- The Washington Capitals took a 1-0 series lead over Tampa Bay on Friday night.
- The Lightning will surely play better Sunday, but that doesn’t mean they’re just going to walk all over the Caps.
- Tampa may be more likely to win Game 2, but are the Lightning the right bet?
Let me start off by saying the Tampa Bay Lightning are a better team than the Washington Capitals. They are deeper up front, in the back and down the middle. This is especially true with the Capitals missing Nicklas Backstrom, who is a major doubt for Game 2 after sitting out the opener.
Without Backstrom, the Caps are going to need to play a near-perfect game — which they basically did in Game 1 — or get lucky to win Game 2.
Washington manhandled Tampa Bay for most of the game. When the final whistle blew, the Caps had generated 3.94 expected goals (xG) to Tampa’s 1.91 (all situations). They also produced nearly double the amount of scoring chances and controlled the shot share. It was a surprising performance, not because they won, but because they deserved to win.
I’m not totally sure what’s gotten into the Caps. All season they were “overperforming” when you compare their results to their underlying metrics. Since the playoffs started, Washington has changed course. The Caps aren’t dominating the puck, but their possession numbers have improved.
The Tampa Bay team that showed up in Game 1 will not be the team that plays Game 2. The Bolts were awful for the first two periods Friday night and allowed Washington to come into their kitchen and run amok. That won’t happen Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the Capitals aren’t worth a flutter at +170.
All playoffs long we’ve seen some weird prices because bettors are naturally drawn to narratives. For example, they know the Lightning “cannot go down 0-2” if they want to win this series. Thus, they will back Tampa Bay. Currently, Tampa is -200 to beat Washington. That implies the Lightning have a 66.7% chance of beating the Capitals. Even without Backstrom, that number is very high.
At +170 you need to have the Capitals winning this game more than 38% of the time to have an edge. I think this contest is a lot closer than the odds suggest, so I’ll be on Washington again in Game 2. Just because you lose this wager more often than not doesn’t make it a bad bet.
Top Photo Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports