Home-ice advantage in the NHL is a huge deal with the last line change, so one might think that a conference finals where the home team won the first four games -- as has occurred in the 2022 East Finals between the Lightning and Rangers -- would be quite common. Yet it's quite rare. New York is a +110 home dog tonight for Game 5 at 8 p.m. ET, but bettors at Caesars Sportsbook are all over the Rangers to take a 3-2 series lead.
In the expansion era (since 1967-68), this is only the ninth conference finals/semifinals series where the home team won the first four games, and the first since Bruins vs. Penguins in 1991. That statistic stunned me. The last conference finals/semifinals series where the home team won the first five was way back in 1985 between the Oilers and Blackhawks.
New York lost Game 1 at home in the first round against Pittsburgh but has won eight straight since then at Madison Square Garden, so perhaps that's why 79 percent of all the money and 78 percent of all tickets on the moneyline for tonight's game (see tickets at StubHub) are on the Rangers – keep in mind that New York is a huge market for Caesars, so the numbers could be a bit skewed. On the total of 5.5 goals, 67 percent of all tickets and 55 percent of all the money are on the Over, even though the past three games have finished with exactly five goals scored.
This marks the seventh conference finals/semifinals in the past six seasons to be tied 2-2. The winner of Game 5 went on to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in five of the six previous instances. When a best-of-seven is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 holds an all-time series record of 223-61 and 4-3 this year.
Injury-wise, there was some optimism that top-six Lightning forward Brayden Point, who led the league in goals in both the 2020 and 2021 playoffs, could return from an injury suffered in Game 7 of the first round against Toronto. Yet news emerged today that Point will continue to sit. Point (four points in seven games in this postseason) has been skating and I wouldn't be shocked if he plays Game 6 back in Tampa. Coach Jon Cooper said he expects to go with the same lineup for Game 5 as he did in Game 4, which would mean 12 forwards and six defensemen.
New York forwards Ryan Strome and Filip Chytil remain game-time calls. Strome (nine playoff points) missed Game 4 and Chytil (nine playoff points) was injured in it. With Strome out, Andrew Copp moved from wing to center on the Rangers' second line, and Barclay Goodrow moved from the fourth line to play wing on the second line. Kevin Rooney dressed for the first time in the series and took Goodrow's spot as the fourth-line center.
New York's eight home playoff wins are one shy of the franchise record set in 1994 when the Rangers last won the Cup. The NHL record for most home victories in a single playoff year is held by the 2003 Devils (12-1).
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