After going on the road and defeating the Metropolitan Division champion Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 two nights ago, the Rangers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2015. Across the ice stands a familiar opponent, as the Blueshirts will once again clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning with a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals up for grabs.
This meeting is one that has seen New York’s rebuild come full circle after the Lightning all but ended their previous window of championship contention in that 2015 series. Chris Kreider is the only Ranger still with the team all these years later. The captain of that team, Ryan McDonagh, now serves as an alternate captain for the Lightning after being traded there in 2018 to kickstart New York’s rebuild. The Blueshirts were the battle tested team then while Tampa Bay was the on the rise upstarts looking to crash the Rangers’ coronation.
That was then. This is now, and the Rangers will have to defeat a Lightning team in the midst of a playoff series winning streak the league hasn’t seen since the Islanders’ dynasty of the early 1980’s. It’ll be a tall task, but the Blueshirts have been accomplishing tall tasks all season long.
Kreider was a non-factor for the majority of the second round, but emerged with a pair of goals in New York’s 6-2 win in Game 7. As the only player still with the team from their 2015 playoff run, this won’t be Kreider’s first playoff dust up with Tampa. Look for him to play a key role in this series.
Enjoy the game!