Lightning-Capitals Game 4: Tampa Can Steal Back Home-Ice Advantage

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 1:47 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 16, 2018 1:47 PM UTC

The Eastern Conference Finals between the Lightning and Capitals has yet to see the home team win. Will that change in Game 4 Thursday from D.C.?

Game 4: Tampa Bay (1-2) at Washington (2-1)Free NHL Pick: Over (& Lightning)Best Line Offered: Bovada

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If the Washington Capitals can win Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals over the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), the next Caps home game could be in the Stanley Cup Finals – a level the franchise has reached only once. However, the road team is 3-0 in this series and top-seeded Tampa Bay could steal back home-ice advantage with another upset victory.

This writer recommended the Lightning and the ‘over’ in Game 3 and was half-right in Tampa’s 4-2 victory – what, no empty-net goal to push the total ‘over’ 6!? It was Washington’s first home game in a conference final in 20 years and its loss assured we would not have a sweep of either conference final series. No matter whom you root for, all true hockey fans should want long playoff series. Since the league went to a bracket format in 2014, just seven total series have now been sweeps and none have happened after the second round.

On the updated BetOnline series line, Washington remains the -165 favorite with Tampa at +145. The Capitals do have four home losses now in these playoffs but haven’t lost back-to-back at Capital One Arena since Games 1-2 of the first round against Columbus. The Lightning have won four straight on the road in this postseason: Game 4 in New Jersey, Games 3-4 in Boston and then Tuesday’s 4-2 victory.

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Lightning Played with Urgency

Game 3 was essentially over early in the second period when Nikita Kucherov scored on the power play at 1:50 to make it 2-0 and defenseman Victor Hedman scored his first goal of these playoffs at 3:37 for a 3-0 advantage. Steven Stamkos (13:53 of the first on the power play) and Brayden Point (16:03 of the second) were the other Tampa goal-scorers.

Hedman showed why he’s a Norris Trophy candidate, also adding two assists and frankly dominating. He now has at least one point in eight straight playoff games, tied for the third-longest streak by a blueliners since 1985. I think Al MacInnis’ mark of 17 in a row from 1989 is safe. Hedman is the first defenseman with a point in eight straight since Larry Murphy in 1995.

The Lightning were burned by Washington odd-man rushes in the first two games but largely prevented that Tuesday as the Caps had the fewest high-danger chances (six) of the series. Andrei Vasilevskiy had easily his best game of the series with 36 saves, including five after Washington pulled goalie Braden Holtby down 4-2. Vasilevskiy has been much better on the road in these playoffs with a 1.99 GAA and .940 save percentage. Tampa also continued its power-play success by going 2-for-5. Stamkos scored his 10th career playoff PP goal, tying Martin St. Louis for the most in franchise history.

Washington’s goals came from Brett Connolly (fourth of playoffs) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (ninth), but Alex Ovechkin was held without a point despite nine shots. The Caps outshot the Bolts 38-23. Holtby allowed four goals on 23 shots to see his four-game winning streak end. Washington is now 1-8 all-time in Game 3s after taking a 2-0 series lead. Unbelievable.

The Caps again played without their second-best offensive player, center Nicklas Backstrom, as he missed a fourth in a row with a hand injury. You know it’s serious if a hockey player sits out. Remains to be seen if he will go Thursday as NHL teams are very secretive.

  • Capitals are 1-4 in their last 5 Thursday games.
  • Lightning are 35-16 in their last 51 after allowing 2 goals or less in their previous game.
  • Over is 6-2-1 in Capitals last 9 home games.
  • Over is 17-6-3 in Lightning last 26 road games.

I see no reason not to stick with the Lightning and ‘over’ again for a Thursday NHL pick. I will hedge on the Tampa pick slightly, though, as if Backstrom plays I’d shift to the Capitals. The ‘over’ has now hit in 20 of the past 30 meetings overall. It’s 23-9-1 in Tampa’s past 30 after a win.

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