There has been plenty of overreaction in the media asking ‘what is wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning’. The answer? Probably nothing. They’re 2-2 on the year with two losses on the road by one goal against tough opponents (Carolina and Florida). Even so, their ‘struggles’ gets us a bit of value here. We’ll talk about that in a moment.
The Lightning are back near the top of the team offense hit parade with 18 goals in 4 games for a tidy 4.5 goals per. The defense hasn’t been great but that’s not exactly a rarity in the early going. The power play has been solid but the penalty kill has struggled–once again, not uncommon in the early part of the campaign and nothing to get overly worked up about.
Tampa got a boost with the return of Braden Point to the lineup last time out and he was a big contributor with 2 goals and an assist. Nikita Kucherov had two goals and 2 assists in the 7-3 win over Toronto. Gee, that pretty much sounds like business as usual in the ‘Cigar City’. Tampa Bay is playing 6 of their first 7 games on the road with games ahead today in Ottawa, Tuesday at Montreal and Thursday at Boston. They’ll return home after that for three tough games against Colorado, Pittsburgh and Nashville.
Tampa Bay will be just fine this year but it is almost inevitable that they’ll regress somewhat from the insane 128 point regular season they had last year. In fact, that might be their plan–to manage the regular season more proactively in order to be in better shape mentally and physically for the playoffs. It would be boneheaded to fire a coach that been as good as Jon Cooper but stranger things have happened in sports. At any rate, no one wants another postseason flameout like last year’s first round sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Not much to say about Ottawa who are on pace to be the worst team in the NHL again this year. The Senators are one of only four winless teams remaining in the NHL and they’re a bottom ten team both offensively and defensively. Their defense has been particularly bad allowing 5 goals per game. The line on this game says it all–you don’t see a lot of -270 road favorites in the NHL. The Senators are so bad that even getting +1.5 goals at a near even money price on the puck line isn’t interesting. Tampa Bay took 3 of 4 from Ottawa last year and have won 5 of the last 8 meetings with the Senators.
No interest in backing the Senators but just can’t lay a big price (or a -1.5 puckline) on the road with Tampa at this juncture. Instead, we’ll play the total. Tampa has an excellent offense, Ottawa has a horrible defense and this series has trended strongly ‘Over’ in recent years. 7 of the last 8 head to head have exceeded the total including 4 straight in Ottawa. The only ‘Under’ in that stretch was a 5-1 win by the Bolts in Tampa last year that stayed below the 6.5 total by 1/2 goal. Were this later in the year, it would possibly be a 7 total and definitely have a much higher price on the ‘Over’.