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New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning Preview: A Broadway visit

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The playoffs are still within striking distance.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

New York Rangers (41-22-2 84 pts) at Tampa Bay Lightning (30-26-8 68 pts): Game 65

Time: 7:30 pm EST

Location: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida

Broadcast/Streaming: TVAS, SN, SUN, MSG+

Opponent SBNation Site: Blueshirt Banter

Previous Game Musings

Only one thing needs to be said about the Sabres game and that is: Nikita Kucherov is one dirty man.

Preview

The last quarter of the season is underway and the Lightning’s playoff hopes hang in balance. The Bolts are currently three points out of a playoff spot and have played relatively decent enough to be within the race. The Pittsburgh game was an aberration compared to how the Lightning have played recently, however. If they want to keep gaining points the effort is going to have to be better than the last three games.

Tonight, the New York Rangers are in town and they are surely looking to put forth a better effort than they did in their previous game against the Washington Capitals. The Rangers come into tonight’s game with an offense that is in the top five with 210 goals (4th) and a defense that is just outside the top ten with 173 goals allowed (12th). The Rangers’ special teams, surprisingly, are rather mediocre with a power-play that ranks 18th at 18.1% and a penalty kill that ranks 15th at 81.2%.

The last ten games have not been kind to the Rangers. They are 5-4-1 while scoring 21 goals and allowing 28. Their possession game isn’t impressive either, with a Corsi For % of 49% (21st), which makes one think they should be worse than their record indicates, however, the Rangers have received solid goaltending throughout the season from backup Antti Raanta, who currently sports a .920 save percentage. His steady play has helped stabilize a rather rough season for Henrik Lundqvist.

Also of note, the Rangers have been shooting at an above average percentage of 10.70%, with Michael Grabner leading the team in goals with 26. It should be noted that Grabner is shooting at an absurd percentage by his standards. Currently, Grabner is shooting at 19% while over his career, he has shot at 12%. Grabner’s uptick in goal scoring and J.T. Miller’s continued rise as a top line winger has helped the Rangers’ offense offset any perceived possession issues.

Goals per month comparison, 2016-2017
Month New York Rangers Tampa Bay Lightning
October 35 23
November 58 44
December 47 39
January 35 30
February 36 35

Now as for Tampa Bay, nothing has really changed over the last few games, both the offense and defense are firmly in the middle of the league with 179 goals scored (16th) and 180 goals allowed (16th). The special teams continue to be opposites of each other with a power-play that ranks 3rd in the league at 22.7% and a penalty kill that ranks 22nd at 79.7%. Over the last ten games the Lightning sport a 6-2-2 record while scoring 29 goals and allowing 23, the Bolts have played well over this span, however, they have struggled over the last three games. Defeating Carolina while being outplayed for most of the game was luck, which was promptly followed by a beat down from the Penguins, and then segued into a rather lackluster win against Buffalo.

If the Lightning want to continue gaining points, then the effort put forward must exceed the weak performances of the past three games. The Rangers aren’t going to be pushed around, especially by a bubble team that has been plagued with inconsistent play. The Lightning have to play with a sense of urgency that seems to have eluded them lately. Strong forechecking, defensive discipline, and a shooting mentality are the keys to earning two points against the Rangers this evening.

Comparison Chart

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Ondrej PalatTyler JohnsonNikita Kucherov

Alex KillornBrayden PointJonathan Drouin

Yanni GourdeVladislav NamestnikovAdam Erne

Gabriel DumontCedric PaquetteJ.T. Brown

Defense

Victor Hedman -- Jake Dotchin

Jason Garrison -- Anton Stralman

Braydon Coburn -- Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Peter Budaj

New York Rangers

Forwards

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello

Pavel Buchnevich - Mika Zibanejad - Rick Nash

Jimmy Vesey - Kevin Hayes - J.T. Miller

Matt Puempel - Oscar Lindberg - Brandon Pirri

Defense

Ryan McDonagh - Brendan Smith

Marc Staal - Nick Holden

Brady Skjei - Adam Clendening

Goaltenders

Antti Raanta

Henrik Lundqvist