In the last week, Tampa Bay lost No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop with a lower-body injury, and on Dec. 29 Pittsburgh announced Stanley Cup hero and goalie Matt Murray was out "indefinitely" with the same. What now for these two Eastern Conference contenders?
Both the Bolts and Pens came into this season carrying the luxury of two first-rate goaltenders, and speculation began early on about what would happen with each situation. Now with Bishop expected out until the later stages of January and Murray undetermined, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh, who played in last year's Eastern Conference Finals, no doubt are thankful they hung on to these valuable assets.
Lightning Turn To Youngster, Penguins To Veteran
Tampa Bay had 22-year old Andrei Vasilevskiy waiting in the wings, and most serious bettors who study the NHL odds know he is the Lightning's future goaltender. He performed very well when Bishop was hurt during 2015 Stanley Cup run and has all the tools to be a top notch player between the pipes. Plus Bishop is set for free agency after this season.
With Tampa Bay scuffling as a .500 team on NHL picks as we near the halfway point of the season, the Lightning could use Vasilevskiy as a springboard to a hot streak and kickstart their season. However, that has not happened yet, with the Russian 3-3, having a high 3.51 goals-against average (as of Dec. 29) and low save percentage (.876) since Dec. 1. Hard to back the Lightning right now for any reason.
Marc-Andre Fleury (pictured) takes over again for the Penguins, and 32-year-old struggled in the early part of the season, essentially losing his job. Fleury has picked up level of play in the last month with a 2.53 GAA and .923 save percentage in eight games and six starts. With how the Pens are playing, Fleury and Pittsburgh appear the safer NHL betting option.