The Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning clash on Thursday night for what should make for a watchable game at Amalie Arena. The Lightning have been the hottest team in the league, having recorded at least a point in every game since January 17. They are on an eight-game winning streak, and have won 20 of their previous 23 games. There was absolutely no hiccups for the Lightning last season. From the drop of the puck in October to the end of the regular season, the Lightning were untouchable. That was until the first-round of the playoffs, and their world came crashing down when they were bounced in four games.
The Lightning were peaking all season in 2018-19. The only regression they had is when they had to play the Blue Jackets in the playoffs, at the most important time of the season. This season they have gone about business a little differently. The Lightning have not been playing at the top of the Eastern Conference this season. Boston has been in control of the Atlantic Division from the get-go. Tampa was not nearly this hot earlier in the season, where they looked slightly hungover from what happened last April. They’re well over that, though, and continue to close the gap with the Bruins.
Heading into Thursday night, the Lightning are just 3 points behind the Bruins. They’ve been the far better team over the last couple of months, and definitely not a team I’d want to see in the first-round. Tampa are likely going to have their guard up much better than we saw last season. I think they went into that one thinking it was going to be easy, but I doubt they will take their first-round opponent this year. If that does happen, though, you have to think Jon Cooper will get a pink slip pretty fast.
The Lightning welcome an Oilers squad that does not have much room for error now. They’re one of the teams in the Pacific. Edmonton are currently 2nd in the Pacific, so they’d be in if the playoffs started now. However, there’s only two points that separates them from the Flames, Coyotes, and Golden Knights. In other words, there isn’t much wiggle room, and every point is vitally important now. It won’t be an easy chore on the road against the Bolts, though. Head below for our free Oilers vs. Lightning pick.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Betting Odds:
Oilers vs. Lightning Prediction:
There is some good news and bad news for the Oilers going into tonight. The services of Connor McDavid will be unavailable in Tampa tonight. That’s obviously the bad news, as his presence would have been helpful against an elite team like the Lightning. The good news is that McDavid is not expected to miss over a month of action, so the quad injury is not expected to be a long-term issue. If it lingers, it could linger all the way to the end of the regular season, though. Fortunately, the Oilers will have a healthy Leon Draisaitl tonight. Draisaitl leads the Oilers with a whopping 89 points, which includes 32 goals and 57 assists. With McDavid and him on the same team, it’d be a horrible look if they can’t go to the playoffs.
The next order of business for the Oilers is getting an elite goaltender in Edmonton. Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen are okay, though they’re both better suited as backup netminders. Instead, Smith and Koskinen have taken turns playing the role of starter with mixed results. Koskinen is probable to get the nod between the pipes tonight. He holds a 2.91 GAA and 0.909 save percentage in 31 games. Conversely, Smith has posted a 2.96 GAA and 0.902 save percentage. If the Oilers do go to the playoffs, I’m not going to be confident in either of them being able to outduel some of the other goalies out there in the Western Conference. Nor am I confident about the goaltending in Tampa tonight for Edmonton.
It’s likely going to be an issue for the Oilers tonight. The Lightning are one of the best teams in the league at knowing how to score, and they’ve surely done that in recent meetings versus the Oilers. Tampa scored 6 and 5 goals in wins of 6-3 and 5-2 in their last two games. The Oilers are going to have to deal with a Lightning offence that is scoring at an electric clip of 4.04 goals per game at home. Overall on the season, they’re 4th in the league with 3.53 goals buried per contest. McDavid may not be playing tonight, but I think the emphasis needs to be offence against a Lightning team who are likely going to score. It should be an entertaining fast faced game regardless. Three of their past four meetings have gone OVER the total, and it’s likely another tonight.