The Anaheim Ducks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are both on the verge of making it to the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Finals following action over the last two days. On Sunday, Tampa Bay defeated the New York Rangers 2-0 to pull ahead 3-2 in the eastern conference finals. Then on Monday night, in a classic, Anaheim defeated Chicago 5-4 to take the same slim margin in the western conference finals.
The Lightning claimed game five with a sound defensive performance on Sunday. Ben Bishop made 26 saves to guarantee the Lightning of victory while Steven Stamkos, despite not scoring in the opening round of the playoffs, had a goal and an assist. Should the Lightning win on Tuesday then they would return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since winning them in 2004 over the Calgary Flames.
However the Rangers are definitely a team who have shown some resilience in the 2015 post-season. After falling behind the Washington Capitals in round two, New York rallied to a game seven overtime win. Accordingly, the Rangers are not likely to just roll over and die because they’re facing elimination.
Furthermore, if Tampa Bay do not win game six then they would be facing a road game-seven, a scenario few NHL teams survive in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Much appears to be hinging on Tuesday night’s game, one that starts at 8pm ET.
In the west, Anaheim nearly lost game five despite holding a late two-goal lead. Jonathan Toews lit the lamp twice in the dying minutes of the third period to give his side some hope of stealing home ice advantage again. Both of Toews’ goals came with the extra attacker on in what was truly both an improbable and, for Anaheim’s fans, a deflating comeback.
However Anaheim’s Matt Beleskey did not wait very long before ending the game in the overtime session. With his seventh goal of the post-season he scored at the 45-second mark of overtime.
Anaheim, with the game five win, are guaranteed a chance to close out at home in game seven, if needed. But they could close out the series in Chicago in game six on Wednesday night as the ‘hawks will be on the brink in their own rink.
Regarding the Ducks, they certainly have to like the situation they are in – not just in the western conference finals but in the post-season overall. Heading into the respective conference finals, the Rangers were the team considered the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. However if New York should falter then Anaheim would be looking at a home series in the Stanley Cup finals against a team, Tampa Bay, that should probably be judged as not quite as talented.
Accordingly, at the moment the Ducks are considered Cup favorites with odds of +137 (WilliamHill) in the outright winner’s market. Their ideal situation would be to close out the series in Chicago on Wednesday and then face the Lightning in the finals.