Thursday 7:30 PM ET
Free NHL Pick: Lightning Puck Line
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
Too many times this season I’ve been left asking myself why in the name of Phil Esposito did I pick against the Tampa Bay Lightning? They’re the best team in the league by a large margin and have been since mid to late December; they’re the highest scoring team by a large margin; they have arguably the leading candidate for the Hart Trophy in Nikita Kucherov and a candidate for the Vezina Trophy in goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. They have a sniper in Brayden Point and can roll three scoring lines at you and then finish you off with a banging fourth line. So again, why would not just me, or anyone not just ride them all season?
Well, enough lessons learned; I’ve been struck by the Lightning and hereby will not go against them until they clinch everything and have nothing to play for until the playoffs. They are a freight train roaring towards at worst the Eastern Conference Final for the fourth time in five seasons.
In the way of that runaway train from Tampa Bay Thursday is their Atlantic Division rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many felt the Leafs could challenge the Bolts for the division crown and the Eastern Conference, but the Leafs’ Achilles heel coming into this season has finally done them in. Toronto’s defense is an absolute mess and as the Lightning have already once in a 4-1 win at Tampa Bay December 13 and the Bruins did three times this season, they’ve exposed this leaky defense that can be rolled over with a solid forechecking game. Yes the Leafs have the likes of John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and Auston Matthews up front and the high-scoring d-man Morgan Reilly on the blue line, but you can’t use that offense if you’re being hemmed in your zone all night, can you? The relentless Lightning will do just that to the Leafs Thursday and the Bolts puck line is the play here.
The Lightning is 36-11 against the spread and 19-4 at home. Tampa Bay has scored a league-leading 191 goals and allowed 133. They’re 26-19-2 on the over/under and 11-10-2 at home. The Bolts are 24-23 on the puck line and 14-9 at home. Kucherov leads the team and the NHL in assists with 53 helpers and in points with 75 and Point leads the team in goals with 29 lamplighters.
The Leafs are 28-17 against the spread and 15-6 on the road. Toronto has scored 161 goals and allowed 128. They’re 21-21-3 on the over/under and 11-8-2 on the road. The Maple Leafs are 22-23 on the puck line and are 12-9 on the road. Marner leads the team in assists with 41 helpers and points with 59 and Tavares leads the team in goals with 29 lamplighters.
For the Leafs, Freddie Andersen is now 20-10-0-1 with a 2.54 GAA and .922 save percentage and Garret Sparks is 6-2-0-1 with a 3.01 GAA and .905 save percentage.
For the Lightning, Vasilevskiy is 19-5-0-2 with a 2.46 GAA and .925 save percentage and Louis Domingue is 16-4-0 with a 2.99 GAA and .905 save percentage.
- For the Maple Leafs, forward Tyler Ennis (ankle) remains out indefinitely.
- The Lightning remains healthy.
Prediction: Lightning 5 Leafs 2