Lightning vs. Stars Odds & Pick: Dallas Has Value As the Underdog on Tuesday (March 2)
Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Blake Comeau
- Tuesday night brings another rematch from the 2020 Stanley Cup Final as the Tampa Bay Lightning are -165 favorites over the Dallas Stars.
- Despite losing 5-0 to the Bolts on Saturday, there's reason to back the Stars at this price says Matt Russell:
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars Odds
|Time||Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Monday and via DraftKings|
The Tampa Bay Lightning were one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup when they arrived in Toronto for the playoff bubble last summer. They were a prohibitive favorite when they opened up the Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton in September against the Dallas Stars. Tampa was also the prohibitive favorite on Saturday night in the long-awaited rematch. After winning 5-0, the Lightning are again the prohibitive favorite in the re-re-match in Dallas on Tuesday night.
However, when it comes to the Stars, I’m here to tell you “third time’s the charm”…. maybe.
Tampa Bay Lightning
From a standings standpoint, the Lightning haven’t missed a beat without star sniper Nikita Kucherov, as they’ve racked up the points. Their power play is still among the best in the league, but their underlying metrics at even-strength have dipped so far this season. Last season they had a 53.7% Expected Goal Share, compared to 51.3% this season. They averaged an xG rate of 2.19 in the regular season last year, but just 1.75 XG this year. From an offensive creation standpoint, they averaged just over 10 High-Danger Chances per game at even strength, to 8.4 this season.
Keeping the score low is the plan for the Lightning, in the same way it is for the Stars, as evidenced by both teams combining for just 1.44 in the first game. What may complicate this for Tampa is if they turn to their backup in this one.
Unlike the Stars, a move from their starter Andrei Vasilevskiy to the backup in journeyman Curtis McElhinney is quite a drop off. Vasilevskiy leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), while McElhinney has struggled at times in his few chances in the Tampa crease. The Lightning are capable of rallying around their goaltender defensively as they’ve given up more than league-average even-strength High-Danger Chances just four times this season.
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.
The Stars finally got their chance for a modicum of revenge on Saturday, after four times getting their opportunity postponed, and they did nothing with it. That said, despite the 5 goals scored, the Lightning actually didn’t do much more.
The High-Danger Chances at even strength were similarly poor with the Stars managing two such opportunities and the Lightning just one more than that. Dallas and Tampa came into this game averaging 1.49 and 1.71 Expected Goals per game 5-on-5. They each created less than half that amount with .68 and .76, respectively.
This low-chance, low-shot game is exactly the game the Stars would want to play against the Champs. It just didn’t work out for them because they couldn’t stay out of the penalty box. Tampa scored twice on six opportunities with the man-advantage. The Stars only had two chances on the power play and to make matters worse, the Lightning were the only team to score when the Stars had their chance. Anton Khudobin gave up all 5 goals on 17 shots. It will be interesting to see if he gets the net again on Tuesday, as backup Jake Oettinger has excelled in his opportunities.
The big roster move that could give the Stars a jumpstart is the potential return of Alexander Radulov. Despite not being the captain, or not being the Stars biggest name, Radulov is often the player bringing a spark, in the form of the timely goal or setup. Radulov has missed almost a month of time, and in that span the Stars have lost 7 of 8. He practiced on Monday, which is a good sign for his availability especially for a power play that started the season on a tear and has slipped in his absence.
Stars vs. Lightning Best Bet
Like everything in sports betting, it all comes down to price. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, has the Lightning rated as 10% above average when 5-on-5. Perhaps surprisingly, the Stars rate as 4.5% above average at even strength. As a result, the model expects the Lightning to be just a -120 road favourite with the Stars an even-money home underdog.
The current early market projection is Lightning -165/Stars +140, which would be a downshift from Saturday’s price of Dallas as a +170 underdog, to account for the shift in locations. If that number is indeed the case, then +140 is worth a bet on the Stars with Vasilevskiy in the net.
Should the Lightning give McElhinney another shot, we can adjust our buy price down to anything with a ‘plus’ in front of it. Either situation should warrant a bet for some small piece of revenge in an early season must-win situation for the Stars.
Pick: Dallas Stars (+140 or better vs Vasilevskiy / +100 vs McElhinney)