All the Marbles: Lightning vs. Capitals Game 7 Betting Packet
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
It is a bit surprising to be in this spot — not that we’re playing a Game 7, but that the Capitals (+123) have actually had the better run of play this series than the Lightning (-143). If we look under the hood, the Capitals have actually had more of the puck and generated more scoring chances (all numbers at 5v5 and adjusted for score + venue) than Tampa Bay.
Why is this so surprising? Well, because all season Washington’s peripheral numbers told the story of a team that was getting outplayed, but winning because the Capitals have some incredible players such as Alex Ovechkin who can carry them to victories even if they don’t have the puck that often.
Something has changed since the start of the playoffs, however, and Washington has got its proverbial stuff together. Not only are the Capitals getting production from their best players, they have also improved their possession stats.
Usually, we’d put more value in the larger sample size, but the truth is that the Capitals were trending up entering the playoffs. Over the last 25 games of the regular season they improved their possession and expected goals numbers considerably. — Michael Leboff
Odds and Ends
Just looking at the odds, you can see that Washington was undervalued in the early part of the series, but since then the market has come around.
In Game 1, the Bolts were -196 (~66.2% implied probability) at Pinnacle — which is considered the sharpest online book. The next game, the Lightning closed at -185 (~64.9%). After going to Washington and winning two games to even the series, the Bolts closed Game 5 at -152 (~60.3%). After opening at -145, the Lightning are now at -143 (~58.8%) for Game 7. — Michael Leboff
This playoff season for the Caps has been all about ridding themselves of demons from years past. They killed two birds with one stone when they advanced to the conference finals by finally defeating Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now they will look to reach their first Stanley Cup Final since 1997-98 and, perhaps, win their first championship.
Going into this series I thought Tampa Bay would be able to ride its depth at all positions to a series victory. What I have noticed, though, is that Washington is playing loosely and has been the better team for a good portion of the series.
During the Caps’ skate before Game 6 — after they lost three games in a row — there was a lot of chatter about how free the players looked during the session. You’d expect the opposite from this team given its postseason follies.
Over the course of this series — excluding Game 5 — the Caps have shown up as the better team. As Leboff noted, the Capitals did not look to be the better team during the regular season, but things have changed. Not only has Washington outshot Tampa Bay in EVERY game this series, the difference has been drastic. In five of the six games, Washington has outshot Tampa by at least eight shots. That’s quite a large difference. — Sean Newsham
Will Lightning Strike?
This will all come down to the Lightning offense. After allowing 10 goals over the first two games, Andrei Vasilevskiy has rebounded beautifully — allowing only eight total goals over the past four games. The Bolts’ netminder has given up only two goals in each, while stopping 131 of 139 shots for an impressive .942 save percentage.
So the question I’m asking is, can Steven Stamkos and company notch three goals? They’re 3-0 when they score three or more goals this series and 0-3 when they fail to reach that mark. In fact, the team that has scored the third goal first has won all six games in this series.
Vasilevskiy does actually have previous Game 7 experience. He stopped 37 of 39 in an impressive effort in a Game 7 loss to Pittsburgh in the 2016 conference finals. This will be his second Game 7.
Braden Holtby, however, has a lot more Game 7 experience. He has played in five winner-take-all games in his career. Even though he has only one win, he has shown up considerably well in those games with a .924 save percentage. First to 3 wins. — Stuckey
If the Capitals lose this game, Ovechkin could find himself in Dan Marino territory as one of the best players of his generation never to win a championship. The Capitals have been the better team this series, but Ovechkin has been missing the net.
Fenwick is a metric that measures shots on goal plus shot attempts that completely miss the net. In the playoffs, only 58.4% of Ovechkin’s Fenwick has actually reached the goaltender, which helps to explain why he has averaged only 3.77 shots per game over the past month.
Although it would be shocking for Ovechkin to have fewer than double-digit shot attempts in a game that means so much, this should be a defensively tight contest, and Ovechkin has simply not been efficient with his Fenwick throughout the playoffs.
We took a closer look at the Lightning power play formation before Game 4. In the series, we have seen shot attempts on the man-advantage skew slightly more towards Nikita Kucherov (11 Corsi For) than Stamkos (9). Again, Victor Hedman (2) is more of a distributor to his flanks at this point.
Stamkos has averaged only 2.27 (93rd percentile) and 2.66 shots (89th) over the past month and year, and I just don’t have a ton of faith in the Lightning getting shots through this Capitals defense right now. They have accumulated more than 24 shots in only one game this entire series (Game 2) and have averaged just 24.17 shots per game. The under for Stamkos could be sharp — he’s accumulated two or fewer shots in four of his last five games — given Washington’s effort to limit his chances on the power play and the Lightning’s inability to generate shots this entire series.
Game 7 Trends
Favorites in Game 7 are 30-23 straight-up since 2006. Good news for the Lightning, who are -143 favorites. However, small favorites (-150 or less) have gone 11-13 SU.
Holtby stopped all 24 shots he faced in Game 6 for his first shutout of the postseason. Since 2006, teams coming off a shutout in the playoffs that are underdogs in the next game have gone 21-39 (35%) SU.
The under is 41-31-13 (57%) in Game 7s since 1996. If the total is 5.5 or bigger, like it is for Lightning-Capitals, the under has gone 12-5 (71%). — John Ewing
The Lightning are 23-9 following a loss this season, making them the most profitable Eastern Conference team in this situation. When they lose by two goals or more, they are 15-6. Going back even further, Tampa is 126-80 after a loss under coach Jon Cooper. He’s profited bettors 26.3 units in this spot, making him the most profitable NHL coach since he took over in 2013. — Evan Abrams
Leboff: The Lightning win this game more often than not, but the Caps have value at +125 or better.
Newsham: Under 5.5 goals
Stuckey: Under 5.5 (and obviously rooting for Bolts 15-1 future)