Which potential conference final opponent is best matchup for Lightning? & More Trending News

 

TAMPA — After sweeping the Panthers to advance to the Eastern Conference final, the Lightning get to take a seat again and watch to see who their subsequent opponent might be.

The different second-round playoff sequence within the East, the Hurricanes and Rangers — the highest two groups within the Metropolitan Division — are tied at two video games apiece.

With the sequence assured to go a minimum of six video games, the Lightning gained’t play once more till Monday on the earliest and probably as late as Wednesday if the sequence goes a full seven.

“I’m watching the other games,” Lightning ahead Corey Perry mentioned earlier than Game 4 towards the Panthers on Monday. “A lot of guys are. We’re hockey players, and we like to see what’s going on around the league and how everybody else is doing and know where the series are at.”

The Lightning have proven once more that the common season is merely a costume rehearsal for the playoffs and they’re at their best beneath the postseason highlight.

Which potential conference final opponent presents the best matchup?

The Lightning performed the Hurricanes and Rangers 3 times every throughout the common season. Five of these video games had been determined by one aim, and three went to additional time.

The one sport that wasn’t tight was the Lightning’s 4-0 loss Jan. 2 on the Rangers. The sport was goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy’s first since getting back from the COVID-19 protocol, and it wasn’t the Lightning’s best defensive effort. Two targets had been a results of turnovers, and one hit off a defenseman’s stick earlier than going into the online.

The Lightning’s sport has been rounding into type because the postseason has progressed. Against the Panthers, they protected their internet and the puck, and Vasilevskiy has held opponents to 1 aim or fewer in every of the previous 5 video games.

Here’s a breakdown of the Rangers and Hurricanes.

Rangers

The Rangers resemble the Lightning once they had been transitioning from a high-flying offensive juggernaut to the basically sound squad that has gained two straight Stanley Cups. New York grew to become more durable within the offseason, getting hard-nosed former Lightning ahead Barclay Goodrow, who had been out with a lower-body damage, and enforcer Ryan Reeves.

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Both groups have elite goaltenders. The Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin, possible this season’s Vezina Trophy winner, appears to be like so much like a younger Vasilevskiy.

New York got here again from a 3-1 deficit to beat Pittsburgh within the first spherical and has evened its present sequence after falling behind 2-0.

A sequence with the Lightning can be a bodily and tight, and the Lightning must steal a minimum of a sport at Madison Square Garden, the place the Rangers have gained 5 straight. But the Lightning have depth and expertise on their facet.

The distinction may come down to 2 gamers who didn’t play within the three regular-season conferences. Rangers trade-deadline pickup Andrew Copp has 5 targets and 5 assists within the playoffs. The Lightning’s Nick Paul (two targets, 4 assists) is now the top-line middle and enjoying on the penalty kill and energy play whereas enjoying a mean of 18:55.

Hurricanes

The Lightning know the Hurricanes nicely. Because of final season’s regionally realigned divisions and playoff format, Tampa Bay has performed Carolina 16 instances for the reason that starting of final season.

Like the Panthers, the Hurricanes create probabilities off turnovers. Unlike Florida, which likes to take action with its velocity, Carolina creates turnovers with strain. The Lightning have likened the Hurricanes’ model to 60 minutes of dealing with a full-court press.

The Hurricanes play extraordinarily nicely at dwelling, and their “Caniacs” create a home-ice benefit within the postseason. They’re undefeated at dwelling this postseason and 14-3 at dwelling of their final 17 postseason video games at PNC Arena.

Those three losses had been to the Lightning in final season’s second spherical. Tampa Bay gained the sequence in 5 video games, largely as a result of it was ready to remove Carolina’s home-ice benefit.

Ultimately, given the Lightning’s data of and success towards the Hurricanes, Carolina would appear to be the best matchup. The Rangers seem to resemble the Lightning somewhat an excessive amount of. But if Tampa Bay continues to play protection, block pictures and defend the puck, it is going to be a tough matchup for any staff.

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Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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