NHL Hockey Betting: Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL Hockey Betting:  Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins

By now everyone is sick of the ‘Tampa Bay is screwed’ hysterics that accompanied the injury to starting goaltender Ben Bishop during Game One. They’ll hopefully quiet down a bit since the Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins will contest Game Two of their best of seven Eastern Conference Final series on Monday night. Despite the loss of Bishop, the Lightning took a 3-1 victory in Game One as 21 year old Andrei Vasilevskiy came on in relief to make 25 saves. At least until Bishop returns (he’s listed as ‘day to day’ but will almost certainly miss Game Two) this is a battle between 21 year old goalies–Matt Murray has been arguably the Penguins’ team MVP so far in this playoff run.

The price on this game and this series continues to be a ‘head scratcher’. Why are the Penguins a two-to-one favorite over the Lightning here? Why were they a -200 choice to win the series before Game One and the Bishop injury? Why are they still a favorite to win the series despite losing the first game? All good questions and the only answer that readily comes to mind is ‘public perception’. The Penguins are a very good team to be sure. But with or without Bishop, Tampa Bay shouldn’t be this big of an underdog to any team in the NHL in any venue–including the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Vasilevskiy played well in relief during the 2015 playoffs and there’s no reason he can’t do so again. Sports bettors in general have a tendency of overreacting to injuries–that explains some of the ‘OMG the Lightning are done!’ hysteria but not the valuation on this series. These are two *very* evenly matched teams. On paper, at least–if you want to go with past performance it’s advantage Lightning. Tampa Bay won all three regular season meetings including a victory on the Penguins’ home ice. They took the first game of this series. In fact, they won the first meeting of the season (1/15/16) with Vasilevskiy in net.

The Penguins are fully capable of winning this game and coming back to win this series. What they are not is a 2-1 favorite to do either. Implied probability at that price is nearly 67%. This game and series is closer to a coin flip meaning that the value is on the dog.