2022 NHL playoff preview: Rangers vs. Lightning - The Athletic

Igor Shesterkin vs. Andrei Vasilevskiy.

That's it. That's the lede.

That's the promoting point of this collection, a heavyweight tilt between two of the premier goalies in the world, going toe-to-toe at the top of their powers. It doesn't get greater than this.

It's satisfactory when the same lede works for each conference finals and whereas the West convention may be dominated with the aid of offensive flair, the eastern conference will in its place be a goaltending duel for the a long time. There are quite a lot of famous person gamers on both sides with a purpose to little question add to the intrigue, but let's face it: what might be most exciting about them is how the goalies deal with them.

just like the fight on the other facet although, there's a transparent frequent that dulls the matchup a little.


It shouldn't be a shock that both-time defending Stanley Cup champions could be favourites in this series — the simplest surprise might be that it's their first time being favourites during this postseason. possibly that's a foul omen for some enthusiasts, but it surely was in the main simply the mannequin seeing a large change in talent between the Atlantic side of the bracket and the Metropolitan aspect. Florida and Toronto have been heavyweights and the Lightning beat them with their event. The Rangers aren't quite at that stage — and have an analogous lack of inexperience that may additionally avert them here.

nevertheless, the Rangers don't seem to be to be underestimated. This could be the primary time these playoffs that there's whatever similar to a goaltending equal on the different aspect, but that's still arguably an advantage for the Rangers. It's one they've rode all season to stunning success — and this present day the group in front is looking tons greater equipped too.


The large question although should be no matter if Brayden element suits up for the Lightning. He changed into listed as every day previous to the Panthers sequence and has been given lots of time to get well, but his popularity remains uncertain and he doesn't look shut. the chances listed above are according to aspect returning for online game 5 which can be generous. If he doesn't play at all, Tampa Bay's odds of advancing to its third straight Stanley Cup closing drop to 62 %.

That's no guarantee and big apple can take solace within the undeniable fact that its odds against the Hurricanes had been identical.

Season Stats

simply a brief look on the Rangers' ordinary-season metrics pinpoint precisely why they've been the underdog in every matchup to date. Their 5-on-5 offense was subpar. defensive improvements had been made late within the season, but still aren't awe-inspiring on the total. energy-play scoring and goaltending had been such key components of their success, which isn't probably the most sustainable means to go.

To the Rangers' credit score, there have been some improvements within the postseason under the surface the place they vital it offensively, with greater shot and fine opportunity technology (with results a bit under expectations). Defensively, however, big apple's allowed more returned — and lots of that stems from a challenging circular 1 sequence where there became little constitution in sight from their again end.

The Lightning, even so, were a precise-10 group on each ends of the ice at 5-on-five in the general season. in the playoffs, Tampa Bay did see their offensive technology take a slight dip across the board and the factor injury doesn't aid matters moving ahead. The equal is correct defensively, but goaltending has been the change-maker to make up for that. That extends to the penalty kill as neatly.

That's an area the place the Lightning will be tested, seeing because the Rangers can conclude on the abilities. Their anticipated purpose era isn't on the level of the usual season, which could chew them if new york can't get past their opponents' makes an attempt to clog up the middle.

Tampa Bay's energy play has had extra success within the postseason than the normal season, but the outcomes are falling below expectations. That'll fit up against a penalty kill that isn't as stout defensively as it changed into within the standard season, but (like the Lightning) has goaltending to masks that.

There's a route for Tampa Bay to exhibit why they're the reigning champions. however there's a means for the Rangers to exploit the Lightning in this matchup, conserving their popularity as a disruptive underdog in the playoffs.

This sequence very smartly might come down which goaltending is stingier as the ultimate decider.

Roster Breakdown

Vasilevskiy versus Shesterkin is the matchup.

On one facet of the ice could be the elite goaltender who has earned that acceptance through his postseason experience. It's impossible to talk about the Lightning's Stanley Cup runs with out crediting Vasilevskiy.

