The Avalanche and the Oilers combined for 14 goals in an 8-6 win for Colorado in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. While there are plenty of unknowns in the upcoming series between the Tampa Bay Lightning in the New York Rangers, it’s all but certain we won’t see the same deluge of goals in their Game 1 on Wednesday.
The Lightning enter Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals as -130 road favorites over the Rangers (+108) at Madison Square Garden, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
NHL’s top goalies collide in series
Oddsmakers expect far fewer goals in this series compared to the showdown in the West. Game 1 between New York and Tampa Bay carries a betting total of just 5.5 goals, while FanDuel set Game 2 between the Oilers and Avalanche at 7.5.
That difference comes down to the quality of the goaltending in the Eastern Conference finals. Tampa Bay boasts former Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who’s widely considered the best goalie in the NHL in recent years. Meanwhile, the Rangers bring Igor Shesterkin into the game in net, who will likely win the Vezina this season.
In other words, goals will be at a premium in this series — something both teams recognize.
“I think it’s pretty unanimous that they’re the two best goalies in the league,” Rangers forward Barclay Goodrow told reporters. “I don’t think anyone can put up an argument for that.”
Vasilevskiy was particularly dominant in the previous round, allowing only three goals to the Florida Panthers in a four-game sweep. Shesterkin, meanwhile, struggled early in the first round against the Penguins, but has been great for New York ever since.
Lightning get more rest than Rangers
The Rangers have now survived two seven-game series – and a total of five elimination games – to reach the Eastern Conference finals. The team has taken pride in playing well with its back against the wall, with forward Chris Kreider saying it reminds him of how the 2014-15 Rangers played.
“We just didn’t go away. We just don’t go away now,” Kreider told reporters. “Regardless of the score, regardless of where the game is at, we just try to find our game, try to find our game, keep working.”
However, the fact that New York took seven games to beat the Carolina Hurricanes means the Rangers will have much less rest than the Lightning. Tampa Bay has had more than a week off, while the Rangers finished off their last series on Monday night.
Neither team is entirely certain who that dynamic helps, if anyone. Oddsmakers are picking the Lightning to win the series, with FanDuel setting Tampa Bay as a -190 favorite over New York (+160).
“Hopefully it’s going to be good for us,” Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told reporters. “It’s eight or nine days [Tampa Bay is] going to have off. I’ve had that in the past too. It definitely helps you, you get some jump out of it, but also there’s a little rust in your game too.”
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said that only one thing will show who that rest disparity benefits.
“People always ask if it’s better to have time off or not,” Cooper said. “The true answer comes depending on the next series and how you play.”