Following a two-day hiatus with athletes across the globe taking time away from their respective sport to shine the necessary light on social justice initiatives – the NHL post-season will resume Saturday afternoon. The break in play has further condensed an already tight schedule, though for the Lightning and Bruins, fatigue has yet to set in coming off such a long pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One added benefit of the mini-break was that it allowed both teams to rest, recover, and return to full health. Both the Bolts and Bruins had some injuries, and though many personnel issues aren’t resolved until warmups just before puck drop, it seems as if Tampa Bay will have Ryan McDonagh back in the lineup in a crucial Game 4 today.
Of course, the Bolts will still be without their captain and top sniper in Steven Stamkos. A core injury has kept him out longer than expected, though if the Lightning keep producing goals and chances at their current rates, they might not need him until the Cup Final!
For Boston, it will be all about bouncing back. A horrid 7-1 loss in Game 3 has put them in a tough spot. Win today, or risk going down 3-1 to one of the deepest clubs in hockey. They’re struggling dealing with the depth and pace of the Bolts, and without their star goalie in Tuukka Rask to bail them out – getting back to the Stanley Cup Finals might be a pipe dream for Boston right now.
One thing is for certain, in that this series has been the best of the four semi-finals. These are elite teams, and clearly two of the top-four teams in the NHL. The pace and action of these games has been intense, and Saturday afternoon’s encounter should bring about even more excitement. As always, read on beneath the posted odds for a detailed match breakdown and betting analysis for Game 4 of Tampa vs. Boston.
Lightning vs. Bruins Betting Odds:
Tampa Bay Lightning (-109)
Boston Bruins (-101)
Over 5.5 (-108)
Under 5.5 (-104)
*Betting odds provided by BetOnline.ag
Lightning vs. Bruins Pick:
While there might be a general tendency to look to the veteran Bruins to bounceback after the 7-1 drubbing back in Game 3, it’s not going to be that easy. For starters, the Lightning have been the far superior team in this series thus far, especially at 5v5.
As we’ve said here before, the Bolts just have too much speed and pace throughout their lineup for the Bruins. Boston doesn’t have the same skill in their bottom-6 forwards and bottom-pairing defensemen, and as a result – their depth is getting exposed. Tampa Bay’s secondary options are vastly outplaying Boston’s, and it continues to be the difference in this series.
While I thought Bruce Cassidy could potentially limit this in Game 3 with Boston being the ‘home’ side and having last change, that clearly did not materialize. Tampa Bay still got their matchups out there against Boston’s top horses, and were still effective at getting pucks beyond Boston’s slow-footed defensemen, and making them work on every retrieval.
Heading into a crucial fourth game, Tampa Bay leads expected goals at 5v5 by a total of 7-4, and have soundly outshot Boston, while also doubling them in high-danger chances. This was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s year to push for the Cup, and even with a slightly depleted roster, they are showing very little flaws heading into a crucial stretch.
Right now it seems illogical to sway from our strategy and back anyone but the Bolts. They’re playing far too well at the moment, and until the Bruins show that they have some sort of solution beyond their top line – this series seems like it could be over sooner rather than later. At yet another short favourite price, the value is once again on the Bolts to get the job done on Saturday afternoon.
Pick: Lightning 3-2