NHL Betting Odds, Picks (Tuesday, March 3): Bruins vs. Lightning, Wild vs. Predators and More

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Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

  • The updated odds for the Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning make the Lightning -120 favorites at home.
  • Tampa enters the matchup 1-4 over the past five games and is dealing with a key injury.
  • See the full betting breakdown below for tonight's games below including Michael Leboff's picks.

Hockey is weird.

Basically every contender in the Eastern Conference got better on paper at the Trade Deadline.

The Bruins, Lightning, Capitals, Flyers, Penguins, Islanders, Maple Leafs, Panthers and Hurricanes all made impact deals during the trade period. Most of the moves were for role players, but there was plenty of buzz about the business that was conducted in the East.

But, as they say, the game isn’t played on a spreadsheet and plenty of teams in the East have struggled over the past two weeks. The Penguins have lost six in a row, the Lightning have lost four of five, the Capitals are 4-5-1 in their last 10, the Isles are in the midst of a 2-5-2 stretch, the Hurricanes have one win in their last five games, the Blue Jackets have two wins since Feb. 8 and the Panthers have completely fallen off.

These parallel stumbles have allowed the Bruins to expand their lead over the Bolts in the Atlantic, the Leafs to separate themselves from the Panthers and the Flyers to make a run at the Metropolitan Division title.

Let’s look at Tuesday’s slate and see where it takes us.


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Boston Bruins at Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Bruins odds: +100
  • Lightning odds: -120
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBCSN

Not only are the Tampa Bay Lightning in the middle of a skid, but they lost star forward Steven Stamkos for up to eight weeks due to a core muscle injury. The Bolts still have an outside chance of catching the Bruins and winning the Atlantic Division, but it looks very likely that the Lightning will take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 1 of the playoffs.

If Tampa wants to avoid a first-round tussle with the Leafs, they better win Tuesday’s showdown with the Bruins (who may also be missing star forward Brad Marchand, questionable with an illness, for what it’s worth).

While Tampa’s season has featured a couple of peaks and valleys, the Bruins have remained remarkably consistent. Boston ranks fifth in the NHL in expected goals rate, second in expected goals against per 60 minutes and first in goals against per 60 minutes (all at 5-on-5).

Add in Boston’s terrific power play and its terrific goaltending and you’ve got yourself a recipe for arguably the best team in the NHL at the moment.

I say at the moment because I would make Tampa a favorite on neutral ice at full health and would consider this game basically a coin flip if the Lightning are missing Stamkos. These two teams are in a tier of their own — just look at these defenses:

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

The listed odds imply that the Lightning win this game 52.2% of the time. In other words, this game is very close to a coin flip with the Lightning at home and without one of their many stars.

If you adjust the current line for home-ice advantage (4.9% in the NHL), the odds would basically flip — making the Bruins a -120 favorite on neutral ice.

I think that number should be closer to -110 or -112, so I think the Lightning have some value in a buy-low spot on Tuesday night.

Around the League

The St. Louis Blues (-140) and New York Rangers (+120) are very different teams. The Blues are one of the league’s best defensive teams, while the Rangers play a high-risk, high-reward style that depends on their skill players and goaltenders to cover up some flaws on defense.

The Blues are one of the league’s best teams and are in great form, but I think -140 is a bit too steep against the Rangers, even without Chris Kreider. If you adjust these odds for home-ice, you’d get the Blues as a -170 favorite on neutral ice. That’s a bit much, though I would call +120 the cut-off point for the Rangers.

I also played the Nashville Predators (+115) on a back-to-back against the Minnesota Wild (-135). I am not all that concerned about the schedule spot, as the Wild are playing their fourth game in six nights, and think the market is a little too low on Nashville after the Oilers washed them, 8-3, on Monday night.

I’ve been involved in a lot of Montreal Canadiens (+120) games this season and think they are worth a shot at +115 or better on the road against the New York Islanders (-140). Despite decent underlying metrics over their past 25 games, the Isles have struggled to get results due to a lack of scoring talent and some injuries. The Habs know that saga all too well, as they’ve posted some of the league’s best 5-on-5 metrics all season but injuries and some poor puck luck have kept them from contending.

I also like the Buffalo Sabres at +140 or higher on the road against the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are abysmal at creating offense — only the Red Wings create fewer expected goals at 5-on-5 this season — and the Sabres boast one of the stronger defenses in the NHL.

Finally, I’d also dabble on the Edmonton Oilers at +145 or higher against the Dallas Stars. The Oilers are on a back-to-back and the Stars are a sturdy bunch, but the number is good enough to take a shot on the improving Oilers.

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