The Tampa Bay Lightning won their 11th consecutive playoff series over the weekend to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals using a typical Tampa Bay formula for victory. They played mistake-free hockey, scored the crucial goals when needed and received important, timely saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy in the net.
After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final to the Rangers in New York, Tampa Bay reeled off four straight victories, the last one a 2-1 win Saturday night in Tampa. The Lightning now get rewarded with a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, where the preseason favorite Colorado Avalanche will be waiting.
Despite their playoff success over the past two seasons and excellent 8-2 record since the start of the second round, Tampa Bay enters the Finals as the underdog in this series. Florida sports gambling is currently not legal after a federal court shut it down late last year.
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Stanley Cup Finals Schedule
- Game 1: Wednesday, 8 p.m. at Colorado.
- Game 2: Saturday, 8 p.m. at Colorado.
- Game 3: June 20, 8 p.m. at Tampa Bay.
- Game 4, June 22, 8 p.m. at Tampa Bay.
- Game 5: June 24, 8 p.m. at Colorado (if necessary).
- Game 6: June 26, 8 p.m. at Tampa Bay (if necessary).
- Game 7: June 28, 8 p.m. at Colorado (if necessary).
What Are The Odds for Each Team?
The Lightning have odds of +155 to win the series, compared to the -180 odds of the Avalanche on FanDuel Sportsbook. Tampa Bay once again will open a series on the road as it has throughout the playoffs, but that has clearly been no issue for the team.
Game 1 is on Wednesday in Colorado, and the Lightning are of course an underdog in that game as well with odds of +134 to win the game. The Avalanche are -162 to win Game 1.
With Darcy Kuemper in the opposing net instead of the Rangers' star Igor Shesterkin, the game total line has been bumped from 5.5 to 6, and the over is available at odds of -120.
In stark contrast to recent Finals where the Lightning have faced unlikely opponents in the Montreal Canadiens and Dallas Stars, this is a definite heavyweight matchup between two of the preseason favorites to reach the finals.
Slowing Down the Avalanche
Colorado brings a dynamite offensive attack led by superstar defenseman Cale Makar and superstar forward Nathan MacKinnon, both of whom just lit up the Edmonton Oilers in a dominant four-game sweep. The Avalanche defense gets overlooked but is also excellent, led by the pairing of Makar and Devon Toews.
There is one area where the Lightning have a decided advantage, and that is in net. With Vasilevskiy between the pipes, Tampa Bay has the best goalie in the league and the only other one in the conversation is the goalie they just beat, Shesterkin.
Colorado’s goaltending is easily its weakest spot with Kuemper, who actually missed most of the last series with injury. Pavel Francouz was solid but not spectacular in the sweep of the Oilers.
The Lightning might not get as many chances as they did against the Rangers but they will have a much easier time scoring on Kuemper or Francouz than they did scoring on Shesterkin.
Lightning Will Need to Score
The scoring will once again fall on the superstars of the Lightning but their top line showed over the final stretch against the Rangers that they are more than capable. Nikita Kucherov is the most dynamic offensive player on the team, and captain Steven Stamkos finished the series really well with a two-goal game in the 2-1 Game 6 win.
Wing Ondrej Palat has jumped onto the top line with them recently and has been fantastic, routinely finding the scoresheet. One could argue he was their best skater over the entire series against the Rangers.
The rest of the lineup is playing excellent two-way hockey but struggling to find the scoresheet, particularly the second line of Anthony Cirelli, Alex Killorn and Brandon Hagel.
This trio only has two goals in the entire playoffs and one of them was an empty-net tally. With Colorado’s offense clicking, Tampa Bay is going to need to find some secondary scoring to take the pressure off of the Stamkos line.
Lightning are Big Underdogs
While it seems odd to see the two-time champs as such a big underdog, it just goes to show what an excellent team Colorado is. The Avalanche have been dominant in every round thus far and after sweeping Edmonton are the more well-rested team, an advantage that the Lightning themselves enjoyed last round.
This will truly be a best-on-best battle and anything short of six games will be an injustice to hockey fans. With Colorado’s high tempo offense, the Lightning will need to decide if they want to play up to that speed and level of game or if they want to try to slow the Avalanche.
For Game 1, Colorado will likely set the tone at home and that game should feature some goals, so bettors will want to take advantage by taking the over 6.0 goal total number.