While the Winter Classic will get plenty of attention on the first day of 2014, the second game of the day also presents an intriguing matchup. Both the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vancouver Canucks were surging heading into the Christmas Break but have been tepid coming out of it. The Canucks are a sizable -150 favorite at home on the NHL odds as they welcome the Lightning to the West Coast on Wednesday night.
The Tampa Bay Lightning can win because…
They’ve earned at least a point in 10 of their last 13 games. They’ve found a way to be competitive each and every night, and although they’re still without offensive superstar Steve Stampkos, they are finding ways to hang around in games and give themselves a shot to win without him.
The Lightning have won three straight on the road and won’t be intimidated by a road trip to Vancouver – especially after what happened on Monday night. The Philadelphia Flyers ventured into Rogers Arena as a big road dog and still cashed in with a 4-3 win.
The Canucks might be without lead goaltender Roberto Luongo again as he’s day-to-day with a lower-body injury. That means the Lightning should have an edge between the pipes with Ben Bishop, who has been All-Star caliber this season. He’s won six of eight while posting a 1.56 GAA in that span.
It also helps that Vancouver doesn’t score a whole lot either as they’ve tallied fewer than three non-shootout goals in five of their last six. Those are some good reasons to take the Lightning with your NHL picks.
The Vancouver Canucks can win because…
The Lightning are shaky on the road. Sure, they’ve won their last three road games but they lost their last seven away games before that. They’ve only played four road games this season where the total has been five and they’ve lost all four. That’s got to be a concern if you’re thinking of taking them on the NHL odds.
Although the Canucks could be without Luongo again, backup Eddie Lack has been standing on his head recently. Lack has won four of his last five while posting a GAA of 1.36. The Canucks are very confident in his services. Tampa Bay has lost two straight while scoring four goals in the process. Their offense isn’t likely to get better against the Canucks, who have allowed the third-fewest goals in the Western Conference.
Outlook & Pick
Neither team is particularly impressive against winning opponents as they are both 7-10 against teams above .500. The Canucks are a medium-sized favorite in this spot but it doesn’t mean they have a significant advantage in this game. Yes, they’re at home and yes, they’ve played well recently, but this game is more of a toss-up than you might think. That being the case, I’ll stay away from the side and go under the number with my NHL picks. Both teams are defensive-minded with quality goaltenders, so look for a low-scoring affair in this one.Pick: Under 5 at 5Dimes