2022 NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals Preview and Best Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers

Now that we have gotten past the first two rounds of an extraordinarily entertaining postseason, we look forward to the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Semifinals. We have a final matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference.

Below, I break down this series and give out my best bet. The two plays below are 0.75 units each, or 0.75% of your betting bankroll.

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Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Bet $10, Win $200 if Either Team Score a Goal >>

Tampa Bay Lightning (-175)

The Tampa Bay Lightning enter the Eastern Conference Final after sweeping the Florida Panthers in the Second Round. Tampa Bay dominated that series as they won three of those four games by at least a two-goal margin.

There are two main storylines to follow for the Lightning as we progress in the playoffs, the first of which is the play of starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy had an otherworldly performance in the Second Round as he held one of the best offenses in the league to one or fewer goals in all four games, boasting a 0.981 save percentage over that stretch.

Amongst the four remaining starting goaltenders left in the playoffs, Vasilevskiy ranks first in five-on-five save percentage at 0.943 and second in five-on-five goals saved above expected (GSAx) per 60 minutes at +0.940. The other storyline to follow is the health of star forward Brayden Point, who missed the entire Second Round due to a leg injury suffered against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

While the Lightning was able to take care of business against Florida, missing a star forward against an extremely difficult team to score goals on could be a massive detriment to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s quest for a third straight Stanley Cup. As of the start of this round, the Lightning is expected to miss Point for a few more games and possibly the entire series.

In this postseason, the Lightning rank third amongst the remaining four teams in five-on-five expected goals for (xGF) per 60 minutes and second in five-on-five expected goals against (xGA) per 60 minutes.

New York Rangers (+150)

The New York Rangers enter the Eastern Conference Final after beating the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 on Monday. This means that the Rangers have a much quicker turnaround than Tampa Bay as they will enter Game 1 with just one day of rest, while the Lightning has had eight days off due to their sweep of the Florida Panthers.

You could look at this disparity in rest in two different ways: either the Lightning will be much more rested/healthier and come out buzzing, or the extended rest will mean the Lightning will come out slower than New York as they are just one day removed from a highly-intense Game 7. I lean towards the Lightning coming out buzzing, but I could see either scenario playing out.

Just as the main storyline for Tampa Bay has been goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, the main storyline for the Rangers has been starting goaltender Igor Shesterkin. There is absolutely no debate that these two guys are the best two goaltenders in the world, which means we will probably get many low-scoring games in this series.

The lower scoring the games are, the more likely the games turn into coin flips. Amongst the four remaining starting goaltenders left in the playoffs, Shesterkin ranks second in five-on-five save percentage at 0.938 and first in five-on-five GSAx per 60 minutes at +1.003.

In the postseason, the Rangers rank fourth amongst the remaining four teams in five-on-five xGF and xGA per 60 minutes. With that being said, I lean towards the Tampa Bay Lightning to win this series.

However, the juice is too big for my liking as you can not bet against Shesterkin right now just as much as you can not bet against Vasilevskiy. As I hinted at earlier, if each game remains low-scoring, the Rangers will be able to steal at least a couple of games.

Add to the fact that Point is most likely missing this series as well, and we should this Eastern Conference Final go at least six games. Instead of one play at 1.5 units for this round, I am taking two possible outcomes at 0.75 units each.

Best Bet: Series to End in Game 6 (+200) 0.75 units and Series to End in Game 7 (+215) o.75 units

Best of luck!

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Tony Sartori is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Tony, check out his archive and follow him @tony_sartori.

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Author: Micheal May