The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Rangers 4-1 on Tuesday night, evening the Eastern Conference Finals at 2-2. Lighting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 34 saves, while Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov led the way offensively for Tampa Bay.
The Rangers need to match the Lightning’s level of play and desperation from game 4 for game 5, to turn the momentum back in their favor. Artemi Panarin scored the Rangers’ lone goal, scoring on the power play late in the third period. Rangers’ goalie Igor Shesterkin made 27 saves in game 6. Shesterkin needs to have a better start in game 5.
Offensive Production from the Lightning’s Depth Players
The Lightning opened the scoring early in the first period. Defenceman Zach Bogosian received a pass, led the Lightning’s offensive rush, splitting two Rangers are creating the rebound Patrick Maroon jumped on to open the scoring.
Wait. What? Zack Bogosian leading the rush and making a move on two Rangers. Something seems wrong about that. If you picked the trio of Zach Bogosian, Patrick Maroon, and Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare to open the scoring in game 4, buy a lottery ticket: no one saw that coming.
To win the Stanley Cup, you need every player to contribute, and you need your depth players to shine. Patrick Maroon has made his career by being a significant depth player during playoff runs with Anaheim and Edmonton, and winning a Stanley Cup in St. Louis before coming to Tampa Bay.
If the Lightning win the Eastern Conference Finals, Patrick Maroon will be entering his fourth straight Stanley Cup Final, looking to win his fourth straight Stanley Cup.
Yes, to win a Stanley Cup, you require production from your depth players. However, your best players need to be your best players. The Lightning are still without Brayden Point, yet, their top players are producing and driving Tampa toward a Stanley Cup three-peat.
Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat all scored their 7th goal of the playoffs in game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Lightning’s defense showed the poise, control, and depth that’s led them to within two wins of a third straight Stanley Cup Final appearance.
The Eastern Conference Finals return to New York, tied 2-2. Could the Rangers (+115) bounce back, have a strong performance and return to Tampa with the chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final? Absolutely.
Is that my pick? No. I’m picking the Lightning (-135) to win the next two games. Throughout the 2022 playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey machine has kept rolling. The Lightning looked like the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions they are. Tampa is finding an excellent vein of form at the right time.
Looking toward the potential Stanley Cup final, my pick for Tampa Bay to win the next two games is clearly under the influence. The Tampa Bay Lightning—the reigning, defending, two-time Stanley Cup Champions, looking to complete a three-peat—against the Western Conference Champion Colorado Avalanche—the deepest, fastest, most talented threat to the Lightning’s crown yet, making their overdue debut in the finals.
Tampa Bay vs Colorado is as close to a main event undisputed heavyweight title fight feel as you can get in hockey. And I’m here for it.
Can the Tampa Bay Lightning move one step closer to a third straight Stanley Cup Final, giving us the main event we want? Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals is Thursday, June 9th at 8 P.M. EDT from Madison Square Garden.
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