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Getting to the Cup: Eastern Conference Finals preview

As we are now down to four teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Seattle Sin Bin previews the Eastern Conference Finals.

Getting to the Cup
Getting to the Cup
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After another grueling season and two exciting rounds of win or go home hockey in the NHL, four teams have survived to make their respective conference finals. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Rangers square off against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the west, the Anaheim Ducks take on the Chicago Blackhawks.

In this article, we preview the Eastern Conference Finals. Tomorrow, we will preview the west. Also, we will have game threads for every game remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

THE TEAMS

New York Rangers

The Rangers have been the odds on favorite to win the Stanley Cup for months now. As Las Vegas sports betting handicapper Dana Lane had told us, one of the reasons is team speed. From a scoring perspective, the squad is led by left wing Rick Nash, who compiled 42 goals and 27 assists in the regular season, and who has two goals and five assists thus far in the playoffs. The man who sends him the puck most often is center Derrick Brassard, who had 19 goals and 41 assists during the regular season, and who has five goals and three assists in the post season.

Let's not kid ourselves, though. The star of the Rangers is net minder Henrik Lundqvist. Though he missed two months of the regular season with a neck injury, he is back with a vengeance in pursuit of the Cup. In the playoffs, his save percentage is up to 94.4, a marked improvement over his regular season rating of 92.2

Tampa Bay Lightning

In pursuing their second Stanley Cup, the Lightning have taken a very centered approach, in that they are all about the centers: Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson. Both gentlemen led the squad with 72 points in the regular season. Stamkos is the shooter of the two, as evidenced by his 49 goals. Johnson is more the prototypical center, as evidenced by his 49 assists. Johnson, however, leads the Bolts with eight goals in the playoffs.

The goalie position is not a strength for the Lightning, as starter Ben Bishop had a save percentage of just 91.6 in the regular season.

How they got here

Series New York Rangers (Reg Season 53-22) Tampa Bay Lightning (Reg Season 50-24)
First round

Advanced past the Pittsburgh Penguins with a 4-1 series victory. Superior depth was a primary reason for the won.

From NHL.com, "The Rangers got goals from each of their top three lines, including three from center Derick Brassard, two from center Derek Stepan, and overtime winners from centerKevin Hayes in Game 4 and left wing Carl Hagelin in Game 5. Hagelin scored two goals in the series."

Game 1: Won 2-1

Game 2: Lost 4-3

Game 3: Won 2-1

Game 4: Won 2-1

Game 5: Won 2-1

The Lightning beat the Detroit Redwings four games to three, but they came very close to being in serious trouble.

In Game 4, Detroit held a 2-0 lead deep into the third period with a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.  However, Lightning struck twice in the last five minutes of regulation to send it to overtime, and Tampa left the ice with the series tied at 2-2.

Game 1: Lost 3-2

Game 2: Won 5-1

Game 3: Lost 3-1

Game 4: Won 3-2 (OT)

Game 5: Lost 4-0

Game 6: Won 5-2

Game 7: Won 2-0

Conference semifinals

For the second consecutive season, the Rangers won a playoff series 4-3 after trailing three games to one. This year's victim was the Washington Capitols.

It was Lundqvist who enabled the comeback. From NHL.com, "After the Rangers lost Game 4 to go down 3-1 in the series, Lundqvist allowed five goals on 110 shots (.954 save percentage) in the final three games. Since 2012, in elimination games, Lundqvist is 14-3 with a 1.39 goals-against average, .956 save percentage and two shutouts."

Game 1: Lost 2-1

Game 2: Won 3-2

Game 3: Lost 1-0

Game 4: Lost 2-1

Game 5: Won 2-1 (OT)

Game 6: Won 4-3

Game 7: Won 2-1 (OT)

Tampa defeated the Montral Canadiens 4-2. Montreal gave the Lightning a bit of a scare, winning two games after Tampa went up 3-0, but the Lightning played angry to take the series in Game 6.

According to NHL.com, killing the power play was one reason the Lightning prevailed. "Montreal's power play went 1-for-16, with the goal coming in the one game out of six it dominated from start to finish. Worse, its penalty killers were more of a threat on offense than its power play, but the Canadiens allowed seven power-play goals in 20 opportunities, a 65 percent kill rate. That's a tough pair of gut punches."

Game 1: Won 2-1

Game 2: Won 6-2

Game 3: Won 2-1

Game 4: Lost 6-2

Game 5: Lost 2-1

Game 6: Won 4-1

Schedule

Game Home Ice When (PST) Network
One New York 10am on Saturday, May 16 NBC
Two New York 5pm on Monday, May 18 NBCSN
Three Tampa Bay 5pm on Wednesday, May 20 NBCSN
Four Tampa Bay 5pm on Friday, May 22 NBCSN
Five New York 5pm on Sunday, May 24 NBCSN
Six Tampa Bay 5pm on Tuesday, May 26 NBCSN
Seven New York 5pm on Friday, May 29 NBCSN