NHL Odds & Pick for Stars vs. Lightning: Defending Champs Face Tough Test in Stanley Cup Rematch (Feb. 27)
Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: The Stars’ Jamie Benn celebrates his goal with teammates.
- In their first matchup since last season’s Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning host the Stars.
- Dallas has struggled this season and has had to deal with COVID-19 issues and a recent cold stretch in Texas.
- Matt Russell explains, though, why his model sees value on the Stars on Saturday night.
Stars vs. Lightning Odds
|Time | TV||Saturday, 7 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday night and via BetMGM.|
Seventy-seven games and 41 days into the NHL season, we finally get the Central Division game we’ve been waiting for.
Stars-Lightning was supposed to open the season. After four postponements for two different reasons, the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning finally meet for the first time since Tampa defeated Dallas and lifted the Cup in Edmonton in September.
The Stars have had a rough go of it so far this season. First, hockey at American Airlines Arena never got off the ground with a pre-season COVID break before a puck could even get dropped. Then the cold snap in Texas shut things back down again. On the ice, the Stars had to deal with top players coming in and out of the lineup.
After four wins to start the year, they’ve managed only two in their last 11 games. On the bright side, many of those losses were in extra time, earning them a point toward the standings for their troubles. Even more importantly for our purposes, their underlying metrics have actually been pretty good with all things considered. My model rates the Stars as 4% above-average at even-strength this season.
Since their latest restart, the Stars squeezed in three games in four nights in Sunrise, Fla. While they dropped two of the three, they had opportunities to win each game, especially the rubber match on Thursday night. Dallas held a 2-0 lead after two periods, and looked to be cruising to its second straight win with just seven minutes to go. Things quickly and inexplicably fell off the rails as the Panthers scored three times in just over three minutes and just like that, the Stars took another loss with them to Tampa.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Tampa Bay Lightning
While the Stars were considered the Lightning’s main competition atop the Central Division at the start of the season, it’s been the Carolina Hurricanes rated alongside Tampa Bay up top. However, the Lightning come into this pair of games with the Stars having just dispatched the Canes. After dropping the first of four with Carolina, the Bolts bolted down defensively in the next three, holding the Hurricanes to just three goals total in three games, and only one after the first period.
The Lightning’s success this season has come from cutting the electricity to their opponents’ goal lamps. Tampa’s only giving up 2.16 goals per game, but is 13th in the league in expected goals against (XGA) at even-strength, which shows that the Lightning may have been a little lucky so far. Of course, it helps if you have the best goaltender in the league, with Andrei Vasilevskiy and his league-leading 11.64 goals saved above average (GSAA).
Offensively, the Lightning’s high-danger chance creation has dipped since the start of the season, as they’ve cracked double-digits just once in their last 11 games. However, they’ve upped their conversion rate by scoring on 17.8% of their chances. While not a huge outlier, that’s not a number that’s sustainable over the course of the season.
Betting Analysis & Pick
My model makes the Lightning a -127 favorite without the element of a sportsbook’s juice, so my expectation for this game would have Tampa -137. With an opening line of around -180, there’s going to be some value on the Stars here. Dallas’ record reflects a team that would be +160 on the moneyline, but the Stars are much better than that. While the market probably knows that, the price isn’t likely to drop below our trigger price for a bet at +150.
Pick: Stars (+150 or better)