NHL Odds, Pick, Prediction: Blackhawks vs. Lightning (April 1)
Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Mathieu Joseph (left), Steven Stamkos (center), and Mikhail Sergachev (right).
- The Blackhawks face an uphill battle when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
- As the Lightning round into form ahead of the playoffs, NHL analyst Nicholas Martin expects them to get the job done at home.
- Read on to see his top pick and thoughts on the matchup.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
Chicago will head to Tampa Bay for the second leg of the nightmare back-to-back through the state of Florida to take on the Lightning.
Similar to last season in the final third of the schedule, Tampa has posted some less dominant play throughout the last month. However, with three consecutive victories, the ‘Bolts seem to be perking up with the playoffs in sight and home ice advantage in round one still a realistic possibility.
Will they make quick work of the lowly Blackhawks on Friday?
Tampa Bay Lightning
For the back-to-back defending champions the story has remained much the same as last year at the same point. The Lightning have been far from dominant, but I think we all know full well they are coasting in to the playoffs before they find a little more urgency.
Tampa Bay finished a lengthy road trip and a brutal schedule throughout March, and it has now been offered a much more reasonable load this week.
When playing at full health and true to form, we know this roster has the ability to compete with any competition, and that has been displayed the last three times out. The Lightning hold a 60.04 expected goals rate over those games, and they’ve amassed wins in all three.
The efforts in Long Island and against the Hurricanes were notably well contested efforts by all clubs involved, and Tampa’s performances seemed like a wake up call of how superb this group’s top form still is.
Tampa will likely split starts between Brian Elliott and Andrei Vasilevskiy over this weekend’s back-to-back set, so paying close attention for confirmation towards that is worth monitoring tomorrow.
Vasilevskiy holds a +25.9 goals saved above expected rating with a .919 save percentage through 52 games played, while Elliott has played to a +2.7 GSAx with a .916 save percentage through 16 games played.
At the time of writing this piece, Chicago had just competed the first period in Florida on Thursday, a period which saw Chicago clearly competing hard, but still allowing 25 shots on goal and coughing up one goal against, even with Collin Delia putting together a surprisingly solid effort.
A one-period sample is irrelevant, but that period is consistent with the Hawks overall play as of late, and Chicago’s very thin current lineup has simply controlled play to the lowly rate one would expect.
Over a seven-game sample prior to Thursday’s contest, the Blackhawks have played to a very poor 43.17 expected goals rate, a number which is even less impressive when considering five out of those seven games came against non-playoff caliber competition.
Kevin Lankinen will likely get the second leg of this back-to-back spot, and he has struggled badly so far this season. Lankinen has played to a -21.1 goals saved above expected rating and an .886 save percentage through 20 games played.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning Pick
As I have alluded to several times over the last couple weeks, NHL line movement is much easier to predict than other sports which take in a bigger percentage of bookmakers’ overall handle, particularly at this point in the season.
68 games into the year, with the opening betting lines currently listed where they are, next to everybody will be lining up to back Tampa Bay here and I do not see much argument against that idea.
Bookmakers are less firm on what they believe to be true odds towards a contest, and I see this as another spot where everybody piles on the Lightning -1.5 at -120, so we should gain a bunch of closing line value yet again.
Even with a surprise Brian Elliott start that number will hold and I would make this play, so looking towards that number now and hoping for Vasilevskiy to play makes the most sense.
This is written prior to Thursday’s contest against Florida for the ‘Hawks in the interest of trying to allow most to claim a good price on what should be another puck-line which swings heavily.
Of course Chicago could hang around here given the nature of NHL hockey, but in this spot I feel it’s a lot more logical to expect Tampa Bay to cruise comfortably past a far lesser opponent, and I would play Tampa’s puck line down to -135 with Vasi in, and down to -128 with Elliott confirmed to start.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 -120 (Play to -135)