NHL Picks: Lightning at Bruins Game 7 Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 5/26/2011
There’s nothing more exciting, I would argue, than a Game 7 in the NHL playoffs. It’s just that they don’t seem to happen very often in the conference finals. Friday night’s Tampa Bay at Boston Game 7 for the right to face Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Finals is just the fifth conference final Game 7 since 2000 and first since 2006. By the way, the previous four winners of conference final Game 7s went onto win the Cup, including the Bolts in 2004 for the franchise’s only title. The Bruins are seeking their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 21 years; they haven’t won one in 39 years.
Lightning at Bruins Story Lines
If you bet against Lightning 42-year-old goalie Dwayne Roloson in an elimination game, you are throwing money away. Roloson beat Boston, 5-4, on Wednesday to improve to 7-0 in his career in elimination games, including 4-0 this season. This from a guy who didn't play in Game 5 after being pulled from two of the previous three games because of ineffectiveness. He actually wasn’t all that sharp in Game 6, allowing two first-period goals and only finishing with 16 saves. But Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was worse, as was Boston’s penalty-killing unit.
The key injury to keep an eye on for Game 7 is Bolts left winger Sean Bergenheim, who has emerged from relative obscurity to become one of those annual NHL unknown playoff heroes. Bergenheim entered Game 6 with a league-leading nine goals during the playoffs after scoring 14 during the regular season. But he missed the last two periods of Game 5 with an undisclosed lower-body injury and couldn’t go. You know how hockey players are, so I’d be shocked if he’s not on the ice Friday and he was close enough Wednesday to be a game-time decision.
Bergenheim was passed for the playoff lead in goals as teammate Martin St. Louis was the star of Game 5 with two goals – his ninth and 10th of the postseason – and an assist. Tampa Bay scored three times on the power play on Wednesday, and look for special teams to be the difference in this one. Boston has been wretched on the power play this postseason, going 5-for-61 (8.2 percent), while Tampa Bay has a clear advantage on special teams – but neither team had scored with the man advantage since the second period of Game 2. That hugely benefits Boston, which is superior during even strength but did get one PP goal in Game 6, its first road PP goal of the playoffs in 26 tries.
The one positive Boston can take from Game 6 was that its line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Nathan Horton was terrific. Krejci netted a hat trick, Lucic chipped in with a goal and an assist, and Horton added two assists.
Game 7s are all about goalies, and it’s hard to know what to make of both Roloson and Thomas. The latter, who will be feeling the pressure after guaranteeing a series win, has been stellar at times in this series, while Roloson really has been iffy in the conference finals.
Lightning at Bruins Betting Odds and Key Trends
Boston has opened as a -143 favorite with the total at 5.5 goals, according to NHL odds.
Tampa Bay is 7-2 in its past nine as a dog and in past nine after a win.
Boston is 5-0 in past five after allowing at least five goals in previous game.
The Bruins are 6-1 in their past seven at home (lone loss to Tampa Bay).
The ‘over’ is 6-2 in Tampa Bay’s past eight games.
The ‘over’ is 5-1 in Boston’s past six at home.
The Lightning have won just five times ever at Boston’s TD Garden.
NHL Picks: Lightning at Bruins Predictions
Entering these playoffs, the overall record for home teams in a Game 7 since the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967 was 67-43. That’s not as lopsided as one might expect. The Bolts already won a road Game 7 in Pittsburgh. But still, I tend to think Thomas stands on his head tonight. Clearly the magic number is four goals. In the nine games that Thomas allowed four or more goals in the regular season, the Bruins went 3-5-1. They were 32-6-8 in the others. In the playoffs, the B's are 2-3 when Thomas allows four or more goals and 9-3 in all other contests. Boston should get the benefit of a few more calls tonight (i.e. more power-play chances) and wins the game in a low-scoring goalie battle so also take the ‘under’.
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