Lightning at Bruins Picks
By Adam Markowitz
The Tampa Bay Lightning have not got off to a good start on this recent road swing. The best team in the East dropped their first two games and has to face Buffalo on Tuesday night before traveling to face the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night in a nationally televised affair. Boston has been at home for the holidays and will have had two days of rest before this one, making the task for Tampa Bay that much harder.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Boston Bruins
Date and Time:Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
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Lightning at Bruins TV Coverage: NBCSN
Despite a two-game losing streak, the Lightning are the best team in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay is 16-5-2 this season and had won six of its last seven before dropping consecutive road games to Washington and Pittsburgh. Because of their dominance, Tampa Bay has been favored in almost every game this season, but might be an underdog here given the situation. The last two times the Lightning were underdogs, they won outright.
Boston got off to a slow start this season, but has recently rallied. The Bruins are 10-8-4, but have won four of their last five games. Surprisingly enough, Boston won each of the four games in which it was an underdog, but lost the one game in which it was a favorite. The boys from Beantown are 9-13 ATS this season.
Tampa Bay’s offense sputtered a little bit against Washington and Pittsburgh, but there’s no doubt that this is still one of the best teams in the NHL. The Lightning are averaging 3.7 goals per game and Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are trying to one-up each other for both the Art Ross and the Hart Trophy at this point in the season.
Kucherov is the goal scorer of the two and has tallied 17 goals on the season. The most impressive part of his scoring is the fact that almost all of it is done at even strength. All but three of his goals were at even strength, giving this team a huge edge on their opponents.
Stamkos is more of a distributor, but he has become the assassin on the power play. All but three of his goals were on the power play this season, and 16 of his 36 points came on the man advantage.
The success of Kucherov and Stamkos has overshadowed the emergence of a great second line, led by Vladislav Namestnikov. Namestnikov is on pace to shatter his career-best for points in a season by double and has 22 points in 23 games this season. He has been a power play ace too with nine points on the man advantage.
It looks like Boston will continue to use Anton Khudobin as its primary goaltender for the time being. Khubodin started all four games in the Bruins’ recent win streak, and Tuukka Rask started in the loss against Edmonton on Sunday.
There’s been a stark difference in performance between the two this season. Khubodin has led his team to at least a point in all nine of his starts, while Rask has been in net for all eight of the Bruins regulation losses.
Khubodin will almost certainly be in net in this one, as his GAA is 0.7 goals better than Rask and his save percentage is 33 points higher at this point.
Lightning at Bruins Free Picks
Tampa Bay has a lights out goalie of its own in Andrei Vasilevskiy, however, he probably won’t get the start in this one. The last three times the Lightning played road games in back-to-back nights, Peter Budaj was in net for the second game. Budaj is a significant downgrade from Vasilevskiy and there is no question that the Bruins will be favorites if he is the starter. He has a 3.75 GAA and a .867 save percentage this season and just one win to his name.
I expect Budaj to get the start as the trend should continue on this road swing, but if Vasilevskiy is in net, hold off on playing Boston.
Lightning at Bruins Pick: Take Boston on the moneyline
Lightning at Bruins Score Prediction: Bruins5 – Lightning 3