Wednesday NHL Odds, Picks and Predictions: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars Stanley Cup Game 3 Preview (Sept. 23)

Credit:

Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jamie Oleksiak, Yanni Gourde

  • Michael Leboff previews Game 3 of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.
  • Each team has traded a win apiece, and the series has more-or-less played out as expected over the first two games.
  • ut could that change in Game 3? Leboff breaks down the odds for tonight's Finals match, including how to bet the line if Steven Stamkos returns to the fold for Tampa.

Stanley Cup Game 3: Lightning vs. Stars Odds

Lightning Odds -157 [BET NOW]
Stars Odds +135 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5 (-132/+110) [BET NOW]
Time Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

Odds updated as of Wednesday night and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


After winning Game 1 as +135 underdogs, the Dallas Stars spent most of the time in between the final whistle of the series-opener and Game 2 priced at +123 at DraftKings. As game time drew closer the price on the Western Conference Champions lengthened, eventually closing right where it did for Game 1.

That’s exactly where we stand for Game 3, which comes 48 hours after a well-deserved win by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

It would make sense, barring any major injury news (we’ll get to that later), that this line would close in the same range for the rest of the way. Maybe some books will have Dallas at, or slightly above, +140; perhaps others will price them closer to +130. But it seems pretty clear how the market views this matchup. At least for now.

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What We’ve Learned from Games 1 & 2

Coming into this series we had an idea of how the script for this matchup would most likely read. The Lightning are the more talented team and should push play at 5-on-5, while the Stars would cede field position in favor of packing the neutral zone and the middle of the ice to keep the Bolts from getting odd-man rushes or high-danger scoring chances. It looked like your classic Possession vs. Counterattack matchup.

The first two games of this series have played out largely according to plan. The Stars were outshot by a bushel in Game 1, but not many of the attempts were Grade-A opportunities, which allowed Anton Khudobin to do his thing and get Dallas on the board.

Tampa’s skill won out in Game 2 as a couple of dazzling plays by the Lightning’s power play early in the game had Dallas playing catch-up from the jump. The Stars are not built to erase big leads, and the Lightning are terrific defensively. Thus, erasing an early 3-0 deficit proved too tall of a tree for the Stars to scale on Monday night.

The Stars have scored more goals and generated slightly more high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5, but the Lightning are seeing a lot more of the puck and have the edge in expected goals.

5-on-5 Stat Lightning Stars
Goals per 60 1.34 2.69
Expected Goals per 60 2.34 1.84
Shot Attempts per 60 68.5 40.4
High-Danger Chances per 60 10.7 11.4


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.


Of course, what happened in the first two games isn’t predictive for what will come in Game 3 and beyond, but it is helpful that we’ve seen the game plans that these two teams will try to execute each night.

If you asked me what the most noteworthy stat or takeaway is from the first 120 minutes, I’d say that it is Tampa’s struggles to score at 5-on-5. That doesn’t mean that the Bolts won’t come out and blitz Dallas for seven goals on Wednesday, but it does back up what we already knew about the Stars’ defense: It’s stingy.

Stamkos Watch

One thing that could theoretically help the Lightning break down Big D’s Big D is the return of Steven Stamkos, who has been out for Tampa’s entire postseason run. Stamkos is a terrific goal-scorer. Not only is Stamkos lethal on the power play, but his presence as a trigger-man on the Bolts’ man-advantage opens the rest of the ice up for Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Brayden Point to work their blood-and-thunder show.

If Stamkos was at 100%, he’d make a pretty big difference. But he hasn’t played meaningful hockey in months, so it’s pretty hard to believe he’d be operating at his ceiling if he steps onto the ice. If Stamkos was fully healthy and conditioned, I’d say a 2-3% bump for Tampa would be appropriate. But since I don’t believe he’ll be near that level, I’m not planning on upgrading the Bolts at all if he plays.

In fact, I think Dallas could have a bit more value if Tampa’s captain plays on Wednesday.

[Check out our updated NHL odds page to shop for the best number.]

Game 3 Betting Pick

Obviously this article is being published before Stamkos is ruled in or out. That decision likely won’t come until close to puck drop, so it’s best to plan ahead so you can be ready.

Judging by where the market settled for the first two games, it will almost certainly be Dallas or nothing for me in Game 3.

I think the Stars are in range for a bet at +140 or better whether Stamkos plays or not. Those odds imply that Dallas has a 41.7% chance of winning Game 3, and I think that’s a little low — especially since the Stars are specialists at getting deep into games and turning them into coin-flips.

Dallas’ defense allows it to hang around against better teams, and that means that a good bounce here or a big save there goes a long way in determining the outcome of the game. I’d much rather be on the underdog if that is how things shake out.

That said, I’m going to wait and try to get a clearer picture of Stamkos’ status for Wednesday night. If he plays, I imagine the market will overreact and we could get the Stars at a great price.

If Stamkos doesn’t play, I’ll do my best to find a +140. And if that number doesn’t pop and you’re just looking for action on the game and need some guidance, I’d still lean towards Big D at the listed odds.

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