The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to even the Stanley Cup finals at one game apiece after a hard-fought 4-3 victory on Saturday evening at Amalie Arena. However, due to losing the first game of the series on Wednesday they are no longer in possession of home ice advantage but it is something they can grab right back from the Chicago Blackhawks with a road victory in tonight’s Game 3 at the United Center. It’s been an interesting series so far given the fact that the top three players in the series in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos have combined to rack up exactly one point in the series’ first two games. A third period assist from Toews on Saturday was that one point and it’s probably fair to say that Chicago especially is going to need more from those two players if they wish to raise the cup for the third time with this core group. As the series switches gears to Chicago these games become less about the stats of the regular season and the playoffs and more about the task at hand. Let’s take a look at Game 3 and see if we can grab ourselves a winner to start this week off.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Chicago Blackhawks
My Pick – LIGHTNING (+140)
Heading in to Game 3 the biggest storyline seems to be who is going to be in goal for the Lightning as Ben Bishop was pulled from Game 2 and his replacement stopped all five shots he faced on route to victory. Bishop was in the goal usually occupied by the starting goalie at the morning skate and he was also the first one off of the ice but Head Coach Jon Cooper gave no indication to the media who was going to be in goal come puck drop. Regardless, with both games so far being decided by one goal and more games likely to yield a similar result, I am going to go with the team paying a whopping +140 tonight. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman are Tampa’s top defense pairing and they will likely only see one of Toews or Kane on a shift-by-shift basis as Joel Quenneville will likely split the two superstars up to avoid the matchup but on home ice it is anybody’s guess. That being said it something to mention that they have been able to shut down the pair after they were so brilliant against the Ducks last round and they actually held Kane to zero shots on goal in Game 2, only the second time that has happened to Kane in 112 career postseason games. Another reason I like the Lightning tonight is what I have said all year long and that is the fact they have two number one lines on their roster. While Stamkos was held scoreless in Saturday night’s victory, the ‘triplets’ line connected for two of the team’s four goals and Tampa also got secondary scoring from their bottom six and a defenseman, something they haven’t had much of at all to this point in the postseason. If Tampa can continue to get production from unknown sources that makes them so much more dangerous on top of having the best top six group in the NHL. I have liked Tampa Bay all year long and there is no reason to stop tonight, especially at +140. Take the Lightning to win this Game 3 on the road and steal home ice right back from Chicago in the process.