The best case scenario for the Tampa Bay Lightning has come: they have swept their opponent in the second round, while the two other teams in the East (New York and Carolina) have battled it out all the way to seven games. Tonight is that seventh and deciding game, with the loser going home, and the winner turning to face the Bolts for 4-7 games. As Lightning fans, that’s probably where we think that for them will end.
Currently the Rangers and Hurricanes have perfectly split their series, with each team winning three games at home and losing three games on the road. Carolina, in fact, has been perfect at home and winless on the road even dating back to the first round when they beat the Boston Bruins in seven games. Carolina also gets the benefit of home ice tonight, so it’s their game to lose.
For Lightning fans watching this game, who do we want to cheer for? Well, it’s not really cheering, more like hoping the team that’s easier to beat wins. So that changes the question. Which team would the Lightning have an easier time against? Let’s look into that for a bit in a pseudo-preview of the third round.
New York Rangers Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: Igor Shesterkin, Power Play
Weaknesses: Defense, Consistency
The Rangers are a funny team, more maybe just a young team. They have among the worst 5v5 play driving numbers in the playoffs, with their lack of defense especially clear. Meanwhile their offense is pretty spotty — until you give them a lead to chase. The Rangers have among the best offenses (behind Edmonton and Colorado), and against the Hurricanes and their goaltending, it’s put them ahead early and out of the Hurricane’s reach. Against the Penguins it was a different story where their scoring from behind went up and they came back from three multi-goal deficits in the last three games to beat their opponent. Their power play is also deadly, as it has been all season.
This is a very classic young team trait. They chase the score and don’t play a consistent game, letting their goaltending and scoring carry them. The offense has carried them this far, but there’s no guarantee it’ll take them through the Lightning. I can almost guarantee the Bolts will smother them up just like they did the Panthers. Shesterkin is a great young goalie, and he’d probably be great in a series against the Lightning too, but you need more than just a goalie — something the Rangers should probably know by now having had Henrik Lundqvist for 20 years.
Carolina Hurricanes Strengths and Weaknesses
Strengths: 5v5 Play Driving, Penalties, Home Ice
Antti Raanta is a decent tandem goaltender, but he’s no Shesterkin, and he’s definitely no Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Hurricanes instead try to control the possession of the puck for vast swathes of the game instead of having to play defense, and when they do defend, the Hurricanes implement of a philosophy of clutching and grabbing as much as possible because the referees in this league will only call so much and intend on keeping penalties even between both parties. I think this tactic works well, except when you go up against the Rangers power play, which has blown them up. It would also be pretty bad against the Lightning’s power play.
The Lightning also have past experience with the Hurricanes when it comes to their second round series last season. When the Lightning scored those back-breaking, opportunistic goals they love so much early in periods and on counterattacks, it revealed how little pushback the Hurricanes could muster. They don’t have the starpower to go all-out on offense late in games, and they’ve been got on comebacks several times against the Rangers and Bruins this playoffs already. I think the Hurricanes look really solid on paper, but have very clear ways in which they fall apart. I don’t think they can lock down leads against teams with great offenses, and I don’t think they have a great offense that can come from behind.
The Lightning have shown the ability to play the Hurricanes style better than them and win. They have also shown the ability to tear apart young teams like the Rangers over and over again. No matter who the Lightning face, they will be the favorites. Personally, let’s see the Rangers play the Lightning. I think that would be a fun series.
Who are you cheering for tonight? Make your choice in the poll and let me know in the comments.
Who are you cheering for tonight?
This poll is closed
New York Rangers