There are only two games on the NHL card for Wednesday, but one of them promises to be a must-watch affair in Pittsburgh tonight. The Tampa Bay Lightning are in town for a clash with the Penguins in what might be a previous of a matchup in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Lightning would currently go into the playoffs as the 1st seed in the conference, while the Penguins are in 8th with the final wildcard.
There is a bit of shock when considering a team like the Penguins who have seen so much success in the last decade are back there, but a slow start, notably for Matt Murray, set the Pens behind the 8-ball early this season. Recently they’ve been showing some of the same issues that got them in a hole to begin with. Murray seemed to figure it out, but January has been rough for him and the defence. They’ve been getting gashed and are back to square one trying to sort it out again.
At this point, the Penguins’ odds of success may come down to if Murray can get hot in March and April. They will continue to slip and fall if he can’t get something going between the pipes. That goes for Casey DeSmith as well, who the Penguins may look to just like they did earlier in the season with Murray struggling.
After getting hammered against the Devils, Murray is likely going to be back in net, but nothing has been confirmed yet. The Pens likely go with Murray and hope he can build up some confidence against the high-powered Lightning. He’s going to have to be locked in for it to go smoothly, or we may see DeSmith get a shot. Head below for our free Lightning vs. Penguins pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Pick
The Pens are coming off a 6-3 loss against the Devils. This followed a 7-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights, so that’s 13 goals in just two games. Murray was in net against the Devils, while DeSmith was in net to take a beating against the Golden Knights. DeSmith has allowed 14 goals in his previous three starts, so it hasn’t only been Murray struggling to find his element in net.
Both trending down spells big trouble for the Penguins, but I have faith that Murray can get back to playing solid hockey. However, my confidence in him doing it against the Lightning isn’t too high. Tampa are the best in the NHL at finding the back of the net, with an average of 4 goals scored per game. That’s come down a bit, but they are still scoring easily. They went into the All-Star break with a 6-3 win against the Sharks. The Bolts should be fresh and ready to take advantage of a weak Pittsburgh defence.
In their last four meetings, the Lightning have scored an average of 4.5 goals per game on the Pens. With the defensive situation in Pittsburgh shaky at best, they should be able to generate plenty of scoring chances. If there is any weakness in Tampa, it’d have to be their defence on the road. They are allowing 3.08 goals per game on the road as opposed to 2.86 per game at home. The Pens are averaging a healthy amount of goals at home with 3.54 scored per game.
Teams in the playoffs are going to have to make the most of it when they’re home in the playoffs, and then find a way to steal a game in Tampa. There has been an average of just over 6 goals scored per game in their last seven meetings. During that span, the OVER has gone 7-0. I think with Pittsburgh struggling defensively at the moment, and the Lightning on deck, we likely see a lot of goals on the board in this meeting on Wednesday.