Thursday night the Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Pittsburgh Penguins in a very exciting matchup. The Lightning now lead the Atlantic division with 76 points while Pittsburgh sits in second place in the Metropolitan division.
Pittsburgh has been streaky this season, and right now they’ve won two in a row. Tampa on the other hand is hoping to hang onto the lead they’ve taken over the Florida Panthers in the Atlantic. Let’s take a look at the matchup and how the game is going to play out.
Tampa Bay is Looking for a Three-peat
Tampa Bay has won the past two Stanley Cups and they’re looking to make it three in a row. They’re incredibly hot as we move into March, carrying an eight and two record in since February first, while outsourcing opponents 28-20 in that same span. They carry a five game winning streak into this one.
The Lightning have been exceptional, led by captain Steven Stamkos. Stamkos leads the team in goals with 26 and in points with 60. The Lightning play great 5-on-5 hockey which is shown by the team not having a single player with 15+ games played with a negative plus/minus.
Defenseman Victor Hedman has 51 points which is second best on the team, and he’s in the race for the Norris Trophy this season. He’s helped Tampa to the third best record in the league to this point, trailing only the Colorado Avalanche and the Carolina Hurricanes.
Pittsburgh Penguins are just hanging on
For the past couple seasons the Penguins have been good but not great, yet Mike Sullivan has been able to rally the troops and get them into the playoffs. The results haven’t been great though. In the past four years since the Penguins last title run, Pittsburgh has made the playoffs three of four seasons.
Out of those three years that they made the playoffs, they lost in the first round twice, and lost in the second round in 2018 to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals.
This year they hope to break the streak. Jake Guentzel has stepped up tremendously and he leads the team in both goals and points. Captain Sidney Crosby has not been nearly as good as he used to be but still is second on the team in points with 50. He has only scored 16 goals all season.
The Goaltending matchup in this one is interesting but fairly straight forward. Tristan Jarry has played well for the Penguins, and has racked up 26 wins which is tied for fourth best in the league. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been even more impressive for Tampa Bay with 29 wins, tied for best in the league.
While both goalies are skilled and agile, I feel Vasilevskiy is both more experienced and more prepared for Thursday night’s matchup. He is 6’3 and 225 pounds and fills the net excellently. He has fantastic crease presence and will be looking to make his third shutout on the year.
The line has opened at -180 for the Tampa Bay Lightning and +140 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not surprised to see the Lightning as favorites here as they are 18-4-4 while playing at home this season.
Tampa Bay’s Braden Point is coming off of a four point game tuesday night against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov came back from injury on January sixth, and the Lightning are 13-4 with him. In wins, he has 17 points, in losses just one point. When Kucherov plays well, the Lightning are winning.
I expect the Lightning to play well and dominate this game. The Penguins are a good road team but they have been struggling to score recently. Pittsburgh has only scored more four or more goals in a game twice since January 26th. You have to score against Tampa if you hope to beat them.
I will be looking for Nikita Kucherov to have a great game. The Penguins also have struggled on the penalty kill recently, so look for Stamkos to get a power play goal.
Best Bet: Tampa Bay -1.5 (+150)
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