Pick Energized Lightning To Crash Down On Penguins

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:09 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 18, 2016 6:09 PM UTC

Pittsburgh made adjustments in last contest and it resulted in victory, albeit, it took a little longer than expected. Let's look at the NHL odds and see what we can come up with.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay, though out-played, just needed one lucky bounce and they could have returned home with 2-0 lead. Though content with a split, coach John Cooper was hardly satisfied.

''We've got to play better to win this series, there's no doubt,'' Cooper said Tuesday. 'I think now that we've played them two times, we know a little bit more what to expect.''

Knowing and executing are two different elements. At the present time, JustBet is showing some of the largest NHL odds on Tampa Bay as a home underdog at +115. Can the Lightning prove the oddsmakers wrong again?


Pittsburgh Expects Tampa Bay To Come Out Flying
Pittsburgh knows a thing or two about flying up and down the ice. While they also realize the ice will be the same in Tampa, the team in the blue sweaters will come out like they have rocket-boosters attached to their skates. Tampa Bay can match the Penguins stride for stride offensively, thus Pittsburgh will have to do their best to withstand heavy early rush and not fall behind or at least by no more than a goal, otherwise, they could be down 2-1 in the series before Game 3 is a period old.

Puck possession is the key for the Pens. By maintaining the puck, Pitt controls the action, keeps a steady stream on shots on goal and helps the defense from being in bad situations against odd man rushes, which the Lightning are so skilled at.

Lightning Need to Strike With More Force With Goalie Situation Resolved
The anticipation for the last contest was Tampa Bay might be a touch more conservative with Andrei Vasilevskiy making his first playoff start of the season. The Lightning might have disappointed to lose, but they were not in their goaltender, who made 38 saves on 41 shots and each Pittsburgh goal was an exceptional shot in traffic, in which few, if any NHL goaltender could have stopped.

"[Vasilevskiy] was outstanding," coach Cooper said.

With defenseman Anton Stralman returning to the lineup for the first time since breaking his left leg on March 28, Tampa Bay feels they the pieces to give Pittsburgh a go on home ice and we should not lose sight of the fact they are 9-3 overall and 5-1 at home in the postseason.

Tampa Bay will want to turn the tables after only posting 41 shots in two games and possess the puck more themselves to keep the pressure on the Penguins for a change in this series.


How Does Total Shape Up?

At last peek, the total could rise to 5.5, right now heavily juiced at 5 (-140). This is understandable since the past three meetings at Amalie Arena have all been OVER's. This being another high-scoring affair would not be a stunner and goalie Matt Murray for Pittsburgh is going to be under a lot continual pressure.

Myself, I would rather pay the juice than go to 5.5. Research find the Lightning are 29-14 OVER versus teams scoring 3+ goals a game since 2014-15 season.


What to Expect and Winner

Like San Jose did in St. Louis, I fully expect Pittsburgh to win one of two on Florida's west coast, however, saying which one is trickier.

Given Tampa Bay is an underdog, the value play is on them and from a confidence perspective, they should be ready to go and are as healthy as they have been since late March and will be revved up by frenzied crowd. For NHL picks, let's call the energized Lightning to strike and add late empty-netter for 4-2 triumph.

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Free NHL Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning -123
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

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