Carolina Hurricanes At Tampa Bay Lightning (-135) – Odds provided by FanDuel
There hasn’t been a lot of good that’s come out of this shortened NHL season. Getting high-quality matchups almost every day has been one of them.
Having just been gifted four highly entertaining games between the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, eyes on the league turn to a two-game slate between the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
The revamped Central Division has turned into a three-team race; these two skilled juggernauts, and the surprising first-place Florida Panthers.
This is the first game of a back-to-back — the teams will meet again Thursday — with Carolina in second place (.735 points percentage), while Tampa Bay (.719) is two points behind the Canes, but with a game in hand.
Tampa In Trouble?
The defending Stanley Cup champions have hit a slide in recent games, losing three of their past five. The good news is the over has cashed in four of the Lightning’s past six; the bad news is the goaltending has not been money.
Andrei Vasilevskiy has allowed 11 goals in his last five starts after only four in his previous three. The 2019 Vezina Trophy winner, and presumed to be a favorite this year, is going to bounce back eventually. You can only sneeze at a goals-against average of 2.01 and .931 save percentage for so long.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos has turned back the clock, and reports of his demise have been greatly premature. Stamkos is tied for the team lead at 17 points, but he’s found the scoring touch with four goals in his past three games.
It’s not completely dire for Tampa, which beat the Hurricanes 4-2 on Monday. But after a loss, Carolina should play better despite the series shifting to the road.
The Hurricanes were going to be good. It’s just not likely we thought they’d be this good already.
While Tampa brings the top-rated offense in the league (3.63 goals per game), Carolina’s not that far behind them at fourth (3.59).
Most of that has to do with Vincent Trocheck leading the way with nine goals. Trocheck was one of the Hurricanes’ many trade deadline acquisitions last February, snagging him away from the Panthers. He has more than thrived as the second-line center; linemate Nino Niederreiter also has the team lead with nine goals.
Carolina’s top six is nothing to sneeze at. Dare I say it can rival any team’s top six in the league? It’s quite possible.
How Will The Game Play Out?
The biggest concern if you’re playing Carolina is the goaltending. James Reimer is 8-2-0, but the Hurricanes have carried him to victories. If Tampa Bay peppers him with shots early, it could be a long day for the Carolina defense.
They miss Petr Mrazek in the worst way, which is something I thought was never possible.
Tampa Bay won its first six at home before Feb. 15, which bodes well for the champs.
When you get to this part of the season, familiarity plays a factor. Goalies have a much easier tendency on how the opponent’s going to work. Vasilevskiy will not be fooled by Carolina in anything they change.
They’re the slight favorites, but I like the Lightning in their first game back home.
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