Nearly five months removed from their last meaningful hockey action, two high-flying teams will take to the ice in Toronto to gear up for Round 1 of the post-season next week.
Both the Lightning and Capitals earned the right to forego the initial Stanley Cup Qualifiers, as one of the top-4 teams within the Eastern Conference. Instead, the Lightning, Capitals, along with the Flyers and Bruins, will all play three games, one against each other – in order to determine rankings for Round One of the post-season.
And while these games certainly matter to the teams listed above, they aren’t quite of the ‘do-or-die’ nature that we’ve seen thus far from the earlier qualifying best-of-5 series.
Still though, the Caps and Lightning are not fond of each other, and with all of the upsets seemingly in store in the East, you can bet both coaches will be stressing the importance of securing the top-seed for the first round.
Heading into this match-up, some health-related stuff from both teams – the Caps will be exclusively going with Braden Holtby in goal, as Ilya Samsonov is unavailable. Meanwhile, for the Bolts – key defenseman Victor Hedman is slated to play, but captain Steven Stamkos will not. That duo was battling injuries in the weeks leading up to the restart, and head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Hedman will be in, while Stamkos continues to rest.
Tired of sports yet? Nope, me either! A loaded NHL slate featuring six games on a busy Monday should do enough to keep you occupied. Keep reading on beneath the posted odds for further details, and a betting preview for the Lightning and Capitals in this Eastern Conference Round Robin showdown. Enjoy!
Capitals vs. Lightning Betting Odds:
Washington Capitals (+119)
Tampa Bay Lightning (-131)
Over 6 (-114)
Under 6 (+103)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Capitals vs. Lightning Pick:
Despite the fact that this isn’t a playoff series, expect the intensity from these teams to be high right from the drop of the puck. They’re quite familiar with one another, and after the huge playoff failure from the Lightning last season against Columbus, you better believe this is a hungry group ready to fix what previously plagued them.
This Tampa Bay squad is now much deeper and better defensively. Always talented offensively, they’ve enhanced their play without the puck by bringing in Kevin Shattenkirk, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman in recent months. They’re fast and tight-checking, and can beat teams in a plethora of different ways.
The Capitals meanwhile are a more veteran squad, and it might take some games before this crew fully gets back into the intensity of playoff-like hockey. Regardless, they’re a proud crew with a recent Stanley Cup title under their belts. Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom will be tough matchups for the Lightning defense, and hard-charging Tom Wilson will be a pain to deal with on the forecheck.
Before the pandemic caused the pause to the NHL season, the Lightning were in fine form, skating as one of the top teams in the league. Their advanced numbers at even strength in terms of scoring chances and expected goals were elite, and there’s a reason why they remain the current Cup favourites. They bettered the Caps in all key areas, and even without Stamkos on Monday – look for the Bolts to be more focused on these round robin games compared to the Capitals.
One aspect that makes the Bolts so tough to deal with is their great depth across all lines and pairings. Unfortunately for Washington, Cup success and big paydays have limited what they can do – and their team really thins out on their own 3rd/4th units, specifically on their back-end.
Look for an onslaught of offense to come from the speedy Lightning right from the drop of the puck. Outside of John Carlson, the Capitals’ back-end leaves a lot to be desired, and with all of the Lightning’s skill and finishing ability, look for a hungry group to start their bubble experience with a bang.
At a short favourite price, even without captain Steven Stamkos, look for the Lightning to put real value into treating these round robin games as if they’re the post-season. After last season’s embarrassment, it’s now or never for this group. Look for them to secure a tone-setting victory on Monday afternoon.
Pick: Tampa Bay 4 – Washington 2