We’ve only got one game on the board for the NHL Playoffs on Tuesday night, but it is a good one and probably the best second round series of them all. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes meet in Game 2 down in Raleigh, with Carolina lined as the small favorite in the -115 range with the dime lines at BetOnline Sportsbook.
The total on the game is 5.5 after we saw a tight 2-1 decision in Game 1 on Sunday night. Carolina needs a win to even up the series and Tampa Bay would love to take a 2-0 series lead back to Gulf Coast for Thursday’s Game 3. There is a lot on the line in this one and it should be a great showcase for hockey as the only game in town to kick off the month of June.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Game 1 was about as even as it could get. Tampa Bay had a 19-16 edge in scoring chances at 5-v-5. The Bolts had one more high-danger scoring chance. Tampa Bay also had the only 5-v-5 goal. It was Barclay Goodrow’s first goal of the playoffs and it wound up being a short-side game winner, one that Carolina goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic will be haunted by in his dreams.
Tampa Bay’s playoff-leading ninth power play goal came from Brayden Point with assists from Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman. Those names have been called a lot. Kucherov missed the entire regular season recovering from an injury, but also as something of a salary cap casualty for the Lightning. The rested and ready Kucherov has 12 points with three goals and nine assists through seven games.
Steven Stamkos was another addition for the Bolts for the postseason. He was held without a point for just the second time this postseason, but still has higher than a point per game pace. It is scary to think that a top team like Tampa Bay could just add two guys in Kucherov and Stamkos with game-changing potential, but that’s exactly what they’ve done.
It doesn’t hurt to have Andrei Vasilevskiy as the last line of defense either. Vasilevskiy stopped 37 of 38 shots in the game and made some key saves down the stretch to protect the 2-1 lead. He is now 5-2 in the playoffs with a 2.41 GAA and a spectacular .936 SV%. The series against the Panthers was pretty wide open, hence the higher GAA, but SV% is the stat to look at and he’s been terrific in that department.
The Hurricanes played a series that felt too close for comfort with the Nashville Predators and maybe it took a little bit too much out of them as far as Game 1 of this series. Carolina had a lot of shots and shot attempts, but settled for a lot of shot attempts from above the circles. Tampa Bay got to the middle of the ice more effectively and wound up getting the win in Game 1. We’ll see how the Hurricanes adjust for Game 2.
Carolina had 38 shots, but not everybody got chances. Vincent Trocheck had seven, followed by Martin Necas with six and Andrei Svechnikov with five. Noticeably absent are guys like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. The Lightning did a really good job shutting down Carolina’s top scoring threats, especially on the Hurricanes’ five power play chances.
The Carolina power play has five goals in 24 chances, but has too much firepower to be lacking in that department here in the postseason. The series against the Predators featured a lot of special teams play and if one of the two power plays had performed better, the series might have had a different or quicker outcome. For Carolina, the penalty kill has been really good, but also, Nashville’s power play is not on Tampa Bay’s level.
Alex Nedeljkovic has played really well in his first foray into the postseason, but the goal he allowed to Goodrow was one of the weakest that he’s given up. How he bounces back will be a big determining factor for the Hurricanes in this series. So far he’s bounced back well when faced with some adversity and some mental frustration. Overall, he has a 2.19 GAA and a .923 SV%.
Lightning vs. Hurricanes Free Pick
What Tampa Bay was able to do by adding Stamkos and Kucherov to the mix just feels unfair. This was already a very good team without those two and now they’ve become a matchup nightmare. Carolina is a really strong and solid team as well, but Vasilevskiy seems to have the upper hand over Nedeljkovic and the Lightning just have a deeper lineup now with their star power back.
Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning