Our NHL expert has picked out his four best bets for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night.
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Tampa Bay Lightning to win
After a convincing 5-1 win in Game 1, the Tampa Bay Lightning made a real statement to their final opponents – this is going to be a whole different series compared to what they just experienced. Montreal should make necessary adjustments and tighten up defensively, but with how well Tampa Bay is playing right now, they might be too much to slow down.
One big thing that stood out about Game 1 is the Lightning’s ability to get inside Montreal’s defensive structure. The Lightning burn for scoring and that means they’re going to go to all the tough areas. They also have the speed to beat the Canadiens more effectively in transition and get scoring chances before the Habs are even able to get set in the defensive zone.
The Lightning also completely exploited the line of Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Tyler Toffoli. That trio was on the ice for three goals against. Without the ability to make the last line change, as that is a privilege reserved for the home team, Tampa could continue to expose the deficiencies of that unit while keeping their offense tamped down with intense pressure.
Though I expect Carey Price to bounce back, I think the Lightning are going to continue to exploit the matchups, continue to score and have a great shot at a multi-goal win.
Tampa Bay Lightning to score over 3 goals
I don’t think I expected the Lightning to run away with Game 1 as much as they did, and certainly didn’t expect the Canadiens to lay an egg defensively. While I don’t think they’ll be as bad in this one, for all of the reasons mentioned above, I think this Lightning team is going to be too hard to slow down. I like the value on them scoring over three goals once again.
This series is probably going to be a bit different when the Canadiens get back on home ice and are able to control the matchups a bit better, but Tampa has been such a beast at home and I think they’ll continue to pour it on.
Nikita Kucherov to score 2+ points
When Nikita Kucherov swore he wasn’t injured, maybe we should have believed him.
He had three points in Game 1 including a pair of goals and looked like his old MVP self. In the process he became just the third player in NHL history to reach the 30-point mark in consecutive postseasons. The other two? Only the greatest forwards in the history of the game – Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
Kucherov has had consecutive multi-point games only once in this postseason, so banking on him having another stand out performance isn’t necessarily the safest bet, but the key factors that we saw in Game 1 were how healthy he looked, how much ice time he got and the chances his line as a whole had throughout the game. If they continue to get matched up against the Suzuki line, there’s going to be more trouble for Montreal.
Brayden Point to score anytime
I’m going back to this well for the third straight time and hoping that third time’s the charm because when I suddenly started betting Brayden Point, his goal-scoring streak ended. He’s now without a goal in each of his last two games, matching his longest goalless drought of the playoffs.
I say it ends tonight, so I’m going back to him. Point had three assists in Game 1 and three shots on goal while playing over 19 minutes. He was dominant in the game and did everything but score a goal. With his scoring touch this postseason and particularly his ability to get inside Montreal’s structure, I think he breaks through tonight and puts one behind Carey Price.
BETWAY BOOST: Nikita Kucherov to score 2+ points
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