NHL picks: 4 best bets for Lightning v Canadiens Game 4
Our NHL expert has picked out his four best bets for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night.
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Tampa Bay Lightning to win
It feels like if the Canadiens were going to win any game, it was Game 3. Instead, they played their worst game of the series and dug a deep hole they will not be able to get out of.
While I’d expect some fight from the Habs to prevent the Stanley Cup being claimed on their ice, I’m not sure they have the juice to get past a team that has proven to be far superior to any they’ve faced in the playoffs thus far.
One of the primary differences has been in net. Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .948 save percentage through the first three games, while Carey Price, who was rock solid in the playoffs to this point, has languished with an .835 mark despite facing fewer shots overall. Turning it around at this point seems near impossible if Price doesn’t have his best.
Meanwhile, Tampa is getting scoring from all over its lineup. From the first line down to the fourth, they’re getting contributions from everywhere. The same cannot be said for the Habs, who have desperately needed to be carried by 21-year-old Nick Suzuki, and that’s been too tall an order to put on the young center. Despite having home ice in this game, as we saw in Game 3, there isn’t a favorable matchup for the Habs to put out there.
Though the mayor of Tampa says she’d love to see the Lightning come back and win the Cup on home ice, you won’t find the Lightning feeling the same way. They know you can’t take anything for granted and won’t be taking their foot off the gas pedal. They want to end it now. If they score early, the floodgates could open for another dominant showing.
Under 5.5 total goals
This game is setting up like a bit of a death march for Montreal. A win seems like it would only delay the inevitable. Tampa will be looking to pounce early. You never quite know how a team will play when they’re that close to lifting the Cup. It can almost be a distraction, but the Lightning are saying all of the right things and have experience on their side.
For all the reasons listed above, with Price not playing his best in this series, the Canadiens not being able to adequately match lines and the Lightning’s top players scoring in bunches, I was tempted by the over.
The risk in playing the over, however, is that in each of Tampa's five potential series-clinching games so far this postseason, none hit the over. In three of those, Andrei Vasilevskiy registered a shutout – Game 5 against the Hurricanes, Game 6 against the Panthers and Game 7 against the Islanders. Could Game 4 against the Habs be next?
I fully expect Tampa to come out on top, but I don’t think it will be a walk.
Brayden Point to score 2+ points
With goals in two previous series-clinching games and having scored the Cup-clinching goal last season, Point has a bit of a flair for the dramatic.
He has not yet scored in the Stanley Cup Final, which is why I’m going to go with points instead of goals. He has three assists and with him playing alongside Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, I fully expect Point to find the score sheet. Plus, this could be the last game of the season.
Nikita Kucherov to score 1+ points
If Point has a multi-point game, the likelihood Kucherov has one too is a lot higher as they play on the same line. There’s better value on Point, so you may decide to play one over the other, but I like both to do some damage in this game.
Kucherov has 32 points in the playoffs, and leads the series with five points through three games. He has been a dominant force, with two or more points in two of the three games in this series. He also had a series-high six shots on goal in the last game.
With the chance to win the Cup, I’d expect him to really be going for it in this one.
BETWAY BOOST: Brayden Point to score 2+ points & Nikita Kucherov to score 1+ points
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