Free NHL Picks: Puck Line Value Favors Penguins In Game 7

Ross Benjamin

Thursday, May 26, 2016 1:55 PM UTC

Thursday, May. 26, 2016 1:55 PM UTC

Our NHL handicapping professional previews Thursday’s Game 7 between Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh. Go inside to read this insightful article culminated with a NHL pick.

Stanley Cup Final Berth on the Line
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins square off in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday. The opening faceoff at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh is slated for 8:05 PM ET. Thursday’s winner will advance to the Stanley Cup Finals and take on the San Jose Sharks. Current (8:35 AM ET) NHL odds have Pittsburgh as a -210 money line favorite and the total is 5.5. Bookmaker also has Pittsburgh -1.5 (+155) on the puck line.

Including the playoffs, Thursday will be the tenth meeting of the season between these clubs. Tampa Bay has gone 6-3 during the first nine encounters. Those nine games also went 7-1-1 over the total, and that includes 4-0-1 over during the previous five played in this Eastern Conference Final.


Nothing like a Game 7
No matter what main stream sport we make reference to, Game 7 of a playoff series is unmatched in terms of intensity and drama. Every play, call, and mishap becomes magnified three fold. Carrying the Game 7 topic even a step further, a strong argument can be made that a Stanley Cup Playoff Game 7 provides more bang for your buck in terms of pure entertainment value. Of course, like in any major sport, sometimes the hype just doesn’t live up to its billing, but those types of occurrences have proven to be least likely in the NHL. My perspective on this specific topic is geared more toward an overall historical view, rather than just solely on Thursday’s upcoming Game 7 itself.


Pens Huge Territorial Edge
I alluded to Pittsburgh’s substantial territorial edge in this series during my Game 6 preview article. Being redundant often times leads to an uninteresting read, in addition to a senseless reaffirmation of one’s view. However, given the magnitude of Thursday’s game, I firmly believe it warrants revisiting.

Pittsburgh has a cumulative 226-161 shots on goal advantage through the first six games of this series. Putting those numbers into perspective, Pittsburgh has an average +10.8 shots on goal per game advantage thus far. They’ve outshot Tampa Bay in each of the first six games, and based on that alone, it can reasonably be concluded that the Lightning is very fortunate to still be playing hockey at this juncture. As a matter of fact, including regular season action, Pittsburgh has outshot Tampa Bay in all nine of their meetings. During those nine games, they’ve had a combined 335-235 shots on goal edge, or an average of +11.1 per contest. History suggests that this type of territorial domination will pay huge dividends the deeper a playoff series goes. We already witnessed a glimpse of that in Game 6.


Unusual Goaltending Matchup
Raise your hand if two months ago you predicted that Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay would be playing in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and 22-year-old rookie Matt Murray would be the starting goaltender for Pittsburgh, in addition to 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy for Tampa Bay. If you have your hand up, then please put it down, you’re officially a pathological liar in need of advanced psychological care.

Both of these young goaltenders have more than held their own under the extreme pressures of playoff hockey. If there’s an edge to be had, I would lean toward Matt Murray based on him going 10-4 during this postseason, and his season overall home record of 9-3. Conversely, Andrei Vasilevskiy is a somewhat poor 6-9 in fifteen road starts.


Special Teams
The one thing that clearly stands out when assessing each team’s special team units in this series, pertains to Pittsburgh’s display of discipline. The Penguins have only afforded Tampa Bay 12 power play chances in six games, and allowed just 2 goals when shorthanded. Contrarily, Pittsburgh has been on the power play 19 times in this series, and converted on a stellar 21.1% of those opportunities. With all considered, my decisive edge goes to Pittsburgh in regards to this specific category.


Betting Angle, Trends, Strategy, and Pick
Pittsburgh has scored 3 goals or more in each of their last five games. Additionally, each of the last two games of this series have produced a combined 7 goals.

Any money line home favorite of -200 or greater, coming off scoring 3 goals or more in each of its previous two games, versus an opponent which saw a combined 7 goals or more being scored in each of their previous two outings, resulted in the home team going 39-4 (90.7%) over the past five seasons. More importantly, the home team won those 43 outings by an average of 2.0 goals per game.

Pittsburgh has gone an extremely profitable 9-1 at home this season following a road win in its previous outing, and had a substantial +2.1 goals per game differential. Their only blemish in that regard came in Game 5 of this Eastern Final series during a 4-3 overtime defeat. The Penguins are also a very impressive 25-8 over its last 33 games.

The best betting value on tonight’s Game 7 is on the puck line favorite at a money line underdog price, and one of my NHL picks will be indicative of such.

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NHL Pick: Penguins -1.5 (+150)
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek

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