Game 47 Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning @ New York Rangers

After a dispiriting third-period collapse against the Blue Jackets last night, the Lightning will complete its back-to-back set by paying a visit to Madison Square Gardens to square off against yet another Metropolitan Division squad, the New York Rangers, with tonight’s contest set to determine the season series between the two clubs.

Tampa Bay was ahead entering the final frame last night but, despite successfully holding 17 of 18 such leads prior to last night, couldn’t stave off a defeat fueled by a problematic underlying process. Truly, the Bolts got what they deserved after being outplayed in nearly every facet of the game for essentially two-thirds of the game. The string of relatively poor outings, possession-wise during 5v5 play, is worrisome but may just be (and probably is) a temporary fluctuation whereas special teams remains, as was the case last night, an ongoing Achilles heel of sorts as the power play and penalty often struggle to generate and limit, respectively shot attempts and, thus, scoring chances relative to the time spent in each situation.

These flaws that can be masked, to a certain extent, with high shooting and save percentages, but at some point the math — thanks to the strong role luck plays in goal production — catches up. At any rate, the Lightning will have their go-to netminder, Ben Bishop, back between the pipes tonight.

Having won three-straight and won seven of its last ten matches, New York is the latest team on a tear Tampa Bay will have faced on this road trip although the Rangers recent success seems more sustainable over the remaining portion of games than that of the Flyers and Blue Jackets given the club’s, contrary to the suggestion otherwise, sound even-strength metrics.

The Blueshirts have indeed had a pronounced struggle to score at even-strength but this is nothing new. Whatever the off-season coaching upheaval has created in terms of tactical differences, the 5v5 results under the “up-tempo” approach under Alain Vigneault are very similar to those under John Tortorella’s “defense-first, low-octane” system: as before, the Rangers (even accounting for score-effects) have a pretty decent possession game in that they are still slightly better, relative to the rest of the league, at generating shot attempts than they are at preventing them all the while managing one of the league’s worst shooting percentages.

Is New York’s anemic, on the balance, even-strength production a byproduct of poor passing, difficulty transitioning to the attack and ineffective entries? Or should one look elsewhere, perhaps to the spread of talent in the forward ranks, for a roster that that is still top-heavy after undergoing mostly cosmetic changes since sacrificing some depth to acquire Rick Nash in July 2012, which might help explain a persistently low team shooting percentage? If the answer isn’t exactly clear, it does seem to make the former assertion seem a bit unfounded, more convenient explanation than anything.

Whatever is bound to happen on the offensive side of the ledger, the Rangers are enjoying Henrik Lundqvist’s recent return to form. Lundqvist struggled mightily to begin the season, and though he did not shy from criticizing his own play, part of the problem was a clear drop-off in the performance of the players in front of him as compared to what backup netminder Cam Talbot got to backstop. Perhaps systemic changes to the team’s defensive-zone coverage are part of the equation but, whatever the issue(s) have been, New York needs its well-compensated goalie to be a rock down the home-stretch.

SEASON SERIES

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NOTES

STANDINGS

LIGHTNING
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RANGERS
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ACTIVE ROSTERS

LIGHTNING
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RANGERS
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STATPACK

LIGHTNING

RANKINGS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PLAYER SCORING
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RATES

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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RANGERS

RANKINGS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING RATES
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TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING PERCENTAGES
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TOTALS

TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PLAYER SCORING
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RATES


TEAM POSSESSION & SCORING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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PERCENTAGES

TEAM POSSESSION, SCORING & SHOOTING
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GOALTENDING (ON-ICE)
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Team stats cited from Extra Skater.

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