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NHL Eastern Conference Finals
N.Y. Rangers +105 over Tampa Bay
8:05 PM EST. OT included. One figures this Eastern Conference Finals to be the polar opposite of what we saw last night in Game 1 between the Oilers and Avalanche. Out West, where goaltending is apparently optional, the Rangers and Lightning feature the two best goaltenders left in these playoffs.
Before we get to that main course, we’ll start with how each team got here, starting with the Rangers. Nothing New York has done up until this point has been easy. Struggling against Pittsburgh’s third string goalie? Not a good look. Neither was having to knock out Sidney Crosby to put the death knell into the Penguins. Next, the Rangers traded home and away wins and losses with the Hurricanes until bucking the home team trend with a 6-2 win on the road in Raleigh in Game 7. Regardless of location, there was one reason New York edged out the analytics darlings in Carolina—Igor Shesterkin.
While it might not have had the heat of the “Battle of Alberta,” the “Governor's Cup,” which is the billing of the I-75 grudge between the Lightning and Panthers, is a worthy rivalry. Despite the abundant sunshine, the Cats and Bolts have now played in back-to-back postseasons. There is some spicy mustard on that hot dog. Is it out of line to suggest that the Lightning might not have as much juice for the Rags as they did for their most hated foe? How much gas is left in their tank when you also consider the Lightning’s fiery seven game series with the Maple Leafs? Moreover, the Bolts have played more hockey over the last two years than any team in the NHL. Their pandemic Stanley Cup runs may have been light on games, but they were both stressful. Not to mention both mentally and physically taxing in their own ways.
By thumping the President’s Trophy winning Panthers in a four game sweep, the Lightning’s stock is nearing a championship level of inflation. How can Tampa be a -185 to win this series? At this point in the playoffs, the Bolts are a trusted commodity while the Rangers ---not so much. You see, all the media is discussing in regards to the Rangers is that they defeated a third string goaltender v Pittsburgh and a second and third string goaltender v Carolina. While that’s true, what were they supposedly to do, lose? Let’s not dismiss that the Rangers have the firepower to trade punches with the Lightning. Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Chris Kreider and Andrew Copp are all bonafide stars. The Rangers go deeper than that, especially on defense, which they hold a major edge over the Bolts. Furthermore, what about Tampa? They beat Sergei Bobrovsky and Jack Campbell and now take a massive step up in class when facing New York’s Vezina winning/MVP -goaltender.
Tampa fronts an aging core that features the often injured Victor Hedman (31), Ryan McDonagh (32) and Zach Bogosian (31). There’s a ton of wear and tear on those tires. The same can be said for many of Tampa’s forwards. Those coming in on the wrong side of 30 include Steven Stamkos, Ondřej Palát, Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, Patrick Maroon, Riley Nash and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare. Again, there are a lot of miles on these players’ legs. The Rangers are younger, quicker and at the very least, they are equal in goal.
Shesterkin versus Andrei Vasilevskiy is what you’ll read about in the New York Post and on ESPN, so we’re not going to be redundant or long winded. In short, when looking at High Danger Saves in this year’s playoffs, Shesterkin has posted twice as many High Danger Saves per game than Vasilevskiy. Point is, Tampa for the first time in this year’s playoffs does not have a massive edge in net. We also like the fact that Tampa has been off for eight days while the Rags will continue their every other day routine.
One could bet the Rangers to win this series, which would allow one to sit back, relax and watch it all play out, but that is not going to be our approach in this Eastern Conference Finals. There appears to be tremendous value on the Rangers thus, we’re going to attack right out of the gate.
N.Y. Rangers +105 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.10)