Thursday, 9 p.m. ET
Free NHL Picks: Lightning ML & Over
Best Lines Offered: SportsBetting
Easily the marquee matchup in the NHL before the league goes dark over the Christmas holiday is a potential Stanley Cup Finals preview Thursday night – sadly not on national TV – as Tampa Bay visits Calgary. That this is the exact Finals matchup is a +2825 fifth-favorite on the NHL futures odds at 5Dimes.
Tampa Bay won its only Cup in 2004 in seven games over Calgary. The Bolts have been back since, losing in six games in 2015 to Chicago, but the Flames haven’t.
That the Lightning lead the NHL in points and in scoring is no shock. They had the most points in the East last year and were tops overall in goals. Calgary is a huge shock as its already more than halfway to its point total of 84 last season when it finished fifth in the Pacific Division. The Flames are sixth in the league in scoring and have five guys with at least 35 points (Tampa has three).
These clubs will meet again Feb. 12 in Tampa. Last year, they split with each winning on the road. Flames were 5-1 victors in the first meeting and the Lightning 7-4 in the second. Tampa trailed that one 4-2 more than midway through the second period.
The NHL Pick Is …
Tampa Bay hasn’t lost back-to-back games since Nov. 10 & 13 and avoided that Tuesday with a 5-2 win in Vancouver in the second of a four-game swing through Canada. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 36 saves and Nikita Kucherov a goal and assist to reach 50 points, third in the league. It was Kucherov’s 35th game, marking the third-fastest in franchise history to reach 50 points; he did it in 34 last year.
Captain Steven Stamkos added his 17th goal of the year and 365th career. That tied Martin St. Louis for second place on the all-time franchise with Vincent Lecavalier first at 383. Stamkos reached 365 goals in 699 games. It took St. Louis 972. Lecavalier scored his 383 in 1,037. Lecavalier also was the fastest to 50 points, doing so in 33 games in 2007-08.
The Bolts are Top 10 in the four major categories: Scoring (first), GAA (10th), power play (second) and penalty kill (fourth). Calgary is Top 10 in three of those: scoring (sixth), GAA (third) and power play (10th) but 15th on the PK.
The Flames haven’t lost back-to-back games since Nov. 11 & 15 and try to avoid that here as they are off a 2-0 loss in Dallas on Tuesday to conclude a three-game trip. Calgary has four losses total since Nov. 23 and in three it didn’t score. The Flames played without wingers Sam Bennett and James Neal on Tuesday, both dealing with upper-body injuries. Neither a huge loss by himself but obviously hurts forward depth. Blueliner Oliver Kylington took some shifts as a forward in Dallas.
- Road team is 4-0 in the last 4 meetings.
- Flames are 1-4 in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a road winning % of greater than .600.
Hard to go against Calgary at home, where it’s 11-3-2. But Tampa has the same road record. The Bolts also have won their past six following a game in which they scored at least five goals. We’re putting on NHL bet on Tampa and ‘over’ Thursday.