The 2015 NHL Eastern Conference finals will begin on Saturday when the Stanley Cup playoffs resume. The two teams remaining in the east are the New York Rangers and the Tampa Bay Lightning with New York entering the series as the favorite (source: bet365).
The Rangers, besides winning the Eastern Conference last season, were the regular season champions following the 2014/15 season. Accordingly, they will have home ice advantage now that they have reached the conference finals, meaning games one and two will both come from New York. With Madison Square Garden set to host on Saturday, New York are priced as -135 favorites (bet365).
New York enter the conference finals with some emotional momentum. The Rangers, after falling behind 1-3 in the second round to Washington, stormed back to win the series 4-3. Their efforts included a series-winning goal in overtime of game seven, an event that promises to be a career-highlight for all involved with the 2014/15 Rangers. However it may very well be that the affiliated celebrations, after dramatically winning game seven, are what the Rangers need to come back to Earth from.
Tampa Bay, who avoided going the maximum against the Canadiens, enter the eastern conference finals as the better rested team. They eliminated Montreal in six games and, by the time Saturday’s game-time arrives, the Lightning will have had four day’s rest compared to New York’s three. That isn’t necessarily a huge edge but, between two talented teams, minor advantages could be significant.
What certainly appears to be very relevant heading into the series is the fact that the teams met three times during the regular season. While none of their games were recent, the Lightning will surely ground some confidence in the fact that they went 3-0 against New York with impressive scoring totals from each game.
Tampa Bay shelled New York on November 17th 5-1. The Lightning edged the Rangers 4-3 later that month before doubling them up 6-3 in December. The three games totalled, TB scored 15 goals and Henrik Lundqvist, New York’s prize goalie, logged big minutes in one of those games.
Game time on Saturday is 1pm ET with NBC and CBC providing television coverage.