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NHL Playoffs Game 4 Betting Odds, Previews: Will Blue Jackets Sweep Lightning?

Credit:

Kim Klement, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Sergei Bobrovsky, Seth Jones

Tonight’s NHL action has the chance to be historic, but first let’s talk about what happened last night.

The headline-grabbing result was Colorado’s 6-2 victory over Calgary. The Avalanche, the worst team to qualify for the postseason, now lead the Western Conference regular season champs 2-1 in the series.

It is not an undeserving lead, either.

The Avs played their worst game in the series opener, but weren’t terrible at all, and it still took Mike Smith standing on his head to get Calgary off the mark. The next two games have been a different story. Not only did Colorado win both games, but the Avs outplayed the Flames at 5-on-5, which is surprising.

The Avalanche posted a total of 4.24 expected goals for (xGF) in the second and third games while the Flames could only muster up 2.87, per Natural Stat Trick.

The script for this series was that Calgary should have its way at 5-on-5 while the Avalanche would need to rely on their edge in goaltending, but that hasn’t been the case and the Avs are flying under the radar a bit thanks to what’s going on in Columbus.

Last night also saw the Predators defeat the Stars, 3-2, despite Dallas being the better team at 5-on-5. It was a weird game for this series as it featured a lot more scoring chances than the first two games.

In the Eastern Conference, the Leafs defeated the Bruins, 3-2, to take a 2-1 series lead. The two teams were split down the middle in terms of shot attempts but Toronto had a big edge in scoring chances and expected goals.

And finally, Carolina defeated the Capitals, 5-0, to claw back into that series. The Hurricanes were dominant from the start of the game but lost both Micheal Ferland and Andrei Svechnikov to injury.

Here’s what’s on tap for tonight.

NHL Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks

  • Tampa Bay Lightning (-135) at Columbus Blue Jackets (+125), 7 p.m. ET on CNBC
  • New York Islanders (+155) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-170), 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN
  • Winnipeg Jets (+132) at St. Louis Blues (-145), 9:30 p.m. ET on CNBC
  • San Jose Sharks (+150) at Vegas Golden Knights (-165), 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The Blue Jackets have pushed the Lightning to the brink of some unwanted history, as Tampa could become the first Presidents’ Trophy winner to be swept in the first round.

The Jackets took Game 3, their first home game of the series, 3-1. Tampa Bay was without its two best players, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, for Game 3 and Hedman is already ruled out for Game 4.

Under the hood it’s hard to argue that Tampa Bay doesn’t deserve to be in this predicament. The Bolts have slightly better possession numbers and they are out-chancing Columbus, but they are playing at a much slower pace than they did during the regular season, a tell-tale sign that what Columbus is doing is paying off.

All that said, Tampa’s way back into this series starts with its goaltending. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been poor for the Lightning while Sergei Bobrovsky has been quite the opposite for Columbus.

If Vasilevskiy doesn’t get his game together, the Lightning are toast. If he does, this team has a small chance to crawl out of this hole.

As for tonight’s game, with Hedman and possibly Alex Killorn out, I think there’s value on backing Columbus at +120 or better.

The Jackets have held the Lightning to under 2.0 expected goals per 60 minutes (5-on-5) in every game so far and that type of defensive sturdiness in front of an all-world goaltender should make this game closer to a coin flip with Tampa’s injury issues.

The Penguins, winners of two of the last three Stanley Cups, also have their backs against the wall after dropping the first three games of their first-round series against the New York Islanders.

The Isles have done a great job at limiting Pittsburgh’s offensive output and turning mistakes into odd-man rushes the other way. The Islanders will never win the possession battle against a team like Pittsburgh, but their quality-over-quantity approach seems to be working.

New York is also benefiting from terrific goaltending, as Robin Lehner has been stellar in the blue paint for Barry Trotz’s team. Matt Murray hasn’t been bad on the other end of the ice, but he’s been second best in a series that was razor tight in Games 1 and 2.

After underestimating the Islanders in the first three games of this series, this line is closer to the right range. I’d still argue there’s a little bit of value on the Islanders at +155 but given how the market has handled this series thus far, I’m happy to wait it out and see if a better number pops before puck drop.

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