The first game of the official Round One for the Stanley Cup Playoffs will go down Tuesday afternoon between Columbus and Tampa Bay. This is an intriguing match-up as last year these same Blue Jackets easily disposed of the Bolts in a 4-game sweep. The Lightning were Cup favourites and President’s Trophy winners. You better believe there is still some bitterness lingering there from the Bolts’ organization.
This year is a new one however, and new faces make the Lightning rightful favourites once again. They’re a loaded team, complete in every sense, without any glaring holes. They can beat teams in a multitude of different ways, and have prioritized getting tougher and hungrier when retrieving pucks.
But one big unknown as we prepare for a 3PM puck drop is the status of Tampa Bay’s top-two talents. Captain Steven Stamkos is still out ‘indefinitely’ and certainly doesn’t seem like an option this series. While star defenseman Victor Hedman also seems doubtful given his apparent ankle injury from the last round robin game. No updates have been provided, but ti seems very likely that the Bolts start this series quite short-handed.
Of course, that plays right into the hands of a Columbus team that just beat a squad very similar to these Lightning in Toronto. The Jackets absolutely stifled the skill and speed of Toronto’s forwards, and worked their defense into the ground with a pressing forecheck. This is a mostly healthy squad and while they did just finish their earlier series on Sunday night, the quick turnaround could work in their favour. The intensity is already there, and expect to see Columbus’ best on Tuesday afternoon.
Of the 8 first-round playoff series, this rematch should carry the most intrigue. But are the Bolts worthy again of being such lofty favourites? Will the Jackets spoil the party two seasons in a row? It should be fascinating to watch unfold, so continue reading beneath the odds for further team news, analysis, and a betting prediction for Game 1 of the Blue Jackets vs. Lightning. Enjoy!
Blue Jackets vs. Lightning Betting Odds:
Columbus Blue Jackets (+153)
Tampa Bay Lightning (-170)
Over 5.5 (+119)
Under 5.5 (-131)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Blue Jackets vs. Lightning Pick:
If you were following along with our profitable selections from the Qualifying Round, you’ll know that we are big fans of what this Blue Jackets team has accomplished. They were suffocating in 5 games vs. Toronto, and it seems that the betting markets are once again disrespecting them as they prepare for their rematch vs. Tampa Bay.
Firstly, it is worth noting that the Bolts were nowhere near as good this season, as they were last. Injuries did play a part in that, yes – though they still never reached the same levels of offensive explosion and scoring ability.
Now the Jackets too will be without Artemi Panarin and Matt Duchene from last season’s upset – but many players within this squad have taken the next step. Look for Columbus to really wear down a Lightning blue-line without their stud, Victor Hedman. Constant pressure and dump-ins will make retrieving the puck hard for this blue-line, and prevent them from head-manning the puck up to their talented forward corps.
To beat Tampa Bay, you need to have the puck and make them play without it. Expect the likes of Boone Jenner, Liam Foudy, and Cam Atkinson to use their blazing speed and aggression to get in on the forecheck and create chances from there. Tampa Bay likely won’t be able to match the Jackets’ natural intensity from the outset – something that also makes me lean to this big price with Columbus.
Beyond the players, Joonas Korpisalo was about as elite as anyone in the Qualifying Round, stifling Toronto on virtually all chances. Tampa Bay has a similar blend of talented scorers, but if Korpisalo can maintain that form, you have to like Columbus’ chances in Round One.
Faces have changed and so has the situation, but this ridiculous price on Columbus seems silly at the moment. They’re fully healthy and you never have to worry about intensity with this Jackets squad. Expect them to push the face from the outset, and remind Tampa Bay why they pulled last season’s upset. While I won’t call a series win for Columbus just yet, expect Game 1 to bring up some bad memories for the Lightning.
Pick: Columbus 3-1