Free NHL Pick: Play Lightning -120 At Home Against Panthers

Dana Lane

Saturday, March 26, 2016 5:28 PM UTC

Saturday, Mar. 26, 2016 5:28 PM UTC

The winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning vs.Florida Panthers game gets sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Divsion, and we offer a free NHL betting pick on this exciting game.

This was an extremely difficult game to handicap because you can make a strong argument for both. It just came down to my belief in the Lightning's pedigree over the last couple of seasons would make them the best NHL Pick on tonight's game.  This is the time of year you can expect teams to draw from their past big-game experience.  As we know, Tampa was beaten by the Chicago Blackhawks in last year's Stanley Cup Final which gives them a tremendous experience advantage.  Florida hasn't won a division title since 2003-2004 and have only made the layoffs once in their last 14 seasons. 

The Lightning should also have a little motivation on their side considering the Panthers have beaten them in three of their last four meetings however they are only 1-4-1 in their last six visits to Amalie Arena including their most recent loss in January 3-1. 

Tampa has offense exploded for seven goals against the New York Islanders last night giving them their third straight win. The win did come with a price as Anton Stralman left the game in the first period with a broken leg.  He is out indefinitely which leaves them without one of their top two defensemen. We try not to overreact to any injury and obviously the Lightning didn't miss a beat without him offensively so don't run to the window because of a major injury.  Jason Garrison will simply move up into the top defensive pairing.  Garrison is 6-3, 222 and would be on a top pairing on most teams. He has three points in his last two games.  Stralman is better offensively but has struggled against bigger forwards. This won't be a problem tonight, and this is reflected on the NHL Odds board.

The Lightning's top two lines are playoff ready led by Steven Stamkos who seems to be warming up as he has nine points in his last six games after netting his 35th last night. Stamkos has not scored against Florida this season and doesn't have a point in their last three match-ups. Stamkos has 45 points in 39 career meetings against Florida. His success has rubbed off on his line mates.  Ondrej Palat has five points in his last two games while Nikita Kucherov has four points in his last games after moving up to fill in for the injured Ryan Callahan. 

I often look to teams with quality penalty kill units which the Lightning have.  Tampa has killed just under 84% of their penalty's this season which ranks them sixth in the league. 

From a trend perspective I have to be more comfortable with the Panthers in big spots before I can bad them with any level of confidence. They have never been a good play to go on the road or beat quality teams with any regularity.  In their last 169 road games the Panthers are just 51-115-3 against teams with a home winning percentage over .600 such as the Lightning who are a spectacular 59-28 at home.

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Free NHL Pick: Tampa Bay -120
Best Line Offered: at Pinnalce


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