NHL Hockey Betting: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Hockey Betting:  Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins

The Eastern Conference Finals begin on Friday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning head North to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning are trying to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight year. Pittsburgh ended the regular season as the hottest team in the NHL and they’ve remained strong during the playoffs. The Penguins didn’t get off to a great start this season but after a coaching change and the hiring of Mike Sullivan the team really turned things around. Tampa Bay didn’t start strong either but eventually found their form and have been playing their best hockey of the season during the playoffs.

This is a matchup between two teams that saved their best hockey for late in the year. No one was hotter in the regular season stretch run than Pittsburgh–they won 14 of their last 16 games and have won 8 of 11 in the playoffs. Tampa Bay was only 5-5 in their final ten regular season games but have only lost twice since the start of the postseason (once each to Detroit and the New York Islanders). Pricing on this series is a head scratcher–not sure that there’s much qualitative difference at all between the Bolts and Penguins but Pittsburgh is a -200 favorite.

Goaltending will be a focal point of this series–that’s not a surprise. What is a surprise is that the Penguins have been getting epic performances in net not from starter Marc-Andre Fleury but from 21 year old rookie Matt Murray. Murray was 9-2-0 during the regular season with a 2.00 goals against average. He’s been even better in the playoffs and might be the frontrunner for the Con Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) at this point. Fleury is ready to return to the lineup after recovering from a concussion but for now he’ll sit behind Murray. Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop joined the top echelon of goaltenders this year and that earned him a Vezina Trophy nomination.

Not only is the pricing on this series ‘off’ so is the pricing on Game One. Can’t justify the Penguins as a -170 favorite in Game One against a playoff experienced and rested Tampa Bay team. We’ll take the Lightning to win Game One and the series.