Free NHL Picks: Penguins To Seize Control Of Series With Game 4 Win

Ross Benjamin

Friday, May 20, 2016 2:12 PM GMT

Let's preview Friday’s Game 4 of the Conference Final series between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay. Go inside to read this highly informative article which concludes with an NHL pick.

Pivotal Game 5 of NHL Eastern Conference Final
The Penguins and Lightning will square off on Friday in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Final series. The opening faceoff at the Amalie Center in Tampa, Florida is slated for 8:05 PM ET. By virtue of their 4-2 win at Tampa on Wednesday, Pittsburgh now leads the series 2-1. Current NHL odds at BetOnline has Pittsburgh as a -140 money line road favorite, and the posted total is 5.0.

 

Massive Territorial Edge
When assessing the shots on goal category over the first three games, you certainly can make a case that Tampa is very fortunate to be down just 2-1. Case in point, the Penguins hold a cumulative 124-69 shots on goal advantage thus far. Putting that overwhelming territorial edge into perspective, Pittsburgh has averaged 41.3 shots on goal per game compared to 23.0 for Tampa Bay. That’s a dominating +18.3 shots on goal advantage per game, and is an extremely rare occurrence to see this deep into a Conference Final series.


 

Young Lightning Backup Goaltender Stands Tall
Despite losing each of the previous two games, 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy has been outstanding in those starts. The youngster was thrust into an unexpected starting role after Ben Bishop sustained a leg injury early in the series opener at Pittsburgh. Counting his relief appearance in Game 1, Vasilevskiy has turned away 107 of 115 Penguins shots on goal, and that’s good for a stellar .930 save percentage. He was a major reason Tampa Bay came out on top in Game 1 by stopping 25 of 26 shots on goal after relieving Bishop. Granted he lost his only two starts of the postseason during Game 2 and 3. However, his strong performances in those outings kept his team much closer than the final scores indicates. Barring a miraculous recovery by Bishop, Vasilevskiy is once again expected to be between the pipes on Friday.

 

Penguins Continue to Bulldoze Forward
Pittsburgh finished regular season action by going 14-2 in their last sixteen games. They’ve certainly carried that momentum with them into postseason play, and are now 24-6 over its previous thirty games. That torrid stretch also includes going 12-4 in its last sixteen away games.

 

Can Lightning Strike?
It will be urgent and desperate times for Tampa Bay this evening. They can ill afford to head back to Pittsburgh down 3-1. If that was to be the case, winning the last three games wouldn’t be impossible, but that sequence of events can be accurately predicted as highly improbable. That’s especially apparent when considering Pittsburgh hasn’t lost three consecutive games in a row since 12/19/2015. Tampa Bay has gone 30-18 against the money line at home, and that includes 5-2 during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

 

Final Take and Pick
It’s quite apparent at this juncture that Pittsburgh has been the better team in this series thus far. In Tampa’s defense, they’ve had to endure several key injuries during this postseason run. They’ve displayed the quality of depth their roster possesses by just getting to this point. However, the deeper we get into the playoffs, the tougher it becomes in overcoming injuries to the likes of quality players such as Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop. It’s also very strange to see a road favorite at this steep of money line price in a Conference Final, considering it’s a still a very much up for grabs series. That in itself speaks volumes to me, and I’ll be wagering on the road team tonight for one of my NHL picks.

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Free NHL Pick:  Penguins -140
Best Line Offered:  at BetOnline