The Tampa Bay Lightning welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to Amalie Arena as they seek their 20th win in their last 23 games. Tampa have been blowing away their competition and standing above everyone in the league. That doesn’t equate to a Stanley Cup, though. They can will all the games they went, if Stamkos and Kucherov don’t perform when the lights get brighter in the playoffs, this is all for nothing.
Just ask the Nashville Predators who finished atop the standings. They failed to reach the Western Conference Final, as the Jets dumped them before that could happen. As we all know by now, the Golden Knights represented the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final. Finishing at the top of the standings didn’t work out for the Washington Capitals, either. I know if I were a bottom seed, I’d be doing everything in my power to avoid the Lightning in the first round, though.
The Lightning are currently 1st in the NHL with 68 points. The next closest team is the Flames and Golden Knights with 58 points each. Considering how the Knights started this season, it didn’t look like they’d be 1st in the conference so quickly.
With Paul Stastny healthy and playing strong hockey, the narrative has changed in Las Vegas, though. For the Lightning, it’s going to be Stanley Cup or bust. Everything else is window dressing in Tampa. They can lose five games the rest of the season and it will all feel pointless without a Cup.
On paper, the Lightning measure up to their rankings in the standings as well. Kucherov leads the team with 71 points, which is good for 1st in the league, too. Brayden Point is 6th in the league with 57 points and Stamkos is 22nd with 47 points. Three of the top point getters are playing in Tampa. The Hurricanes enter playing solid hockey with five straight wins. Head below for our free Hurricanes vs. Lightning pick.
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick
There are three teams that have beaten the Lightning since November 29th: the Jets and Sharks. The Sharks were the first team to hand them a loss in regulation since November 19th against the Predators. It’s certainly not a fluky run for the Lightning, who are loaded with fire power. The only question is whether they can go on a similar hot run in the spring. There are some good teams in the Eastern Conference that are going to be gunning for them.
In any event, the Bolts are 1st in the league in the standings and 1st in goals. They have averaged a whopping 4.12 goals per game. For anyone new to hockey, that’s pretty crazy holding a goals per game average above 4 goals in January. They’ve been on fire at home, with an average of 4.41 goals scored per game. In their last ten games, it jumps to 4.5 goals per game overall.
Curtis McElhinney has been playing well, but he has a load to handle against the Lightning this evening. McElhinney has proven to be a terrific acquisition for the Hurricanes. He’s stood tall in net, posting a 2.25 GAA and 0.922 save percentage. If only the Leafs could turn back the clocks and not let him go. Carolina have scored an average of 2.45 goals per game and allowed 3.05 goals on the road this season. They’ve been playing extremely well recently with five wins in a row. It’s going to be difficult to get their sixth, though, and I believe it comes to a screeching halt in Tampa against the Lightning.