The Eastern Conference Final has gone the distance. Six games in, both the Lightning and the Rangers have won three games each, which means the series comes down to one final winner-take-all contest at Madison Square Garden on Friday night.
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
When: Friday, May 29, at 8 p.m. ET
TV Viewing Info: NBCS, CBC, TVA
Lightning Top Storylines
Will the Lightning bounce back from Game 6?
Tampa Bay had the chance, at home, to eliminate the Rangers on Tuesday. It should have been the most important game of the season so far for the team, one where the club showed exactly how good it could be.
Instead, the Bolts failed to rise to the occasion. New York hammered home seven goals, five of them in the third period, in a decisive victory that pushed this series to seven games.
Somehow, Tampa Bay needs to put that devastating loss behind itself and find the level the Rangers found in Game 6 now that its collective back is against the wall.
Which Ben Bishop shows up?
Tampa Bay’s starting goalie was excellent in a Game 7 situation in the first round of the playoffs, turning aside all 31 shots he faced for his first shutout of the postseason. But with a chance to eliminate the Rangers in Game 6, he was shaky, allowing five goals for the third time in four contests.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper expressed confidence in his goalie during a conference call on Wednesday.
"The one thing about him is he’s a mentally tough kid," Cooper said, per B/R’s Dave Lozo. "When he’s been challenged, he’s responded."
He’ll need to respond in Game 7, because if he allows five again, it’s going to be awfully tough for the Bolts to win.
Can ex-Rangers captain Ryan Callahan deliver more?
There are a lot of players on both sides of the ice with history on the other team, but on the Lightning side of the series few players gave more to the Rangers than Ryan Callahan, the heart-and-soul winger who spent the bulk of his career in New York and three seasons as the team’s captain.
Callahan has struggled in the playoffs. His first point of the third round was a goal during Tampa Bay’s Game 6 debacle, and he has a minus-five rating in the series so far. TSN’s Travis Yost ran the numbers and concluded that Callahan needs to do more:
I highly doubt that Ryan Callahan was paid $30-million to simply play defence. Tampa Bay wanted him to be a dynamic two-way forward that could play in any part of the lineup, scoring goals (like the 24 he posted in the regular season) and logging minutes against the opposition’s best. But, we just haven’t seen any of that this post-season, particularly true against the Blueshirts—he’s getting caved in territorially, and he’s obviously not doing much of anything in the offensive third.
Rangers’ Top Storylines
Henrik Lundqvist has been there, done that
Lundqvist has some experience with seven-game series. NHL.com made a disappointing reference to goals-against average in its breakdown of Lundqvist’s Game 7 legacy but otherwise did a fine job of laying out just how stellar New York’s starter has been:
Henrik Lundqvist's active six-game winning streak in Game 7s is a League record for goaltenders, as is his goals-against average (0.97) and his feat of allowing one or fewer goals in each of those contests. His six career victories are tied with Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy for the most in NHL history among goaltenders.
Lundqvist’s 0.966 save percentage in these situations is also ridiculously good.
Rick Nash, playoff star
Marquee forward Rick Nash has faced significant criticism over the last two seasons for his difficulties in scoring goals in the postseason. Those criticisms have been more muted of late, as Nash has excelled over the last while, scoring three times and recording seven points over his last three games against the Lightning.
It’s not like scoring is all that Nash is doing either.
At even strength, Nash has a team-leading 61.9 percent Corsi rating over the course of the third round of the playoffs. Nash is playing tough opposition and drawing penalties, and the Rangers have a lovely plus-seven/minus-two goal differential when he’s on the ice against Tampa Bay.
This is an expensive game to watch live
John DeMarzo of the New York Post noted on Wednesday that the minimum price to enter Friday’s game was $620, a figure that dwarfs the price of $281 necessary to attend the 2014 Western Conference Final.
DeMarzo cited ticket vendor TiqIQ for that price, but others put the cost even higher. Per email, StubHub spokesperson Kevin Burke placed the get-in price at $762 on Wednesday morning.
“This should the highest selling NHL game on StubHub of the playoffs so far,” wrote Burke.
For better seats, the price rises astronomically. DeMarzo’s piece reported one seat on sale for the exorbitant fee of $19,200, while Burke wrote that StubHub’s highest actual sale as of Wednesday morning came in at the comparatively modest but still expensive price of $7,478.
Lightning 2, Rangers 1 (OT)