Penguins vs. Lightning Odds & Picks: How To Bet NHL Season Opener (Oct. 12)

Penguins vs. Lightning Odds & Picks: How To Bet NHL Season Opener (Oct. 12) article feature image

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images. Pictured: Steven Stamkos

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet on Tuesday night to open the 2021-2022 NHL season (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
  • The Lightning are big favorites to win at home, partly because the Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel.
  • Nick Martin previews the matchup and makes his Penguins vs. Lightning pick below:

Penguins vs. Lightning Betting Odds

Penguins Odds+160
Lightning Odds-195
Time7:30 p.m. ET
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute NHL odds here.

The 2021-22 NHL Season gets underway on Tuesday night with a heavyweight battle between the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the Lightning have lofty expectations ahead of their quest to become the NHL's first three-peat champion in nearly forty years, the Penguins have some legitimate question marks heading into the season. In other words, it's not shocking that Tampa Bay is such a heavy favorite on Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins kick off their campaign with a road trip through Florida with games against the Lightning and Panthers. The Florida Swing figures to be very tough under any circumstances this season, but considering what Pittsburgh is dealing with, just getting a split would be an early victory.

The Penguins will be without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel for both games, though the word is that Crosby and Guentzel may be ready to return after the first handful of contests. Malkin, on the other hand, is out long-term with estimations for a return coming in at anywhere between November and January.

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With the forward group in disarray, it will be vital for the Penguins defense to carry the load. Pittsburgh was quietly a very sound group defensively last year, posting a 2.23 expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) in a very tough East Division.

Skating a projected top line of Danton Heinen, Jeff Carter and Bryan Rust against the high powered Lightning makes you think that the Penguins' mindset will be to keep it very simple and put together a very structured defensive performance short several elite offensive talents.

Tristan Jarry should draw the start after some very mixed results last season, and it's a huge opportunity to possibly steal a big game and put the memories of a very tough playoff series against the Islanders behind him right off the bat.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Although general manager Julien Brisebois saw his entire third line of Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman depart this summer, the Lightning have managed to keep all of their elite core pieces intact for another run. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos are all healthy and ready to go for Jon Cooper.

There is a growing sentiment out there that the Lightning may be disengaged at times through the regular season and "pacing" themselves through the 82-game marathon, the Bolts are entering Opening Night at full healthy and that makes them the team to beat in the East.

Tampa Bay's power play was absolutely lethal during its playoff run, finishing at a 32.3% clip, and with everybody returning it should be a very crucial area of strength, as it may be hard to match the opposition's compete level on a nightly basis during the dog days of the season, especially since the Lightning will more often than not get their opponent's absolute best effort with such a large target on their backs.

Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in goal for the Bolts and he is clearly the league's No. 1 goaltender. After finishing second to Connor Hellebuyck with a +18.2 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in the regular season, the 27-year-old Russian led the playoffs with an astonishing +23.6 GSAx in 23 starts. Vasilevskiy is another key reason that the Bolts may be able to "steal" some games without their best effort.

Penguins-Lightning Pick

As I have alluded to, there could be some lackadaisical efforts from the Bolts this season. Tampa just grinded through two grueling playoff runs and has played a ton of hockey over the past few seasons, so I feel that backing the Lightning as big favorites will be a -EV play over the first portion of the season.

However I don't believe this sets up as one of those spots, and I think that this very proud group will put together a championship-level effort as they raise their banner in front of what should be a very lively home crowd.

With Pittsburgh short Crosby, Malkin, and Guentzel and likely to face an engaged Tampa bunch, I'm not going to overthink this one and am willing to lay the wood on the Lightning here.

And if Tampa Bay starts slowly, I will look to add on with some live plays on the moneyline as I think the Bolts will be able to wear down the Penguins as the game goes on.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning Moneyline -195 (Play to -205)

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