed a similar pattern. He did not play great against the Penguins in the first round but bounced back with a solid showing against the Hurricanes. He enters the third round with an 8-5 record, a 2.68 GAA and a .928 save percentage. Shesterkin’s 11.4 goals saved above expected is the best in these playoffs.

This season, Shesterkin was strong when playing Tampa Bay. In the three wins for New York, the goalie had a 1.30 GAA, .958 save percentage and a 38-save shutout.

The Lightning can win in multiple ways, but for the most part, the Rangers rely on Shesterkin to pull out victories. He needs to bring his A-game in every contest in his series for New York to advance.

MORE: Championship odds, best bets to win Stanley Cup

Lightning vs. Rangers schedule, TV channels

Date
Site
Time (ET)
TV
Wed., June 1
at New York
8 p.m.
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
Fri., June 3
at New York
8 p.m.
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
Sun., June 5
at Tampa Bay
3 p.m.
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
Tue., June 7
at Tampa Bay
8 p.m.
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
*Thu., June 9
at New York
TBD
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
*Sat., June 11
at Tampa Bay
TBD
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports
*Tue., June 14
at New York
TBD
ESPN, Sportsnet, CBC, TVA Sports

* If necessary

Lightning vs. Rangers odds

Lightning: -196

Rangers: +142

Odds provided by Sports Interaction

MORE: Every Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoffs MVP

Lightning vs. Rangers prediction

The Rangers were outplayed for the most part against both the Penguins and the Hurricanes, but thanks to Shesterkin and their special teams, they were able to survive and win back-to-back Game 7s.

That strategy is not going to fly against Tampa Bay. This is an experienced group that obviously knows how to win, and if New York allows Tampa Bay to control the game, there is no way it will be as lucky as it was in the first two rounds.

Prediction: Lightning in five

Originally found on Sporting News Read More

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