Thursday night brings us a full state of action in the NHL. We head to the desert where the Tampa Bay Lightning and Arizona Coyotes tangle for a meet of the best against the worst. The Lightning have been on a tear to open the season, as they’ve compiled a record of 22-6-1 in mid-December. They just have to hope that they aren’t peaking right now, and hit a major correction at the wrong time. With the amount of talent littering the Lightning roster, they just may actually be that good, though.
Tampa just got done with a big 3-0 win over the St. Louis Blues. Andrei Vasilevskiy added another shutout to his portfolio, and is now tied for second in the NHL with respects to shutouts. Ben Bishop had a couple of good years for the Lightning, but with Vasilevskiy, he feels like much more of a long-term answer than Bishop was. Note that he is only a 23-year-old. There is still a lot of time for him to grow. Expect to see him in Tampa for many years down the road.
The Lightning should have a good team for the next few years. Their core is going to be intact, and relatively young enough to take Stanley Cup runs. Steven Stamkos staying in Tampa was the imperative for the Lightning. There is talent here other than Stamkos, but he makes them a bit loaded. Between him and Kucherov, the Lightning are going to be just fine this season. Additionally, 21-year-old Brayden Point has given this team the extra boost they needed to get over the top. He’s scored 13 goals and 15 assists, with an impressive +/- of 13. Expect to hear his name plenty in the future. Head below for our free Lightning vs. Coyotes pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Arizona Coyotes Pick
With a powerful offence, and one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, the Lightning have the formula to be Stanley Cup Champions this year. If you are looking at a favourite to win it all, I wouldn’t hesitate to tab the Lightning. However, the playoffs can be a different beast all together, and they will have to navigate some good teams. At the moment, though, everything is sunshine and rainbows. The Bolts are averaging 3.73 goals per game, good for 1st in the NHL. They’re also 3rd defensively with 2.43 goals allowed per game. The Lightning are certainly the most complete team you can find in the league.
Then you take a look at the Coyotes, and you can’t find two different teams. The Coyotes are playing at the back of the league, with a record of 7-21-4. They own a 3-8-1 record at home in Arizona. The Yotes have lost four games in a row, while scoring only 4 goals in the process. All four were on the road, and they’ve played their last six of seven on the road. In their last ten games, they have managed to score just 1.7 goals per game. Conversely, the Lightning have won five in a row. They averaged 4.6 goals per game during that stretch. If the Lightning don’t take the night off, they should handle the Coyotes fairly easily. I don’t know if the Lightning are going to give Budaj the start and give Vasilevskiy the night off, but either way, I like the Lightning in Arizona.
PICK: LIGHTNING -1.5 (+120)