The Tampa Bay Lightning got a late third period goal from Cedric Pacquette in Game 3 on Monday night which gave them a 2-1 series lead and gave us a winner at a fantastic price of +140. The Lightning and Blackhawks have played three consecutive one-goal games to open up the series which makes me believe it is anybody’s game. If it is anybody’s game than I am unsure why one team is so heavily favored, especially given the fact that the road team has now won two of the first three games in the series. Although Tampa Bay went has already played two Game 7’s in this postseason it seems like Chicago is the more worn down team, especially on the back end where Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook have been logging an insane amount of minutes on the Blackhawks blueline. Tampa’s deep forward group is forcing them to play defense which in turn gives them less time and energy to play offense, something the superstar duo has contributed a great deal of in these playoffs up until this point. We will take the winner at a huge price and I am going to go in an extremely similar, if not the same direction for tonight’s Game 4 pick.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Chicago Blackhawks
My Pick – LIGHTNING (+145)
It looks like the oddsmakers are wanting to give us even better odds with the Lightning tonight so let’s go ahead and take what we are given. By no means did Tampa Bay dominate the Blackhawks in Game 3 but they certainly were with them every step of the way and were the more physical team against the Blackhawks, putting even more wear and tear on the Blackhawks blueline with 46 hits compared to just 27 for Chicago. Making matters worse for the Blackhawks is the fact Johnny Oduya was injured in the second period of Monday night’s loss and only played five minutes in the third, dishing out a huge blow to a blueline that cannot afford to be losing any more bodies. Oduya has been part of the ‘big four’ Chicago defensemen that have played about 80% of the team’s minutes in the latter three rounds of the postseason. Any time missed from any of these four guys and that is going to make matters much worse for this team. On the contrary, Tampa Bay’s defense looks in fine form as Victor Hedman is putting his name in the conversation for the Conn Smythe Trophy and making his mark as one of the premier shutdown defensemen in the NHL. His partner Anton Stralman is also having a great playoffs and the two have a combined +15 rating and 22 points in the postseason. Despite matchup limitations against Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Lightning defense group has held the two superstars to just one point combined in the series’ first three games and there is absolutely no way Chicago climbs back in to this series without breakout performances from at least one of these two guys. I will say Chicago does have plenty of experience in situations in which they have been down 2-1 in a series, but it appears Tampa Bay is the younger, quicker, more energetic and healthier team at this point in the playoffs. While another one goal game can certainly be expected, I am going to go with the Tampa Bay Lightning once again tonight at a great price to put a stranglehold on this series and win tonight’s Game 4 and send the series back to Tampa Bay with a chance to win it all on Saturday night at Amalie Arena.