Stanley Cup Game 3 Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets for Stars vs. Lightning (Wednesday, Sept. 23)

Credit:

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy

The Stanley Cup Final is now a best-of-5.

After dropping Game 1 in a lackluster effort, the Tampa Bay Lightning wasted very little time in announcing their presence in Game 2, potting three goals in the first period en route to a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars to even the series.

The Lightning are now -195 favorites to win the Stanley Cup and are -157 to win Game 3. Here are our favorite bets for Game 3 on Wednesday night:

Michael Leboff: Dallas Stars (+145)

  • Odds available at FanDuel [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

One thing that could theoretically help the Lightning break down the Stars is the return of Steven Stamkos, who has been out for Tampa’s entire postseason run. Stamkos is a terrific goal-scorer. Not only is he lethal on the power play, but his presence as a trigger-man on the Bolts’ man-advantage opens the rest of the ice up for Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Brayden Point to work their blood-and-thunder show.

If Stamkos was at 100%, he’d make a pretty big difference. But he hasn’t played meaningful hockey in months, so it’s pretty hard to believe he’d be operating at his ceiling if he steps onto the ice. If Stamkos was fully healthy and conditioned, I’d say a 2-3% bump for Tampa would be appropriate. But since I don’t believe he’ll be near that level, I’m not planning on upgrading the Bolts at all if he plays.

In fact, I think Dallas could have a bit more value if Tampa’s captain plays on Wednesday.

[Check out our updated NHL odds page to shop for the best number.]

Obviously this article is being published before Stamkos is ruled in or out. That decision likely won’t come until close to puck drop, so it’s best to plan ahead so you can be ready.

Judging by where the market settled for the first two games, it will almost certainly be Dallas or nothing for me in Game 3.

I think the Stars are in range for a bet at +140 or better whether Stamkos plays or not. Those odds imply that Dallas has a 41.7% chance of winning Game 3, and I think that’s a little low — especially since the Stars are specialists at getting deep into games and turning them into coin-flips.

Dallas’ defense allows it to hang around against better teams, and that means that a good bounce here or a big save there goes a long way in determining the outcome of the game. I’d much rather be on the underdog if that is how things shake out.

That said, I’m going to wait and try to get a clearer picture of Stamkos’ status for Wednesday night. If he plays, I imagine the market will overreact and we could get the Stars at a great price.

If Stamkos doesn’t play, I’ll do my best to find a +140. And if that number doesn’t pop and you’re just looking for action on the game and need some guidance, I’d still lean towards Big D at the listed odds.

[Bet the Stars at FanDuel and get a $1,000 risk-free bet.]

Sam Hitchcock: Stars Team Total Under 2 (+123)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

The Dallas Stars should be worried. With two games recorded, the Lightning are doubling their foe in shots at 5-on-5 and the Stars are being thumped in the expected goals battle. Okay, that sounds like the Western Conference Finals, and the Stars still advanced.

But in Game 2, most of the Stars’ best chances came when they caught the Bolts overextended on a pinch, producing an odd-man rush. Dallas’s chances were driven by transitions and counterattacks; the Dallas forecheck was conspicuously absent.

For the Stars to defeat the Lightning, they need to contain — stop is too big an ask — the Brayden Point line. On Monday, they badly failed. The Point line had 17 shot attempts while allowing three. It pelted nine shots on Dallas goaltender Anton Khudobin while conceding one. It had a dizzying 98.41% expected goals. I haven’t checked the numbers, but Ondrej Palat appeared to have one hundred chances in the contest.

The success of the Point line underscores the flagging performance by prodigious Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who submitted a 37.82% expected goals rate on Monday. Despite Dallas not having the last change, coach Rick Bowness matched Heiskanen against the Point trio. Unfortunately, Heiskanen got roasted.

The manner in which the Point line excelled defied expectations since it was with the forecheck, not the rush, that the line made its dent. The Lightning skaters at large were quicker to the boards and applied pressure unsparingly on the Stars’ puck-carriers.

Dallas’s top-four defensive group — which has been critical to the team’s journey to the Stanley Cup — wilted against the Bolts’ first line and its quick puck pursuit. Tampa Bay took advantage of the Stars’ difficulties exiting the zone to successfully funnel the puck toward the front of the net and strike at Khudobin from inside the circles.

After an at times sluggish Game 1, last night felt like the Lightning had shaken off a cold. In the final period, Bolts defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk failed to take away the stick of Mattias Janmark, an error exploited by Dallas defenseman John Klingberg. But that was a blip. For most of the third period the Lightning were ahead by only one goal but allowed only one high-danger chance. Kudos!

The Lightning had the puck more and tallied more shots and chances at even strength. And goaltender Andrei Vasilveskiy stopped every shot he had a chance on. Going forward, there is reason to expect a Lightning team that communicates better so that they continue to dominate the neutral zone but don’t leak odd-man looks.

If they can avoid granting a slew of power plays to the Stars, the Lightning should spend a lot of time cycling in their offensive zone in Game 3. Bottom line: If the Stars can only create off the rush and on power plays, I am happy to fade their scoring outlook.

[Bet Dallas Under 2 Goals at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Pete Truszkowski: Nikita Kucherov to Score (+200)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

Nikita Kucherov is arguably the most dangerous forward on the Tampa Bay Lightning. His line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat has been the best line of any team in these playoffs.

Of players that have played at least 200 minutes in this postseason at 5-on-5, Kucherov ranks second in Corsi-for percentage (63.6%), third in expected goals (68.2%), and second in high danger chances (67.2%). Palat is one of the players who edged him out in the latter two categories.

The Lightning have been the better team in this series. Score adjusted numbers have the Lightning with more than 59% of the shot attempts and 55% of the expected goals. In addition to consistently playing in the offensive zone when on the ice, Kucherov is on the Lightning’s top powerplay unit. He has zero powerplay goals in these playoffs, due for some regression.

Kucherov is scoring on just 7.7% of shots he takes in these playoffs. This is about half of his career average of 14.9%. Despite the lack of luck, Kucherov is still averaging near four shots on goal per game and has at least five shots in three of his last four games. Despite the barrage of shots, he hasn’t scored a goal since Game 2 of the Conference Finals. If Kucherov keeps shooting, he is due for positive regression.

The numbers say Kucherov is under-performing. He is one of the most feared goal scorers in the league, and at 2-1 odds, I like him to break out of his mini-slump.

[Bet this prop at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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