Tampa Bay Lightning
Even though the Rangers swept the season series with the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, everyone knows how good this Tampa Bay team is and can be, even when they are playing poorly. Nobody wants to play the Lightning in the playoffs. But, the general public would love an Igor Shesterkin-Andrei Vasilevskiy match-up.
Rangers’ head to head vs Tampa Bay: 3-0-0.
December 31 at Tampa Bay: 4-3 Rangers in a shootout. New York was able to hang with Tampa Bay, who had the tons of offensive chances. But, Igor Shesterkin came up big. New York was able to win in a shootout thanks to Mika Zibanejad.
January 2 at the Garden: 4-0 Rangers. Pure dominance from the Blueshirts in the first period then it became more of an even game. But, again, Shesterkin was Shesterkin. Tampa Bay could not break him.
March 19 at Tampa Bay: 2-1 Rangers. This was a playoff atmosphere game with neither team giving much. It took a goal from Mika Zibanejad with 16 seconds left to win the game.
Deadline acquisitions: F Brandon Hagel from Chicago, F Nick Paul from Ottawa, F Riley Nash from Arizona.
Tampa Bay’s biggest strength: Experience. Two. Straight. Stanley. Cups.
Tampa Bay’s biggest weakness: Like Carolina, it is consistency. The Lightning boast one of the top offenses in the league, but they have recently dropped to around 10th overall in in power play ranking and goals per game. When they are on offensively, they’re almost impossible to stop. But, then there’s the latter.