Teams that met in the first round of the playoffs last year meet in NHL betting action on Saturday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning pay a visit to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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The Lightning are seemingly inching closer and closer towards getting into the playoffs, and they are doing so almost exclusively on the back of Steven Stamkos. The Stammer already has 43 goals and 73 total points this season, and he is going to surely break all sorts of franchise records by the time this season is over with. This is the best year that Stamkos has had in his young career, and it is a shame that the Bolts just don’t have the defense to make his great play stand up. Stamkos had a hand in all three goals against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, but all three goals came after the Lightning had fallen behind 4-0 thanks to some shoddy defense and goaltending. That being said, that is what is really going to have to work itself out this year if Tampa Bay is going to get back into the playoffs, though the team is clearly still within striking distance with just five points to make up to get back into the race.
There were some weeks in there that we wondered whether the Penguins were going to be in playoff trouble, but now we know that they should be just fine after more or less righting the ship after a bad stretch in January. A 2-0 win over the New York Rangers earlier this week was crucial to at least keep the team in the running in the Atlantic Division, and it upped Pittsburgh’s solid marks here at Consol Energy Arena to 18-8-2 on the campaign. For as fantastic as Stamkos has been this year for Tampa Bay, Evgeni Malkin has done all of that and seemingly more for the Penguins. Malkin has 33 goals and 40 assists, and he has done so in seven fewer games than Stamkos. Many think that he is going to be the Hart Trophy winner this year, especially when you consider the fact that Sidney Crosby has only basically made cameo appearances on the ice this year. Keep an eye on James Neal as well. He was just the recipient of a new contract from the Penguins, and deservedly so. He already has 30 goals on the campaign and could be a real threat to go off in this one against the shoddy Tampa Bay defense.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ Pittsburgh Penguins Pick: Though we know that the Lightning are playing great hockey right now, they just don’t have that great of a team once you take Stamkos out of the equation. Pittsburgh can win games regularly when Malkin isn’t at his best, and that is probably going to be the difference in this one on Saturday.
Free Hockey Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.