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

It’s a rematch of the 2015 ECF!

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New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Three Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images

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.

The series gets underway on Wednesday.

Lightning / NHL News

Lightning benefit from scoring balance across the lineup [Tampa Bay Times]

At times this year’s version of the Lightning haven’t seemed as deep as previous versions, yet in the playoffs they’ve been getting scoring from just about everyone. That will only become more important if they want to keep advancing.

How the Lightning drafted Andrei Vasilevskiy [The Athletic]

Joe Smith hits it out of the park again with an in-depth look back at how Andrei Vasilevskiy came to be a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. If not for a sunburn he could be toiling away in Ottawa.

After lengthy layoff, Lightning getting ready for East final [AP News]

The last time the Lightning had this long of a break between series was back in 2011 between the Washington and Boston series. That was a pretty young team and they lost in 7 games to the Bruins. This time around they’ll rely on their veterans to be ready by the time the puck drops on Wednesday.

Nick Paul continues ‘Points by Paul’ campaign [WFTS ABC News]

Motivated by a childhood friend who took his own life when Paul was in Grade 9, the Lightning forward has spent his career raising money for the Royal Ottawa Foundation for youth mental health. For every point he records, he donates $150 to the foundation. If you’re interested in contributing as well, you can sign up with a link to the Ottawa Senators page.

The Lightning have until June 1st to sign Declan McDonnell to a contract or risk seeing the 20-year-old re-enter the draft. Based on his performance over the past year, it’s kind of odd that they haven’t signed him yet.

NHL Combine under way in Buffalo [NHL.com]

It doesn’t get the hype of the NFL Draft Combine, but a lot of eyes will be on Buffalo as the prospects in this year’s NHL Draft will be working out for their future employers. With 96 of the top draft-eligible players in attendance, the next member of the Tampa Bay Lightning organization is likely to be there.

Tonight’s Game:

Edmonton Oilers at Colorado Avalanche, 8:00 PM EST, TNT, CBC, TVAS, SN

Game One

McDavid vs. MacKinnon. This series is going to be fun. Can Colorado finally live up to the potential that they’ve built up over the last few years? Can McDavid finally drag his teammates to the Stanley Cup Final?