The New York Rangers return to Madison Sq. Backyard for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday following two straight wins by the Tampa Bay Lightning within the Sunshine State that evened the collection at 2-2.
“We’re one in every of three groups left right here. You count on their greatest. You need their greatest. And we wish to present we will beat the very best,” Rangers defenseman Jacob Trouba stated. “We really feel we’re an up-and-coming crew. We have arrived. We wish to play these video games.”
What is the higher pressure: The Rangers’ residence profitable streak, which stands at eight playoff video games, or the Lightning’s momentum within the collection?
This is our breakdown of Sport 5:
Key non-goalie for every crew
Rangers: Adam Fox. The Rangers defenseman had his most pedestrian efficiency of the playoffs in Sport 4. He was a minus-Three on the scoresheet and did not register a shot try in 23:44 of ice time. To place that in perspective: This was the one postseason recreation wherein Fox didn’t register a shot, and simply the third recreation wherein he did not tally a degree — the opposite two approaching the highway towards the Carolina Hurricanes.
The excellent news is that the Rangers’ sensible younger blueliner has feasted on residence cooking, main them with 13 factors in 9 residence video games. They will want extra from their again finish offensively if their ahead group is impacted by accidents, and Fox can present that. Clearly, a bit of extra power-play time would assist: Whereas the Rangers went 1-for-2 in Sport 4, they’d just one:15 with the person benefit, when Fox is so efficient as a quarterback.
Lightning: Nikita Kucherov. As captain Steven Stamkos advised me, the Lightning know when Kucherov is on and it units the tone for them when he is. The previous Hart Trophy winner has grow to be the collection’ most impactful participant. He was on the ice for eight of the Lightning’s final 9 objectives, incomes a degree on six of them. The objectives he has scored have been large, sparking Tampa Bay’s rally from being down 0-2 in Sport Three and including a important second objective in Sport Four on a breakaway. His move to Ondrej Palat to arrange the Sport Three winner could possibly be the turning level within the collection.
Kucherov is taking this factor over, and the Rangers need to discover a option to gradual his roll.
Goalie confidence ranking
Rangers: 8. This collection is now 2-2 regardless of the very best efforts of Igor Shesterkin. Like the remainder of the Rangers, Sport Four was not his best of the playoffs, but it surely adopted a ridiculous 49-save Sport Three efficiency. He has been on the optimistic facet of objectives saved above anticipated in each recreation since Sport 6 of the collection towards the Pittsburgh Penguins, and stays the spine of this playoff run.
However once more: He has performed lots of hockey on this postseason, with two seven-game collection, a recreation wherein he confronted 83 photographs and a current one wherein he confronted 52. Hopefully his Sport Four efficiency is not the primary inkling that the grind is catching up with him. The perfect information: He is on an eight-game profitable streak with a .948 save share total at MSG. Oh, and with two assists, in fact.
Lightning: 8. The Huge Cat had his worst recreation of the playoffs in Sport 1 of this collection, and was within the unfavorable on objectives saved above anticipated in Sport 2. Coach Jon Cooper’s principle is that Vasilevskiy was impacted greater than the Lightning skaters by their nine-day layoff after sweeping the Florida Panthers. There could also be one thing to that, primarily based on how he performed at residence. Cooper stated Vasilevskiy “acquired his mojo again” since, and it is arduous to not disagree.
That stated, the Rangers are a special offensive crew at residence: They common 4.22 objectives per recreation at MSG vs. 2.44 objectives per recreation on the highway. Sport 5 would be the “mojo check” for Vasy.
Path to victory
Rangers: The trail begins with good harm information on Ryan Strome and particularly Filip Chytil, the engine for the crew’s Child Line. Strome skated in warm-ups earlier than Sport Four however could not go. Chytil was injured on a Victor Hedman examine throughout Sport 4; like Strome, he’s a game-time determination for Sport 5. Each play important roles within the center for a crew that has generated one even-strength objective because the first interval of Sport 2. If both or each cannot go, it means lineup scrambling for Gerard Gallant.
That established, the following step on that path for the Rangers is to play like they have been enjoying on residence ice: possessing the puck, coming at opponents in waves, incomes time for his or her potent energy play. And maybe most significantly, enjoying with the swagger that has enabled them to win each residence recreation since shedding in triple-OT to the Penguins.
“Better of three. Gained two at residence. Misplaced two on the highway final time. That is how a collection is meant to be in principle, proper? Supposed have the ability to maintain serve,” ahead Chris Kreider stated.
Lightning: There was lots of discuss across the Lightning a few “swap being flipped” halfway by means of Sport 2 at MSG. That is once they simplified their recreation and performed with offensive flourish solely once they’d earned the zone time to take action, slightly than the opposite approach round. The outcomes are clear: They went from 28 giveaways in Sport 1 to 22 giveaways in Sport 2 to 13 giveaways mixed in Video games Three and 4.
They should proceed to restrict the Rangers’ counterpunching rush possibilities, restrict their power-play time and hopefully get Anthony Cirelli‘s newly fashioned checking line with Brandon Hagel and Alex Killorn out towards the Mika Zibanejad line — whereas watching Kucherov and Stamkos work their magic offensively.
Ultimate rating prediction: Rangers 3-2
The Rangers are the Harvey Dent of the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs — continuously grotesque on the highway, Gotham’s white knight at residence. I’ve seen them pull this act for 2 rounds and eight straight residence victories.
The accidents are a priority. The fatigue is not — if the Rangers get to play their recreation. In fact, it will appear like they’re skating in quicksand in the event that they’re trailing after two minutes and having to defend greater than they assault. I do know the narrative is that the Lightning have recalibrated, shaken off the rust and brought management of the collection. I’ve seen the Rangers rewrite too many narratives on this playoff run to imagine they will not do it once more.