The Tampa Bay Lightning finished the 2018-19 season with the best record in the NHL. Yet they were shocked in the first round of the playoffs when they were blown out in four straight against Columbus. Now they have a chance to vindicate themselves, as they have gotten to the Stanley Cup Final series, where they will face the Dallas Stars. Game 1 of this best-of-seven takes place on Saturday night at 7:30 PM ET. The venue will be Rogers Place in Edmonton, and it will be the first time the entire final series is played at a neutral site.
BetAnySports customers can get reduced juice on this game, and while the contest is in progress, they can place wagers on the outcome using the software provided through Sports Betting Prime.
Dallas gets a lot of credit for what it’s been able to accomplish in the post-season. And a turning point, truth be told, was the insertion of Anton Khudobin in goal, which was necessitated when Ben Bishop became “unfit.” All Khudobin has done is post a .950 save percentage in the West finals win over Vegas, allowing just eight goals in five games. And the defense in front of him helps a great deal; they lead all teams with 174 takeaways in the post-season, and they customarily force teams to the outside. That looms large in this series, as Tampa Bay likes to attack in the middle of the ice. During the regular season, the Stars surrendered only 2.52 goals per game, which was second best in the NHL (to Boston).
Offensively, Dallas has averaged 3.4 goals per game over its last 15, but their firepower may come into question to some extent, as during the course of the regular season they scored just 1.96 goals per 60 minutes in 5-v-5 situations. Where the Stars have really excelled is on the power play, where they have converted 27.3% of the time in the playoffs. Jamie Benn, the Stars’ captain who had only 39 points during the season, has come alive in the playoffs, with eight goals and ten assists.
At BetAnySports, Tampa Bay is a -190 favorite to win the series, with Dallas at +165. As for Game 1, the Bolts are naturally favored there as well:
Tampa Bay Lightning -165
Dallas Stars +145
Over 5 Goals -135
Under 5 Goals +115
We talked about Dallas’ hot goalie. Well, Tampa Bay may have the best in the business. At least that is the certification Andrei Vasilevskiy got last season when he won the Vezina Trophy. He may win it again (he is a finalist). And his defense has to be given a lot of credit. Are there many better defensemen than Victor Hedman? The 2018 Norris winner has scored nine goals in the playoffs, and he is one of many pieces to a puzzle that has given this franchise perhaps its best team ever.
Another piece, it goes without saying, is Nikita Kucherov, who’s got 26 post-season points. Playing alongside Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, this is the best line in this series. Role players abound. Two of them – Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow – were picked up in trades in February. There is the possibility that Steven Stamkos, who has been out of the Tampa Bay lineup since February, may be able to play, not in Game 1, but at some point in the series.
What characterizes Tampa Bay is their ability to go deep with their lines, as well as their speed. They look to get up the ice quickly, and they are aggressive. Admittedly they’ve been cold on the power play, converting one of their last 15 chances, but you know that’s going to get better. At full strength, they scored a full goal more than Dallas did per 60 minutes during the regular season. If things get anywhere close to that disparity, there’s going to be trouble for the Stars, who were outshot 166-118 even in victory against Vegas. The truth is, Dallas has been playing with a negative goal differential in these standard five-on-five situations.
The Lightning brings a lot of offense to the table, and has gotten here facing good defensive teams. It is possible that Dallas takes them a little off-balance, but that might push us toward the “under.” Tampa Bay, with the better goalie, the deeper offensive lineup, and a defense that is damn good, will win Game 1 and the Cup.
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