Saturday Stanley Cup Game 1 Odds, Picks and Predictions: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (Sept. 19)
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Victor Hedman
- The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars face off in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday.
- Tampa Bay is a -182 favorite over Dallas in this series, meaning the Bolts have a 62.7% implied chance of hoisting the Cup.
- Michael Leboff previews the series opener and gives his betting pick with updated odds below.
Stanley Cup Game 1: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars Odds
|Stars Odds||+135 [BET NOW]|
|Lightning Odds||-157 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5 (-141/+117) [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
The Tampa Bay Lightning outlasted three of the NHL’s toughest defensive units to get to the Stanley Cup Final where another one of the league’s stingiest units awaits them.
The Stars, on the other hand, upset two of the NHL’s premier offenses to get to this point. They’ll need to add arguably the league’s best attack to that list if they want to complete their magical run.
Tampa Bay is a -182 favorite over Dallas in the Stanley Cup Final, meaning the Bolts have a 62.7% chance of hoisting Lord Stanley when all is said and done.
The Dallas Stars managed to make it this far despite a -0.04 goal differential and -0.1 xG differential per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the postseason. Usually the only way a team survives those kind of metrics over a long stretch of play is by riding a hot goaltender. Enter Anton Khudobin.
The 34-year-old netminder has been the most important character in Dallas’ story to this point. The affable Kazakh netminder spent much of the last couple of weeks standing on his head and was most recently seen stopping 153 of 161 shots in the Stars’ 4-1 upset of Vegas in the Western Conference Finals. Khudobin leads The Bubble with a +9.95 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx).
Khudobin isn’t the only reason that the Stars are in the Final, but he is the biggest one.
|5-on-5 Stat||Regular Season (Rank)||Playoffs|
|Goals For Per 60 Minutes||1.96 (30th)||2.48|
|Goals Against Per 60 Minutes||1.99 (2nd)||2.52|
|Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes||2.42 (13th)||2.41|
|Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes||2.17 (T5)||2.51|
|Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes||54.2 (21st)||53.2|
|Shot Atttempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes||56.07 (17th)||58.1|
|High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes||11.68 (5th)||10.68|
|High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes||10.13 (12th)||10.93|
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.
Over the regular season the Stars were one of the league’s best teams at preventing goals and suppressing scoring chances. That defense has wobbled a little bit in the postseason, but that will happen when you’re playing Colorado and Vegas 12 games in a row.
Over the regular season the Stars did a terrific job at keeping teams out of the slot, a tactical skill that should come in handy against the Bolts.
Then, Tampa 5v5 offence. As I mentioned this morning, they’re extremely good at “thinning” the zone, getting inside if not particularly close. The Stars are very good at not allowing shots from where Tampa loves to shoot. The most important tactical aspect of the series imo. pic.twitter.com/RhpTTzt9Hc
— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) September 18, 2020
Even though most people will set this series up as a showdown between an offensive dynamo and a defensive force, the truth is that it’s really a contest between two great defensive teams, one of them just happens to have a great offense, too.
Tampa Bay Lightning
This trip to the big show has been a long time coming for this Tampa Bay Lightning team.
The Bolts were last in the Final in 2014-15, and since then they’ve missed the postseason once, lost in the Conference Finals twice and were upset in a first-round sweep after setting the league record for most wins in a regular season. The Bolts have spent a lot of time over the past half-decade as the NHL’s best team. They just haven’t caught the breaks needed to be the last ones standing. Tampa was once again the best team in the league in 2019-20 and they didn’t lose a step during the postseason.
|5-on-5 Stat||Regular Season (Rank)||Playoffs|
|Goals For Per 60 Minutes||2.96 (T1)||2.51|
|Goals Against Per 60 Minutes||2.2 (6th)||1.53|
|Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes||2.49 (7th)||2.48|
|Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes||2.09 (4th)||1.83|
|Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes||58.2 (9th)||63.9|
|Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes||50.6 (3rd)||50.8|
|High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes||11.06 (11th)||11.35|
|High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes||9.31 (4th)||8.2|
The Bolts are a team known for offensive firepower, but their defense is what truly separates them from the pack of good teams behind them. The Lightning have allowed just 1.53 goals, 1.83 expected goals and 8.16 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 through 19 games in The Bubble.
Coupling that kind of defense with an offense that led the NHL in 5-on-5 scoring doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the Lightning. Oh, and they also have one of the NHL’s best goalies, Andrei Vasilevskiy, in the blue paint.
[Check out our updated NHL odds page to shop for the best number.]
Game 1 Betting Analysis
Man, it would be nice to be able to just bet the Tampa Bay Lightning and go about my day. Unfortunately, that’s not how betting works. Everything comes down to price when punting and I doubt that the odds on the Bolts will get to a point where I think they’d be worth laying the wood (I’d play Tampa at -140 or cheaper).
An important thing to remember about the Stanley Cup Final is that both of these teams are good. One is better, sure, but the Stars are a very tricky team to beat and they won’t be given much of a chance to win this series by anybody. That narrative should help to create value.
There’s no beating around the bush here. The path to victory for the Stars is largely dependent on getting bounces and Khudobin continuing to dance to the music.
A good bounce, a power play goal or a huge save can flip a game on a moment’s notice. It’s not fun betting on those types of breaks to go your way, but the hard truth of betting on the NHL, if you’re going to do it regularly, is that you’ll likely be betting a lot of underdogs.
Considering that the Stars closed at +148 in their last game against the Golden Knights, who I think are a weaker team compared to the Lightning, I think this line should move towards Tampa before puck drop.
That being the case, I’m happy to wait out the market and hope to get Dallas at +145 or better.
The Bet: Dallas Stars +145 or better in Game 1