Today’s NHL Predictions features a rematch of the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. On Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning (17-14-5) lost to the Florida Panthers by a score of 3-2. After trailing by two goals heading into the third period, Nikita Kucherov and Michael Eyssimont gave the Bolts a chance to win. However, Sam Reinhart recorded his 21st goal of the season to give the Panthers the edge.
On the other side of this matchup, the New York Rangers (24-8-1) have emerged as a serious contender for the Stanley Cup following a disappointing end to last season. The Rangers stacked their roster at the trade deadline and fell to the New Jersey Devils in seven games in round one. Artemi Panarin is on his revenge tour, leading Rangers with 46 points in 33 games. This total ranks fourth in the NHL point-scoring race.
The Lightning must prepare to face a difficult opponent on Saturday night at Amalie Arena. The Rangers currently sit at the top of the NHL and have been excellent all season. This game will not be easy for the Lightning. However, the Bolts tend to play up to their competition. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.
NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Rangers
Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay
Strong Penalty Kill
The Rangers have a power play full of weapons, which allows them to operate at the highest success rate in the league. The Rangers converted on 31.1% of their attempts, followed by the Lightning at 29.6%. Special teams will play a massive role in the outcome of this game. As for the Lightning penalty kill, it has seen regression since the start of the year. The unit started in the top ten in terms of success rate, but now the Lightning ranks 14th at 80.2%
The Tampa Bay penaltykillers must be at the top of their game against the Rangers’ power play. Panarin has established himself as a dual threat from the right circle. Furthermore, Chris Kreider is lethal at deflecting pucks and providing screens. The Lightning must clear his stick and body from their net. Adam Fox quarterbacks the power play from the top of the zone, and Mika Zibanejad takes one-timers on the left circle.
Players like Luke Glendening and Anthony Cirelli need to step up to keep the Rangers’ power play off the score sheet. The task will not be easy, but getting in shooting lanes and clearing Kreider from the net front is vital to finding success.
Defend the Rush
The Rangers create offence off the rush, specifically from Panarin’s line with Vincent Trocheck and Alexis Lafreniere. New York ranks 4th in shots off the rush per hour (All Three Zones). Furthermore, the team ranks below league average in shots off the forecheck and cycle. The Lightning produces offence quite contrary to the Rangers. The Bolts rely more on their forecheck as opposed to the rush for shot opportunities.
The Lightning allows the least amount of zone entries per hour in the entire league (A3Z). The team defends aggressively, which may be the best strategy to counter the Rangers off the rush. The Lightning must force the Rangers to dump the puck and forecheck.
Produce and Defend High-Danger Passes
High-danger passes will play a massive role in the outcome of this game. The Rangers rank first in high-danger passes per hour (A3Z). The Lightning also produce a lot of high-danger scoring chances themselves due to the dominance of Kucherov. The Rangers are above league average in terms of high-danger passes allowed. The Blueshirts are give-and-take passes that originate from behind the net and cross-slot.
The Lightning must defend the high-danger looks while producing high-quality chances themselves. The Panarin line is the trio the Lightning must shut down all night long if they are to find success.
Tonight’s NHL predictions features this great game and worth tuning into. This 2022 Eastern Conference Final rematch offers a ton of high-end offensive talent. The Lightning proved to play well against top opponents on home ice. Despite the solid efforts from the Lightning as of late, the Rangers are a respectable opponent. Unfortunately, we have New York grabbing the win this time around.
Prediction: Rangers win 3-1
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