NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Canucks vs. Lightning (Jan. 13)
Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Thatcher Demko
Canucks vs. Lightning Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
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It is pretty crazy how much of a difference one player can make to an NHL lineup. Of course, I am talking about Nikita Kucherov, who looks like he is in playoff form even though he has only played six games this season. Kucherov, who was out since Oct. 26, was back in Tampa Bay’s lineup on Tuesday night and scored a hat-trick in a dominant win over the Sabres.
Kucherov and the Bolts are massive favorites over the Canucks on Thursday night.
You can’t fault the Canucks for feeling a little unlucky. The team was clicking on all cylinders before the league postponed a few of their games because British Columbia isn’t allowing spectators at sporting events right now. After a long layoff, Vancouver was sent to Florida to take on the Panthers and Lightning in their first two games back.
As expected, the Canucks were a bit rusty on Tuesday against the Panthers and were played off the ice.
Vancouver now skates into Tampa at 16-16-3 with a +0.4 goal differential per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and a 49.1% expected goals rate. In their last 10 games, however, the Canucks have gone 8-1-1 with a 51.6% expected goals rate and a +0.25 goal differential per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Bruce Boudreau had the Canucks playing strong hockey before their schedule got interrupted, but now the question becomes whether or not the team can pick up where it left off.
The Canucks will likely roll with Thatcher Demko in net and the former BC Eagle has been strong again this season with a +5.5 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) and a .917 save percentage in 28 games. Demko struggled against the Panthers, but we can chalk that up to rust.
The Lightning Are Elite In Every Phase
With all their superstar talent, the Lightning have the reputation of being a dynamic offensive team. The Bolts have backed that up with 3.32 goals per game (ninth overall) and 12.7 high-danger chances per 60 minutes (fifth), but it’s actually the defense that makes this team elite.
The Lightning rank second in expected goals against, fifth in preventing high-danger scoring chances and 10th in goals allowed at 5-on-5. A well-structured defense that plays in front of the best goaltender in the world is a recipe for success in this league.
Andrei Vasilevskiy should get the start for Tampa Bay and the former Vezina Trophy winner has been up to that standard once again in 2021/22 with a 20-6-3 record, .924 SV% and a +15.3 GSAx in 29 games.
Lightning vs. Canucks Pick
I really like this goaltending matchup and despite a fluky game against the Bruins, Vasilevskiy has looked great in his last three starts only allowing a combined 6 goals against.
Demko, meanwhile, should have a bounce-back effort after shaking off the rust against the Panthers.
As noted above, the Lightning are one of the best defensive teams in the NHL and the Canucks, despite some pedestrian xG data, lead the league in goals allowed per 60 at 5-on-5.
Pick: Under 5.5