Hurricanes at Lightning Picks and NHL Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/16/2013
Perhaps no team is more exciting to watch these days in the NHL than the Tampa Bay Lightning -- but only if you like the puck in the back of the net. Led by Steven Stamkos, who leads the NHL with 20 goals, the Bolts are No. 2 in the NHL in scoring at 3.26 goals per game. The problem is that Tampa Bay's goaltending is shaky, so the Bolts are tied for allowing the fifth-most goals per game at 3.04. That's why the Lightning are 11-15-1, and only Buffalo has fewer points in the Eastern Conference.
Not a whole lot was expected of Carolina this year, but then that's often the case for perhaps the most non-descript American NHL team. Yet there the Canes are at No. 3 in the East with 31 points and leading the Southeast Division heading into Saturday's game at Tampa. The upcoming realignment has split up Carolina and Tampa Bay from the Southeast. Now the Hurricanes will play in the as-yet named division with Columbus, New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington. That's a way tougher group than the Canes' current division. The Bolts will play with Florida, Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto -- also easily a tougher group. Thus, the playoffs will only get harder to reach going forward for these two franchises.
Hurricanes at Lightning Betting Story Lines
Carolina has won six of eight but was beaten 3-2 in Raleigh in the second of a home-and-home against the Capitals on Thursday night. Carolina blew a two-goal lead, dropping to 11-1 this year when leading after two periods and 8-1-1 when scoring first. Alexander Semin and Patrick Dwyer scored for the Hurricanes. Dan Ellis made 22 saves. Ellis is the team's new No. 1 goalie with Cam Ward out 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. Carolina is hoping he can get back by the end of the regular season. Ellis (4-3-0, 2.67 GAA, .917 SV percentage) could take a seat in this game for Justin Peters, who was called up from the AHL when Ward went down. Ellis blanked the Caps on 26 shots Tuesday night in a 4-0 win, improving to 2-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .926 SV percentage. The team also has been without top defenseman Joni Pitkanen since March 2 -- he has played just 13 games all year -- with a lower-body injury but he's close to returning.
The Lightning have lost eight of 10 and were beaten 2-0 at home by the Islanders on Thursday, the first time the team had been shut out since Feb. 14, 2012. Stamkos had his three-game goal streak end, but he remains the only player at the 20-goal mark. Stamkos was also the first player to score 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons. He's only the fifth player in NHL history to be first to 20 in each of three consecutive seasons (based on the earliest date, including ties). The other guys in that group are pretty good: Charlie Conacher (1933-34 through 1935-36), Maurice Richard (1949-50 through 1951-52), Bobby Hull (1963-64 through 1965-66) and Jaromir Jagr (1994-95 through 1996-97).
Tampa Bay's Anders Lindback has taken over as the No. 1 goalie on the team and has played well of late, not allowing more than two goals in any of the past five. However, Tampa Bay has lost three of them. Things aren't likely to improve any time soon for the Lighting as Vincent Lecavalier is out indefinitely with a lower-body injury and is on injured reserve. He was hurt late in Tuesday's game at Florida after knocking legs with a Panthers' defenseman. Lecavalier, who has seven goals and 15 assists in 26 games, is likely to miss three weeks. He's one of the best on the faceoff in the NHL. I can't see Tampa Bay making a playoff push without him, even though Lecavalier is not the player he once was. Lecavalier's 11-year, $85 million contract signed before the 2009-10 season is all you need to know about why the NHL needed to lockout its players this year.
As much as the Lighting have struggled, they started out the season pretty well. That includes two wins over Carolina in two tries. On Jan. 22 in Raleigh, the Lightning won 4-1 in Carolina's home opener behind 35 saves from Mathieu Garon. He hasn't played since March 4 due to a lower-body injury and now appears to have lost his job to Lindback. On Feb. 23, also in Raleigh, the Lightning won 5-2 behind 32 saves from Garon. Tampa Bay scored four times in the third period, with Stamkos having a goal and an assist. Ellis started that one for the Hurricanes.
Hurricanes at Lightning NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline this opened with each club at -105 and the total at 6. Carolina is 14-12-0 “over/under” (6-7 on road) and is 2-2 in its past four as an underdog. Tampa Bay is 16-9-2 O/U (8-4-2 at home) and has lost four straight as a favorite.
The Hurricanes are 5-1 in their last six games vs. a team with a losing record. They are 4-1 in their last five games when their opponent scores two goals or fewer in their previous game. The Lightning are 0-7 in their last seven games after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. They are 0-4 in their past four when scoring two goals or fewer in their previous game. The under is 4-1 in Carolina's past five road games. The under is 5-1 in the Lightning's past six games when their opponent scores two goals or fewer in their previous game. The over is 7-0 in the past seven in Tampa Bay. The road team has won the past five meetings.
Hurricanes at Lightning Picks and Betting Predictions
Pretty much every Lightning game has a total of 6, so that's no surprise. Tampa Bay has lost five straight at home, while Carolina has won three of its past four on the road. I don't trust either goalie (Ellis or Peters), so take the over. I am conflicted on which team wins. Tampa Bay is due to break through at home, but the Canes are playing better and don't want to drop three straight to a bad team. It's rare you will get a home team at such a good price, but I can't make the leap: Take the Canes.
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