The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the black with wins
in four straight games. On Sunday, they’ll travel on the road to face the
Chicago Blackhawks just one night after winning in Minnesota.
They might find the going tough against the reigning
champs, though, as the Blackhawks have won six of their last seven at home and
seven of their last eight at home against Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay
Lightning Can Win Because…:
They have finally woken up.
Not many people were expecting the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the
Southeastern Division this season even as they led it throughout most of the
year, but they at least figured they’d be a pesky playoff team to face.
Throughout most of February and March, the Lightning weren’t lending much
credence to that argument.
The Lightning endured a stretch where they posted just
seven wins in 22 contests but that skid appears to be over. The Lightning have
won four straight and with another good effort, could extend that winning
Goaltender Dwayne Roloson has tightened things up in the
back end as he’s allowed just four goals in his last three starts. Combined
with his steady netminding, the offense has come together as well.
Steve Downie is back after an ankle sprain and Ryan
Malone is back after a groin injury that kept him out for five weeks. That
finally meant that the Lightning have their top two lines back together, which
marks just the 18th time this season that has been the case.
With the full arsenal back in tow, this could be a
sneaky-good team in the playoffs and a decent bet on Sunday.
Blackhawks Can Win Because…:
They are at home where life is good.
On the season, the Chicago Blackhawks 23-15-0 at the United
Center and have won six of their last seven. In this series, they have won
seven of their last eight at home.
Everything just works a little better at home for the
Blackhawks that it does on the road. Goaltender Corey Crawford is 17-10 at home
versus 14-6-5 (or just 14-11 to bettors) on the road. While the Blackhawks
average 3.05 goals per game on the road, they average 3.18 at home. Their power
play converts at a 21.7 percent clip on the road but it climbs to 26.3 percent
That’s why they call it “home-ice advantage”.
The Lightning find themselves in a tough spot playing
their third game in four nights, two of which were away. Chicago has won four
of six and has been off since Friday, so they should be in good position to
take advantage of the Lightning.
Outlook & NHL
Tampa Bay is back on track with four straight wins but
the edge here has to go to Chicago. They are fighting for their playoff lives
and this contest simply means more to them than it does Tampa Bay.
Beyond that, NHL odds makers are aware that the home-ice advantage figures to play a
huge factor for the reasons mentioned above for Chicago combined with the fact
that Tampa Bay is just 19-19 on the road this season.
Hockey bettors should take the Blackhawks to win this non-conference battle.