NHL Playoffs Game 3 Odds, Pick & Preview: Rangers vs. Lightning (June 5)

NHL Playoffs Game 3 Odds, Pick & Preview: Rangers vs. Lightning (June 5) article feature image

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Igor Shesterkin.

  • The New York Rangers head south to the Sunshine State to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series.
  • In Game 1, we saw the offenses shine, but it was all about defense and goaltending in Game 2.
  • Nick Martin explains why to expect more defense in Game 3 below.

Rangers vs. Lightning Game 3 Odds

Rangers Odds+145
Lightning Odds-175
Over/Under5.5 (+100 / -120)
Time3 p.m. ET
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

The Rangers will head into Amalie Arena with the opportunity to take a 3-0 lead over the Lightning in an Eastern Conference Final they entered as heavy underdogs.

New York was clearly the better side throughout the opening two contests at Madison Square Garden, but will we see Tampa clean its game up on home ice Sunday?

Rangers Playing Well in Front of Goal

While it's more than fair to say New York ran with some very favorable luck to get past the Penguins in Round 1, it's been abundantly clear that as the postseason has progressed, this young Rangers core has continued to play better hockey game after game.

Since Game 6 against the Hurricanes, the Rangers have been excellent, and in two games so far this series, it's been quite clear who the better side was.

Evolving-Hockey is a little lower on New York's play so far, with their model suggesting the Rangers have played to a 43.05% expected goals rate, while Natural Stat Trick has New York at 44.65%.

As we know, though, the numbers only mean so much, especially as the extreme danger breakdowns always go under quantified in expected goals data. It was abundantly clear New York managed the puck better in those two contests and gave Igor Shesterkin every chance to thrive.

The Rangers have fallen into a sound rhythm of holding the Lightning mainly to chances Shesterkin can handle, even if that includes some deeper slot shots, which, would not be considered ideal for a normal goalie.

We're unlikely to see New York control more of the run of play in Game 3, but I believe the Rangers will continue to make it hard to generate the chances needed to beat Shesterkin, which could turn the contest into something of a coin-flip.

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Can Tampa Bay Bounce Back?

It was quite clear after Game 2 in New York that the back-to-back champion Lightning had not played their best hockey. Now, there's one question as they return home: How much can this group truly turn its play around?

As you would expect, head coach Jon Cooper and most of the Lightning's top players made similar comments regarding the team's poor puck management. The Bolts offered up far too many cheap turnovers and odd-man rushes in the pair of losses.

Given this spectacular Lightning core's history, I think we'll see a much sharper game from the Lightning Sunday. They'll give Andrei Vasilevskiy a better chance to succeed.

Vasilevskiy has played to a -3.92 goals saved above expected rating so far in this series, and much has been made about if teams are simply figuring him out — especially given the 18 combined goals coming in the high blocker side spot this postseason.

However, to me, that narrative is being greatly overrated and is far from the main cause of his struggles.

Over the last three playoff seasons, we've rarely seen Tampa Bay allow the quality of offensive chances they have in this series. That's more likely the cause of the struggles than any sort of idea that Vasilevskiy has simply been solved.

If Tampa can clean it up on the back end, I expect we'll see Vasilevskiy thrive yet again.

Rangers vs. Lightning Pick

With what we've seen so far in this series, it seems to me that backing the Lightning to win this game at -170 looks like quite a dicey proposition, especially as we know a reasonable performance from New York will give Shesterkin every chance to keep it close.

Tampa has clearly not played its best hockey by any means, but it seems wrong to just assume it will dominate Game 3 enough to warrant such a heavy price.

What I do think we're quite likely to see is Tampa Bay manage the puck more effectively on the back end and in the neutral zone, and at minimum, prevent the Rangers from generating as many high-quality scoring chances.

The Rangers are playing a really sharp game in front of Shesterkin, however, and I believe we will see that continue in Game 3.

Should Tampa clean up its play in front of goal, I still have full confidence that Vasilevskiy will shine. With all of those factors at play, I think it's likely this game stays under 5.5.

Pick: Under 5.5 (-120 | Play to -130)

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