In 2020, he earned a .927 save percent and saved 13.7 desires above expected in 25 video games. A season later, he handed that as Tampa Bay battled to maintain their championship. In 23 games, Vasilevskiy had a gleaming .937 shop percentage. And according to the workload he faced, saved 17.three more dreams than expected. That stands up because the most beneficial goalie efficiency in the "facts period" due to the fact the 2008 postseason. His GSAx from 2020 lands fourth, behind best Jonas Hiller in 2008-09 and Mike Smith in 2011-12.

When it matters probably the most, the Lightning know they can count on Vasilevskiy between the pipes. He shutout his opponents in the closing six of seven removing video games, relationship lower back to the 2020 Cup remaining against Dallas. The handiest aim against he's allowed in a decider become from Morgan Rielly in game 7 of circular 1 this postseason. in any other case, he's been perfect — along with his most effective efficiency yet coming in opposition t the Panthers within the sequence-sweeping online game when he saved three.7 goals above anticipated and turned aside forty nine shots. All together through those remaining seven series-clinching video games, he's earned a GSAx of sixteen.7. It doesn't get a whole lot more advantageous than that.

So it's no surprise that Vasilevskiy got here into the postseason with the 2nd-top-quality projected cost among the place at four.eight wins.

To start this postseason, he wasn't taking part in the Conn Smyth caliber play that's expected of him. but when it mattered most in that series clincher, he expanded his online game. Vasilevskiy went on to crush the Panthers' hopes in four games. in opposition t 13 expected desires towards, he saved 10 goals, maintaining Florida to just three tallies within the total series.

average, through eleven video games, Vasilevskiy has a .932 save percentage with 10.1 desires saved above anticipated (5.9 of which have come in two sequence-clinching games, on my own).

The simplest goalie within the playoffs to rank ahead of the Lightning's starter in projected price is within the blue paint in new york.

Shesterkin leads the manner with a projected value of 5.9 wins. That's what occurs when he's the most effective goalie in the typical season. along with a .935 keep percentage in the standard season, he led the league with 37.2 goals saved above expected which become nine forward of the subsequent ideal, Frederik Andersen.

regardless of one of the most Rangers' shortcomings in front of the web, Shestserkin gave his team an opportunity to win with 38 pleasant begins. And given that the offense he stopped, versus what the team in entrance of him generated, he stole nine wins as well.

but there were some question marks going into the postseason. Would there be a fatigue element after carrying the Rangers in his longest knowledgeable season yet? earlier than this year, where he played 53 regular-season games, his longest season between ordinary season and playoffs was 44 games. Then there become the stretch of play when he came back to Earth late within the season, that could have planted seeds of doubt.

Shesterkin opened the postseason with an elite efficiency, but slipped in video games 3 and 4 in Pittsburgh all through round 1 when the group's protecting structure absolutely collapsed. He bounced again to finish the series, and actually extended his performance against the Hurricanes, saving eleven.4 desires more desires than expected in seven video games. That brought him as much as a complete of 15.8 in the postseason in 14 video games, which leads the league. So while Shesterkin may additionally no longer have the resume of Vasilevskiy, he's building it together with his NHL experiences as they arrive.

The goaltending matchup during this series may be an absolute treat, but with the two goalies being so shut in means it's possible that goaltending may additionally no longer even be the figuring out ingredient within the series. it may come all the way down to how the movie star netminders are insulated by means of the team in front of them, in particular on defence.

this is where Tampa Bay has the area at each forward and on the lower back conclusion, thanks often to the depth the Lightning have accrued at each positions. They're a team with few holes.

On defence, the group is of direction led with the aid of Victor Hedman who's once once again having a wonderful postseason. He leads all Tampa Bay skaters in GSVA with 0.fifty six wins, a four.2-win pace that's a decent coloration above what he's projected for. incomes 10 elements in 11 video games will try this, but his play at five-on-five has additionally been great as at all times.

