Sunday NHL Odds & Pick for Lightning vs. Blackhawks: Defenses Should Shine in Windy City (March 7)
Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Kevin Lankinen.
- After splitting the first two games of this mini three-game series, the Lightning and Blackhawks face off in Game 3 on Sunday.
- According to advanced metrics, neither team deserved to win the game they did, which makes this a difficult contest to handicap.
- So, instead of backing a side, Matt Russell has turned his attention to the total to find betting value, which he explains below.
Lightning vs. Blackhawks Odds
|Time||2:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Saturday night and via PointsBet.|
One of the better angles when betting the NHL this season has been backing a capable home underdog in the first matchup, and if they don’t win, just try it again in the immediate rematch. The margin between the "good" and "bad" teams in the NHL is so relatively small that you’ll get more mini-series splits than you’d expect and can slowly turn a profit.
Just last weekend, the Blackhawks were big home favorites in back-to-back games at home against the Detroit Red Wings. They split, with the Wings taking the first game and saving us from having to bet the second.
Days later, the Hawks became the big underdog with the defending champs coming to town.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning came into Chicago struggling offensively, but it didn’t seem to matter because they had been so good defensively and between the pipes that they had won five straight games despite having less than 1.00 Expected Goals For (xGF) at even-strength in the last three.
It helped, of course, that star goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy had accumulated three straight shutouts.
Given the offensive struggles, it was an easy bet to make on the Blackhawks at +180 on Thursday night in Game 1 of this three-game set. It was a much harder bet to win. The Hawks looked like they were going to pull off the upset relatively easily, taking a 2-0 lead through two periods of play. After all, Chicago was dominating play at even-strength, accumulating 10 High-Danger Chances (HDC) through 40 minutes to just two for Tampa.
What happened next, though, was a catastrophe for Blackhawks backers.
The Lightning received the benefit of a soft goal on Hawks goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and then took advantage of a defensive assignment breakdown by Chicago to tie the game at two.
From there, the two teams went to overtime and were destined for a shootout, except for a relatively harmless last-second shot from the blue line that wiggled its way through Lankinen and crossed the goal line with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
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 last tenth-of-a-second goal for Tampa was a crushing blow to Blackhawks backers, who deserved every bit of the +180 they would have earned with a Chicago win. That said, there was no reason not to pull the trigger again the next night since all the metrics pointed to a Hawks bet the first time around.
Naturally, on Friday night in Game 2, the rematch went the exact opposite way of the first game. The Lightning scored twice early in the first period and were the better team throughout the game on the way to a 3.09-1.03 domination in the expected goal ratio.
While the 3:1 xG share would suggest an easy Lightning win, it was the Hawks that were able to battle back to force overtime. This time, the Hawks survived all 300 seconds of 3-on-3, which even included almost a full two minutes of Chicago playing short-handed. But this time, with a chance to get the win in the shootout, the Blackhawks succeeded and cashed as undeserved underdogs.
Betting Analysis & Pick
With such a bizarre pair of results that saw each team winning on a night when they weren’t the better team, figuring out who’s going to come out on top in the rubber match seems like an unfair ask.
After a night off on Friday, Vasilevskiy is expected back between the pipes for Tampa, and he’s been the difference-maker this season, and the constant for the Lightning. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on "THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast," makes Tampa Bay’s win probability 58%, so there’s some slight value on the Blackhawks at the projected moneyline of TB -190/CHI +160.
That’s not quite enough value for me to back Chicago again, though, in asking them to win the mini-series with the Lightning after two hard-fought games. Plus, in the limited sample size this season of three-game sets, the favorite has dominated the third games at a better than 80% clip.
So while I don’t want to pay the big price with Tampa Bay, I’ll assume this game is played on its terms, which at their best means a low-chance game with quality goaltending. If that’s the case, then I think the under becomes the play, and at an even 6.0 is certainly worth a bet, especially if you can find it for even-money.
Pick: Under 6.0 (-110 or better)