Stanley Cup Game 5 Picks: Our Best Bets for Stars vs. Lightning (Saturday, Sept. 26)

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Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

Some fifty weeks after it started, the 2019/20 NHL Season may finally come to an end on Saturday night. The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from winning their first Stanley Cup since 2004 and their -162 odds suggest they have a 61.8% chance of wrapping this thing on Saturday night.

Do the Stars have a chance? Will another game go over the total? Here are our favorite bets for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final:

Michael Leboff: Dallas Stars +140 or better

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

They say that insanity is doing the same over and over again and expecting a different result, so it’s no wonder I’m beginning to feel a little loopy about betting the Dallas Stars again.

Even though the Lightning have clearly separated themselves in this series, I think the number on Dallas is good enough to have a bet. At +140 you need Dallas to win this game about 42% of the time to start seeing value. I think they meet that criteria, even if it doesn’t look like it after the past week.

Looking at the big picture, the Stars rate out as a strong defensive team that is able to keep their opposition to the outside and away from slot. I’m betting on that team showing up on Saturday, because that team is really good at turning games into rock fights.

The Lightning are the better team and they’re likely to win on Saturday night, but there’s still a path to victory for the Stars. It just is an ugly one.

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

Sam Hitchcock: Over 5 Goals (-141)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

As the Dallas Stars face elimination by the Tampa Bay Lightning, I feel empathy. Okay, maybe it is more like empathy combined with the excitement that comes from opportunity. Because I cannot believe that the O/U total goals didn’t move to 5.5 after the rollicking, goals-laden Game 4. For Game 5 tonight, the over is -141 on DraftKings, which I’m willing to stomach for two reasons.

First, the goaltending in this series has been abjectly mediocre. Entering the Stanley Cup final, Anton Khudobin and Andrei Vasilevskiy were first and second in Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) among goaltenders who played five or more games, with a 9.95 and 8.89 respectively. But both goaltenders have seen their numbers plunge.

Khudobin is underwater at -1.85 GSAx. Vasilevskiy is slightly better with 0.41. Vasilevskiy has the worse Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) of the two. Both are seeing their defensemen sweep the puck away from the crease as they concede juicy rebounds and struggle to absorb shots, and both have seen their share of soft goals.

To be fair, the Stars can’t get the puck out of their own end and the Lightning are yielding odd-man rushes due to their overzealous defensemen challenging plays in the neutral zone without forward support behind them. Underline it: Neither goaltender has consistently papered over their skaters’ pitfalls.

Second, the Brayden Point line running roughshod over its opponent has become an evergreen gambling nugget. Tampa Bay reaching three goals is all but assured with them constantly applying pressure and peppering Khudobin with shots. At 5-on-5 in Game 4, the Point line had five high-danger chances while Tampa Bay’s other three lines combined for six. The Point Line also had 22 shot attempts.

On the Andrew Cogliano penalty that led to a Point power-play goal, an odd-man rush was created when Miro Heiskanen’s shot was blocked by Point. By shooting into traffic, Heiskanen gave the Point line the springboard for an attack. The Stars’ scoring success has come when they have avoided ramming into the Bolts’ defensive shell head-on: when they get the puck below the goal line (example, the second Joe Pavelski goal) or when they catch the Tampa Bay forwards providing insufficient support of their emboldened defensemen (examples, the first Pavelski and Corey Perry goals).

The Stars have material to work with if they expose the Lightning’s defensive deficiencies. Goodness knows, the Lightning have plucked at and tormented the Stars’ vulnerabilities. Either way, scoring chances should be flowing freely in Game 5, and we know the goaltending isn’t an impediment. Take the money!

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

Pete Truszkowski: Tampa Bay To Win In Regulation (+100)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]

The Stanley Cup will be in the building on Saturday night, and I fully expect to see the Tampa Bay Lightning skate around with the trophy by the end of the night.

Game 4 felt like Dallas’ last stand. The Stars skated out to an early 2-0 lead, scoring twice on their first three shots of the game. They tied the game in the third period to send the game to overtime. They had an early power play in the extra session to try and tie the series. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t score and Tampa Bay scored on a power play of their own a few minutes later.

The underlying metrics were more of the same in Game 4. Tampa Bay had 55.7% of shot attempts, 60.5% of the expected goals and 62% of the high danger chances, after adjustments for score effects. The Lightning have clearly been the better team and have earned their 3-1 series lead.

Game 4 was an off-night for Tampa Bay’s first line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat. I say that semi-sarcastically as they still managed a 59% expected goal rate in the game. It isn’t the 93% we saw in Games 2 and 3, but it’ll do. Point scored two goals in the Lightning’s 5-4 win.

The real issue for Dallas is the play of their goaltender Anton Khudobin. Khudobin has been beaten 13 times in his last three starts on just 95 shots, and that’s with him getting the third period off in Game 3.

If Dallas was going to make this a series, Khudobin would have had to steal games and stand on his head. An .863 save percentage over the last three games is the opposite of that.

The back-to-back games do not help Khudobin. Goalies are always statistically worse in the second half of a back-to-back. The real concern has to be fatigue for the career back-up goaltender. He’s not used to shouldering a starter’s workload and this is a bad time for it to come undone at the seams.

The Lightning are -167 to win at DraftKings, and that’s a price I will almost never lay in hockey. With Game 4 going to overtime, I’m willing to bet we don’t have back-to-back games that require extra hockey. I think Tampa Bay gets it done in Game 5, and at even money, I’m willing to bet it happens in regulation.

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