The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning meet on Thursday night at Amalie Arena for an important Eastern Conference showdown. The Penguins enter Tampa Bay with a record of 33-15-5 as they try and catch the Washington Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. Like clockwork, the Capitals and Penguins always find a way to deal with one another.
Given the injuries that the Penguins have had to deal with, it’s certainly impressive that they are only six points behind in the Metropolitan. The Capitals have to be looking behind them thinking oh no here we go again with the Penguins. Let’s assume that the Penguins have had a healthy Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel this season. There probably wouldn’t be much of a six-point gap then.
Crosby has since returned to the ice after a long absence. Guentzel on the other hand is not expected to be back anytime soon. The best-case scenario for Guentzel is a return to the ice in late April. At least there would be a chance of coming back at some point in the playoffs. They may not need him early in the playoffs, though his presence would be welcome as pressure begins to pick up.
Having said that, they can’t take the first-round lightly. If they learned anything from the Lightning last season, the Penguins won’t play down to their opponent. There are some good teams who are going to have wildcards again this season, so nothing is going to be a guarantee. If the Lightning were to replicate what they did last season in the playoffs, oh boy, the memes aren’t going to be pretty on social media.
We can at least assume they’re going to win one playoff game this season, though, right? It’s likely that they will avoid the Presidents’ Trophy, so that might be a good thing. The Lightning head into Thursday with a 33-15-5 and 71 points, so they’re all even with the Penguins. The Bolts are behind by five points in the Atlantic, while the Penguins are six down in the Metropolitan. Head below for our free Penguins vs. Lightning pick.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Betting Odds:
Penguins vs. Lightning Prediction:
The good news on the injury front for the Penguins is that Nick Bjudstad is nearing a return at some point this month. Getting a body back up front for depth is going to help the Penguins, though they’ve been able to manage well without a healthy offence. The offence has been playing incredibly well recently, with 4 goals in each of their last two outings, and at least 4 goals in three of their last four games.
The Penguins have scored 3.3 goals per game in their last ten games, which has been fairly consistent for them this season. It’s usually a sure thing that the Penguins are scoring either 3 or 4 goals. Overall on the season, the Penguins are scoring 3.3 goals per game for 7th in the NHL.
The Penguins have been doing it primarily without the heart and soul of their team, Crosby, along with Guentzel who is one of the best point producers the Penguins have on their roster. Crosby is back now, though, and he had a recent overtime winner against the Flyers for a 4-3 win in Philadelphia. They’re coming off a big 4-3 win over the Capitals in the 50th meeting between Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. It was an evenly matched game, with the Penguins getting one more shot and goal than the Capitals.
The Penguins went with Matt Murray in that one, and the goal support was fortunately there for him. It’s been a rough season overall, with Murray holding a 2.85 GAA and 0.90 save percentage. Tristan Jarry has regressed lately, so the Penguins have been offering Murray more of a chance.
Jarry has been a brick wall for the Penguins this season. The Penguins are not in this spot with 33 wins if it weren’t for Jarry filling the void with Murray struggling. However, Jarry has been showing signs of falling back recently, as he has allowed 3 goals in seven of his last eight outings. That’s certainly consistent, but a goal less would be more ideal for Jarry and the Pens.
Pittsburgh has allowed 3 goals per game on the road this season, which is likely going to have to be better to find a win in Tampa tonight. The Lightning are at their best on home ice, where they’ve averaged a whopping 4.08 goals per contest. Expect an entertaining game between two heavyweights of the Eastern Conference. Consider a play on the OVER in a matchup that should feature 7 or 8 goals.