Wednesday evening will see yet another installment of hockey’s best series at the moment – the Lightning and the Bruins. You can make a legitimate case that both Tampa Bay and Boston are the two best remaining teams in the NHL’s bubble, and it is a real shame that they do need to meet in Round 2.
Game 2 saw Tampa Bay get back to playing the way they can. This is a fast and deep squad coached by Jon Cooper, and with the skill and pace of Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point, and Nikita Kucherov – the Bolts’ forwards can, and will continue to wear down Boston’s defense.
Now it’s the Bruins time to answer back in a crucial Game 3, in a back-to-back scenario. Losing Tuukka Rask hasn’t hurt the group too much, as backup Jaroslav Halak has been steady thus far between the pipes. But do the B’s have enough depth and pace to play with Tampa Bay, especially during key 5v5 minutes? That’s something Boston will need to prove Wednesday evening.
One betting element worth noting is that in Game 3, the matchup advantage will shift to Boston and coach Bruce Cassidy as the ‘home’ team. Boston has been notorious for securing favourable matchups, and if the B’s can control who is on the ice when – it could bode well for Game 3 success. As always, this promises to be another fascinating contest between two of the premier clubs in the NHL. Read on beneath the posted odds for a full betting breakdown and winning wager for Game 3 action.
Lightning vs. Bruins Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Lightning (-101)
Boston Bruins (-109)
Over 5.5 (-102)
Under 5.5 (-108)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Lightning vs. Bruins Pick:
Through two hotly contested games in this conference semi-final series, the odds between these teams have barely budged. This is puzzling considering Tampa Bay continues to play without their star sniper and captain, Steven Stamkos, and key defenseman in Ryan McDonagh.
Still though, the Bolts have arguably been the better team in the early portion of what is likely going to be a long series. Tampa Bay was unfortunate not to win in Game 1, and performed even better last night in Game 2. This is a fast team, perhaps the fastest in the entire NHL – and their speed and depth can wear down the depth options of Boston.
That is becoming increasingly evident during key 5v5 minutes. Tampa Bay has outscored Boston in expected goals by a 2.09 xG margin, while dominating shot attempts and high-danger chances at goal.
Boston does boast an impressive ‘Perfection Line’ trio featuring Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, and Brad Marchand – though they’ve been quiet at even strength, getting pestered regularly by Tampa’s Anthony Cirelli. Boston needs other options to step-up and outplay Tampa’s other lines, though there just isn’t enough evidence that can happen consistently enough.
Beyond this, Tampa Bay really worked hard at the deadline to bolster their depth and enhance scoring options throughout the lineup. It’s paying early dividends. Barclay Goodrow, Blake Coleman, Patrick Maroon, and Yanni Gourde have all been exceptional in this series – and Boston’s third and fourth liners are struggling to skate with them.
This continues to put a ton of pressure on Boston’s steady, but slow-footed defenseman. Aside from Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy, the B’s struggle to pivot, retrieve, and move the puck up the ice. The pace of Tampa’s forecheck is wearing down Boston, and when Tampa does concede chances – Andrei Vasilevsky continues to outplay Jaro Halak.
Despite being without Stamkos and McDonagh, there’s still a big edge to the Bolts in Game 3 and for the remainder of the series. They’ve shown what they can do at 5v5 through two games, and though Jon Cooper loses the ability to line-match aggressively without last change, the Bolts’ depth can handle Boston and continue to outplay them at even strength. At nearly plus-money, Tampa is the value play once again on Wednesday night.
Pick: Lightning 3-2