Stanley Cup Game 4 Picks: Best Bets for Stars vs. Lightning (Friday, Sept. 25)

Credit:

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat

We could have a new Stanley Cup Champion on Saturday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars are set to play back-to-back games starting on Friday and should the Bolts win both contests, they will be skating around with Lord Stanley late Saturday night.

Here are our favorite bets for Game 4:

Michael Leboff: Dallas Stars +140 or better

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

I think there will be a lot of action (relatively speaking) for Friday night’s game. With that being the case, I’d like to wait until closer to puck drop before placing my bet, which will almost certainly be on the Dallas Stars. (If you’re going to bet Tampa, I’d suggest doing it sooner rather than later.)

There are a couple of +140s around the market (check out our updated NHL Odds Page to shop for the best number), and that’s the number I’m looking for on Dallas in this matchup, but I have a hard time believing that the Stars will crash before Game 4. The Lightning are the favorites. They’re coming off a blow-out win. The game is being played on NBC at primetime.

Those are all ingredients for some inflation on the Bolts.

The Lightning are still the likely winner on Friday night, but the listed odds (-157) give them a 61.1% chance of beating the Stars to go up, 3-1. I think that number flatters the Bolts a tad in a matchup against a team that does a great job of dragging their opponents deep into the night, essentially turning games into coin flips.

For some bettors — and this is a judgment-free zone, you do you — they’d rather just play the team that has a better chance to win. That strategy won’t work out in the long-term in a hilariously random sport like hockey where a bounce off a shin-pad could determine a game, but I understand if you would like to avoid walking down the path of pain that ends with you betting underdogs night after night in this stupid sport.

With their opportunistic offense, stingy defense and great goaltender, the Stars have proven they are always worth a look at these odds, no matter how much it’s going to hurt in the end.

[Bet the Stars at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Sam Hitchcock: Over 5 Goals (-143)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

To paraphrase an old saying: twice is a coincidence, but three times is a trend. The Dallas Stars have added a coda: four times is a nightmare. In Game 3, all four of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s even-strength goals were spurred by Dallas turnovers in the neutral zone.

For three of the above goals, it was the same story with slight variations. Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman or Kevin Shattenkirk would step up and zap the Stars’ transition. With possession swiftly changing hands, Tampa Bay was able to quickly counterattack or guide the puck toward Dallas’s end for extended offensive zone time. The Stars’ inability to successfully traverse the neutral zone was exacerbated by their struggles with their breakout.

So, why the over? Best to start with a constant: Games 2 and 3 reinforced that the Stars can’t stop the Brayden Point line. In the last two games, the Point line has registered 19 shots at 5-on-5 while allowing one. They have a 93.6% expected goals and have collected 10 high-danger chances while surrendering one. The series could end as early as Saturday night if the Stars cannot figure out how to trammel the Bolts’ first line.

Additionally, Tampa Bay’s forecheck and cycle are causing headaches even if Dallas cuts down on its neutral-zone turnovers. In Game 3, the Lightning finished with their best expected goals of the series, posting a 62.58%.

Tampa Bay is dominating the perimeter, and the Stars defensemen are opting for stretch passes into the neutral zone instead of carrying the puck toward center ice and chucking it deep. The forechecking pressure of the Lightning forwards has warped the Stars defensemen’s mindset.

And yet, the Stars had a stretch of dominance in the first period of Game 3 that could be a roadmap for Game 4. Instead of trying to pass and skate through the neutral zone, Dallas should implement dump-ins, aiming to put the Lightning defensemen under intense duress when they retrieve the puck and try to find their outlet.

On the Stars’ forecheck they should also engage Andrei Vasilevskiy, who had a gaffe in Game 3 that nearly resulted in an empty-net goal for the Stars.

If the Stars can keep the puck in their offensive zone, they will get chances like the Andrew Cogliano opportunity in the first frame where a bad switch by Point and his defenseman left Cogliano wide open in the low slot. Possibly due to fatigue, defensive coverage has slackened for both of these teams. Cue the cycle and the world smiles back at you.

In Game 4, two outcomes seem possible for the Stars. They get steamrolled, losing 4-2 or 5-2, and in essence cede the series to the Lightning. Or they outscore the Lightning 4-3 or 5-3. The Stars can’t stop the Lightning, but they can outscore them. Pound the over.

[Bet the Over at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Pete Truszkowski: Ondrej Palat Over 2.5 Shots On Goal (-125)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

As Sam mentioned above, the Dallas Stars have no answer for the Lightning top line.

Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point get all the attention and love, but their linemate Ondrej Palat is not just along for the ride. Palat has scored 10 goals in 22 games throughout these playoffs, including goals in the last two games.

The Lightning’s No. 1 line has both an actual goals scored percentage and expected goals percentage near 70%. Such dominance is almost unprecedented.

Their performance in the past two games has been even better than their usual. When they’ve been on the ice, Tampa Bay has an expected goal percentage of 93%.

Since the second round of the playoffs started, Palat has gone over 2.5 shots on goal in 10 of 14 games. He has 72 shots in 22 games in this postseason, good for an average of 3.3 shots per game.

Since Dallas has struggled to shut down the Kucherov-Point-Palat trio, I expect them to continue to play almost exclusively in the Dallas zone. This bodes well for Palat to continue to pepper the net and get at least three shots on goal.

I would argue this line should be 3.5 shots on goal. I think there’s about a 60% chance of Palat getting three shots, so I’d feel comfortable betting on over 2.5 up to -145.

[Bet this prop at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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