The Lightning have earned fifty four p.c of the anticipated desires and 58 p.c of the precise desires all over the playoffs with Hedman on the ice. That's in hard minutes against some reputable movie star skill from Toronto and Florida — both of whom have been stumped in opposition t Hedman. The Panthers in selected looked very frustrated dealing with off in opposition t Hedman and didn't manage a single goal in opposition t him in sixty five minutes at 5-on-5. credit score Vasilevskiy for most of that, but Hedman's defensive capability plays a task in that too.

With him on the ice, Vasilevskiy's lifestyles is a great deal more straightforward. The duo have simply been Tampa Bay's most critical gamers to this point.

Hedman isn't the most effective amazing player lower back there. The Lightning also have Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev — all of whom are projected to be properly-pairing calibre. part of Tampa Bay's attraction is having 4 such avid gamers on the blue line, a luxury very few groups have. It makes it possible for the Lightning to securely ice depth gamers like Zach Bogosian or Cal Foote without lots issue, as they'll always have a authentic associate to play with.

though Hedman's numbers are sterling, the other top defenders have lacked just a little in these playoffs. none of the three reside up to their projected values as far as they've hovered at or below ruin-even in expected dreams. when it comes to specific desires, most effective McDonagh is relocating the needle.

That may now not sound most suitable, but it surely's essential to bear in mind the context of competitors satisfactory right here. The Lightning have had to face two jap conference powerhouses whose dominance most shows up offensively. That they managed to mutually gradual both Toronto and Florida down enough to win both collection — and retain the chance count pretty much even, is a testament to their means. It makes what Hedman is doing much more striking. It's probably all 4 will see a large enhance of their on-ice numbers towards the Rangers, a group that can now and again combat to control play.

Like Tampa Bay, big apple's plenty improved controlling play when their Norris successful defenseman is on the ice. Adam Fox leads all defenders within the postseason with 18 elements, which is pretty dazzling for a person making his playoff debut. He also leads his team in GSVA at .forty four, but that puts him on a pace of 2.seventy eight which falls beneath projections. a great deal of that has to do with a challenging round 1 while Fox saw time with Justin Braun. That duo had a 26 p.c expected desires fee which is the worst amongst any pair this postseason.

towards the Hurricanes, Fox bounced lower back nearer to a 54 p.c expected desires price and had superior outcomes to suit. despite some shortcomings like his footspeed which have been uncovered now and then, he can pressure play from the blue line and be the difference in all cases.

perhaps the most a must have defenseman for ny is his associate. Ryan Lindgren isn't flashy, however his complementary play to Fox helps make that properly pair click — in particular when the replacement alternatives are so subpar it puts the whole blue line in disarray when he's out. The lefty has missed time this postseason, however remains the favorite alternative to Braun with Fox, Patrik Nemeth lower back in, and Jacob Trouba and okay'Andre Miller taking over right competitors.

Lindgren's presence keeps Braun on the third pair with rookie Braden Schneider. This pair generates little offense and is all defense, which drags down their underlying numbers. To Schenider's credit, relative to his teammates the Rangers are really breaking even in expected desires in opposition t with him on the ice. however they only task to a price of -0.1 collectively, and don't stack as much as Tampa Bay's protecting depth.

The Rangers assignment to have an area in second pairs with Miller and Trouba, but their consequences had been tanked when they had been out of their depths in round 1. They bounced back in opposition t Carolina — Miller's the simplest defenseman to damage even in both pictures and expected desires in that sequence.

It's an edge for the Lightning on defence and the same goes for the forward community — with or with out factor. That being noted, Tampa Bay is definitely plenty more susceptible with out him within the lineup. His absence offers the Rangers an facet in superstar vigour that may be the change in a sequence that's dominated by means of the goaltending matchup. It's the game-breakers that are difference-makers against elite netminders and Tampa Bay being down one in factor is a legitimate subject.

The Lightning do have the foremost ahead on both aspect of the aisle, although, in Nikita Kucherov, however he has a near equally dominant counterpart on the different side in Artemi Panarin. They're two of essentially the most dynamic playmakers in the league and should make for essentially the most fascinating skater matchup in the sequence.

