Red Hot-Capper Predicts 'Over' NHL Pick In Lightning vs. Penguins

Ross Benjamin

Friday, May 13, 2016 1:57 PM GMT

By virtue of his push on Thursday, our sports capper remains at an outstanding 26-14 (65%) over the past twenty days. Read what he's got on Lightning vs. Penguins!

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Playoffs “Final Four” Commences on Friday
The Lightning and Penguins open their Eastern Conference Finals series on Friday. The opening faceoff at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh is slated for 8:05 PM ET. Current NHL odds at sportsbook Bookmaker has Pittsburgh as a -175 money line favorite and the posted total is 5.0. Tampa Bay won all three of their regular season meetings against Pittsburgh, and each of those games went over the total.

 

Penguins Rookie Goaltender Rising to Occasion
Pittsburgh began their current playoff run by splitting its first two games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Rangers. Jeff Zatkoff started in goal for each of those games. However, after losing Game 2 of the series at home, the Pittsburgh coaching staff decided to go with rookie Matt Murray for Game 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Murray not only seized the opportunity at that time, but hasn’t relinquished his starting role since, and that’s despite previously sidelined #1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury being medically cleared to play. The confident 21-year-old has gone 7-2 in nine postseason starts while sporting a stellar .935 save percentage. This will be his first career start against Tampa Bay.

Different Path for Lightning
Tampa Bay will enter the Eastern Conference Finals as a well rested team. Friday will be just their 11th game in the last 34 days. When Tampa Bay reached the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals it took them a grueling 20 games in order to do so. That physical grind certainly took its toll, and it was a contributing factor of their six game series loss to Chicago. The Lightning has taken a much different path in 2016, and it’s taken them just ten games to get through the first two rounds. You can never underestimate rest at this time of the year, and especially so as a series progresses.  Their success thus far is even more impressive considering they’ve done so without star center Steven Stamkos and stalwart defensemen Anton Stralman. Credible sources have indicated to me that both players are currently practicing. Stamkos hasn’t been medically cleared as of yet, and Stralman is very close to being ready.

 

Bishop of Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay starting goaltender Ben Bishop made two starts versus Pittsburgh this season, going 2-0 with a 2.50 GAA, and a very good .928 save percentage. He’s gone 8-2 during these playoffs with a superb .937 save percentage. I do have a concern as it pertains to Bishop. There is very little, if any middle ground, regarding his playoff resume during the last two years. He’s been excellent the vast majority of the time, but has shown a tendency to mix in an occasional clunker. He’s been pulled from playoff games on four separate occasions over the past two playoff years, including once in 2016. At the end of the day, Bishop has made 35 playoff starts in the last two years alone, and that type of recent postseason experience is invaluable.

 

Final Take and Pick
These two teams have gone a combined 3-0-1 over the total in opening games of a series in 2016. Not only did their three regular season meetings go over the total, but they’re 8-1 over in nine games against one another during the past three seasons.

Tampa Bay has scored 3 goals or more in seven of its ten playoff games. As a matter of fact, Tampa is averaging a robust 3.6 goals per game during its last five outings.

Pittsburgh scored 3 or more in eight of its eleven postseason outings, and has subsequently gone 8-3 over the total during that time. The Penguins are averaging 3.4 goals scored per game during these playoffs.

This is one of those rare occasions in which I’m siding with public wagering when making one of my NHL picks.

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Free NHL Pick: Over 5 (-128)
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline