NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Lightning vs. Wild
Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Andrei Vasilevskiy
- The Minnesota Wild host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night in a matchup of two of the NHL's hottest squads.
- Tampa is a rare underdog in this one -- albeit slightly -- due to the fact that this is the second game of a back-to-back.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a betting pick.
Lightning vs. Wild Odds
|Time||9:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
This is one of those games that’s a treat to watch, featuring two high-end teams that have been playing some of their best hockey lately.
Prior to Tuesday’s action, Tampa Bay was 16-5-0 in its last 21 games while Minnesota was 14-5-0 in its latest 19 contests. On top of that, both teams are almost completely healthy at the time of writing, so injuries shouldn’t be a significant factor.
The Lightning of course have the greater reputation given their three trips to the Stanley Cup Finals from 2020-2022, but Tampa Bay will also be playing in its second road game in as many nights while the Wild will be well rested going into their first game of 2023.
Is that enough to tip the scales in Minnesota’s favor? Let’s take a closer look at these two squads.
The Strength of Lightning
Tampa Bay is a team without many flaws. Andrei Vasilevskiy did get off to an uncharacteristically poor start, posting a 5-5-1 record, 3.10 GAA and .898 save percentage in his first 11 games, but since then he’s been 11-4-0 with a 1.93 GAA and .938 save percentage, so any serious goaltending concerns Tampa Bay might have had are well in the rear-view mirror.
The Lightning traded away Ryan McDonagh to Nashville over the summer for cap reasons, which left Tampa Bay with a potentially significant hole in its defense. But they still have Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Hedman as the cornerstones of their defense.
Their blueline is suspect beyond those two, but with Hedman and Sergachev both averaging around 24 minutes per game, they’ve been able to smooth over the potential depth issues. Hedman and Sergachev have been solid offensively with 23 and 29 points, respectively.
Tampa Bay’s expected goals against was 115.4 through 35 contests, per Moneypuck, which was the 14th fewest in the league. So the Lightning haven’t been anything special in that regard, but their defense has been good enough and with Vasilevskiy there to pick up the slack, it hasn’t been an issue when he’s in net.
It’s been more of a problem when Brian Elliott starts though, as demonstrated by his 3.31 GAA and .894 save percentage in nine games. However, Elliott started Tuesday versus Chicago, so Vasilevskiy is projected to face the Wild.
Even when Elliott does start, the Lightning are far from doomed when their so-so defense meets his less than stellar goaltending. In fact, Elliott has a 7-2-0 record and that’s thanks to their amazing forward group.
Tampa Bay had the fifth-best offense through 35 games with 3.57 goals per contest. Nikita Kucherov, who missed most of the previous two campaigns, has excelled this season with 13 goals and 53 points in 35 contests. He’s backed by Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, who have 41 and 37 points respectively.
Most teams would be happy having any of those three as the driving force of their offense. The fact that the Lightning feature all three is an amazing luxury.
Tampa Bay isn’t devoid of offensive depth either. There are eight players who have recorded more than 20 points. For comparison, the Wild have four players with more than 20 points.
Success in Minnesota
Minnesota doesn’t feature Tampa Bay’s offensive depth, nor does it match the Lightning in terms of raw star power.
It is true that Kirill Kaprizov is an elite forward with 20 goals and 45 points in 36 games while Mats Zuccarello is an ideal compliment to him, providing 16 markers and 40 points in 36 contests. But if that’s Minnesota’s counterbalance to Kucherov and Stamkos, then where the Wild fall short is in an equivalent to points. Minnesota has no other player with at least 30 points.
The Wild also don’t have an elite offensive defenseman. Jared Spurgeon certainly isn’t bad. He had 40 points last season and is holding his own in 2022-23 with five goals and 18 points in 36 contests. That’s only good enough for 34th place in the defensemen scoring race though, and it’s well behind both Hedman and Sergachev.
The result is that Minnesota’s offense can be best described as average. More specifically, with 3.14 goals per game, the Wild have the 18th-best offense in the league.
But while Minnesota’s offense hasn’t been special, its defense and goaltending has helped give the Wild an edge. Filip Gustavsson has been superb with an 8-5-1 record, 2.34 GAA and .920 save percentage in 14 games this season. He’s pushed Marc-Andre Fleury for the starting gig, who has a 13-8-1 record, 2.82 and .904 save percentage in 23 contests.
Fleury no longer has a clear hold on the top job, but it’s worth noting that he isn’t going down without a fight. Over his last five contests, Fleury’s posted a 4-1-0 record, 1.61 GAA and .945 save percentage. So he’s been making his own case to hold onto his position.
The Wild are reaping the benefits of that stiff goaltending competition. Minnesota has held its competition to two or fewer goals in eight of its last 10 games with each goaltender starting in five of of those contests.
So while it remains to be seen who will start for Minnesota on Wednesday, it’s reasonable to believe that either netminder will be capable of handling even a team as gifted as the Lightning.
Lightning vs. Wild Pick
With the Lightning on the road and in the second half of a back-to-back, they are in the unusual position of being treated as the underdogs, albeit narrowly. On the moneyline, taking Tampa Bay offers +100 odds while Minnesota is at -120 on FanDuel at the time of writing.
The Over/Under is set at 6.5 goals and with a hot Vasilevskiy projected to face a hot Fleury or Gustavsson, I think the under looks pretty appealing. It’s true that Tampa Bay still has a great forward core, but it will be going out there on no rest, which might make the Lightning’s offense a little less scary Wednesday.
While I would give the Wild the edge in this contest, the under on DraftKings comes with a possible payout of -110, so it’s a bigger potential return than you’d get from taking Minnesota on the moneyline. That’s great because even if the odds were identical, I’d still take the under as I see it as the safer play.
Pick: Under 6.5 -110 (play down to -130)