Up entrance, Kucherov is the guy that drives the bus for Tampa. He makes things turn up offensively in a way few players in this league can and that's proven through his 15 facets in eleven video games in these playoffs. regardless of that construction, there's room for him to be superior. Defensively, he's enabling a great deal with three.17 anticipated goals towards per 60 in these playoffs, the 2nd-optimum mark on the crew. That become a problem that crept up right through the season and desires to be cleaned up in this sequence.

The other situation might just be bad success as Tampa Bay has most effective scored 2.22 dreams-per-60 at 5-on-5 with him on the ice — none of that have been put in by using Kucherov. That's neatly below his anticipated quantity of three.09, which leads the crew. Kucherov is generating options, however he and his linemates need to find ways to execute beyond the vigour play. That'll be rather the problem during this circular against Shesterkin.

One purpose Kucherov should be would becould very well be struggling might simply be his companion on the exact line, Steven Stamkos. In outdated electrifying playoff runs he changed into element's wingman and the duo made appealing song collectively. Stamkos, for whatever cause, has a heritage of wilting within the playoffs and that could be dragging Kucherov down. His eight facets in 11 playoff video games isn't dangerous, but extra should be anticipated for a participant who scored 106 features this season — mainly with three of his 4 assists being secondary. He's ninth among forwards in facets-per-60 at 5-on-five and his 45 p.c expected goals price is one of the lowest marks on the group. The Lightning want him to step up. Badly.

Panarin's also falling wanting expectations. whereas he's get a hold of some timely scoring in the playoffs, he hasn't been the have an effect on participant the Rangers need him to be continuously — even if there's an harm, a possibility-averse strategy, or anything else impeding his video game. The winger's projected to be value 3.7 wins to steer the crew's forwards, but he's best on pace for 0.70 based on his actual play. It's no longer that the group isn't changing while they're on the ice — their exact goals cost fits expectations. ny's simply now not creating sufficient offense, and that they're permitting a whole lot back, which is why Panarin's all the way down to a 43 p.c anticipated desires cost.

in opposition t Vasilevskiy, there's more emphasis on the Rangers continually producing exceptional options and Panarin must play a key role in that. He's an elite player who thrives with the puck on his stick and may installation his teammates for bad chances.

but even when he's not at his superior, there's another dynamic duo for new york to lean on with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider on the proper line.

at times this postseason, their center of attention has been protection over offense because there's no aggregate that may take in their workload of exact competition. It has confined the pair's impact at times, with Kreider and Zibanejad most effective having a 35 % expected goals rate collectively at five-on-5, though they've at least broken even in dreams.

nevertheless, Zibanejad leads with 19 features in 14 games in his pivotal all-cases minutes. Kreider, the best last player from the crew's closing assembly in opposition t Tampa Bay in circular three (which got here in 2015), rose to the occasion in online game 7 to get right here. The stakes are bigger, and the Rangers need their play to healthy that.

provided that point is out the Rangers have the edge in megastar-energy — peculiarly if Stamkos can't step up. however depth has been this crew's Achilles' heel all season and that may well be a large difficulty during this series mainly. It's where the Lightning have shined in these playoffs.

Tampa Bay's two deadline acquisitions had been a big part of that. Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel are each riding play smartly to the tune of a fifty five % expected desires fee, a mark that trails simplest the team's Stanley Cup respectable luck allure, Pat Maroon (who sits at sixty three %). the two were an impressive presence on defence, limiting chances to a powerful degree. Paul's play has even earned him a spot on the excellent line, a soft gig with two superstars flanking him on either side.

a part of the reason for this is that Anthony Cirelli, the crew's premier core after point (counting on where one places Stamkos), has basically struggled to upward push to the event in these playoffs. That's been a ordinary challenge in each and every of the previous two postseasons and it hasn't changed right here. via game score, he's been Tampa Bay's least advantageous player which stems from simply two features in eleven video games and a ghastly 42 p.c anticipated dreams rate. He's the simplest Lightning participant to no longer be on the ice for a 5-on-5 purpose yet. Ouch.

