NHL Hockey Betting: Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL Hockey Betting:  Pittsburgh Penguins at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Eastern Conference Finals shift to the ‘Cigar City’ of Tampa, Florida with the hometown Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins tied at 1-1. Both games could have gone either way with Tampa winning Game One 3-1 and Pittsburgh winning Game Two in OT 2-1. Sidney Crosby scored the overtime goal in the second game which is a good sign for the Penguins has he’d been very quiet offensively of late.

The first two games did nothing to change our position on the series. These are two very evenly matched teams with or without Ben Bishop in net for the Lightning. Tampa’s 21 year old backup Andrei Vasilevskiy took the loss last night but that is no way a reflection on his performance as he finished with 38 saves facing 41 shots on goal. Obviously, the Lightning defense need to tighten up on that. The Bolts have won four of the last five meetings but have allowed Pittsburgh 30 or more shots in every game and 35+ in four of the five. That’s a somewhat deceiving statistic, however, as was evident if you watched either of the first two games many of the Penguins’ shots were ‘low percentage’ chances. That being said, making any goalie face 40+ shots a game and hoping that snipers like Crosby, Malkin and Kessell *don’t* heat up is a ticket for disaster.

Tampa Bay got only 21 shots in Game Two but they were higher percentage shots and odd man rushes. This is characteristic of all of the games this season. The Lightning have averaged only 23 shots on goal in five games against the Penguins this season but have lost only one of those games (and that in overtime). The most important component of this handicap isn’t found on the stat sheet–it’s the price. Pittsburgh is a -130 favorite in Game Three on the Bolts’ home ice. Pittsburgh was a good road team this year (22-15-4) but Tampa Bay was solid at home (25-13-3). They won two of the three regular season games played at Amalie Arena this year. The series price is roughly where it was before Game One with Pittsburgh a -190 favorite. Note that the price structure of this series didn’t change after the Bishop injury. Tampa Bay is underrated and Pittsburgh is overvalued. And until something about that dynamic changes we’ll bet this accordingly.