That's had an effect on Alex Killorn as well who has additionally had a good looking disappointing playoffs from a production standpoint. His underlying numbers are at least a good deal more suitable, which may still support the second line discover its groove, but the gritty winger has just four features in zero dreams in these playoffs. He can continually be counted on for a great deal extra.

The addition of Ondrej Palat to the second line might help spark issues as he's been a key cog on Tampa Bay's dominant excellent line in each of the previous two championship runs. He's Tampa Bay's third-most valued forward after Kucherov and Stamkos and has the capability to drive play and be a change-maker. He has eight elements in these playoffs, although his 5-on-five numbers are only destroy-even. If the second line can get rolling greater, and in opposition t weaker competitors it is going to be anticipated, the Lightning have a powerful chance of getting by means of right here.

If no longer, it'll be up to the team's unheralded third line to get things moving in the appropriate route again. That's been the story in each of the ultimate two playoffs and it seems that even though all three players have modified, the narrative hasn't. Hagel's affect on scoring chances turned into already touched on, however Ross Colton and Corey Perry also deserve loads of credit too. Neither is dominating at five-on-5, however each are placing the puck within the web, which is obviously pretty crucial too. Colton and Perry really lead the Lightning in these playoffs with 5 desires apiece and have gave the look of right-six forwards thanks to their intention-scoring prowess. That's a luxurious to have on the third line and Perry particularly has stepped in properly in factor's absence. His average video game score of 1.37 against Florida was 2nd to best Kucherov for the series. Colton become third.

Like Tampa Bay, the Rangers had to add depth at the deadline. Frank Vatrano was one addition, and whereas he chips in offensively is a little one-dimensional which could make him a susceptible link on the appropriate line.

Andrew Copp became their greatest add, to usher in some two-approach steadiness and versatility to the excellent line. He's primarily been paired with the lengthy-time duo of Panarin and Ryan Strome. That trio has helped the group outscore opponents 10-5 within the playoffs, however hasn't broken even in shots and fares even worse within the high-quality combat.

That makes the success of the "youngster Line" all the more important for the Rangers. Alexis Lafrenière, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko had been essentially the most constant combination in round 2, even if their utilization doesn't mirror it. The Lafrenière has seven playoff elements, all essentially, while Chytil has 5 dreams. these two are both matching or exceeding projections, Kakko's the one player falling short with a GSVA of -.07. nevertheless, they're the only to wreck even in both pictures and anticipated goals for big apple.

The fourth line is superior now from the place they started with the return of Tyler Motte and Barclay Goodrow to slot alongside Ryan Reaves. Goodrow's probably now not one hundred percent from his harm, however could be leaned on to defend in opposition t his former crew. Motte's been a vibrant spot, performing better than expected on a 1.03-win pace.

The final analysis

Tampa Bay is the more desirable group right here, even devoid of element. It's not going many are questioning that peculiarly with manhattan's largest area, goaltending, being mostly nullified by means of an equally talented specimen on the different aspect. The Lightning are deep and have the championship pedigree that makes them intricate to put away. Vasilevskiy is a enormous a part of that.

but the Rangers can't count out here. Many did once they went down three-1 towards Pittsburgh, but they prevailed. Many did when they went down 2-0 in opposition t Carolina, but they prevailed. here is a scrappy and resilient bunch, one which doesn't fold when issues get hard. With their backs towards the wall they discover a way, some thing they've proven all season. Having Shesterkin helps with that as self belief for your goalie goes a long approach.

but the Lightning have that too and perhaps it's fitting both teams will square off for the right to a Stanley Cup closing berth. It'll be a goaltending fight for the a while and notwithstanding both groups have received as a result of that aspect to this point, that may also not be the change here when the change between the two is so slim. It'll be as much as the teams in front to dictate what occurs. The Rangers will have their work cut out for them trying to dethrone the Lightning.

facts by the use of Evolving Hockey, herbal Stat Trick, HockeyViz, Hockey Stat playing cards, and NHL

(excellent picture: Mark LoMoglio / NHLI by way of Getty photos)

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