NHL weekend best bets: Lightning to strike vs. Panthers

Although Friday will be pretty quiet in the NHL, we still have 16 games to look forward to over the next couple of nights.

Let’s take a look at a couple teams that stand out.

Lightning (-110) @ Panthers (-110)
Oct 21, 7:30 p.m. EST

The Lightning are off to a disappointing 1-3-0 start, but I don’t think that’s cause for concern. They rank fifth in five-on-five shot share – sandwiched between the Flames and Avalanche – and sit eighth when it comes to high-danger chance share.

Tampa Bay’s generating a lot of opportunities but just hasn’t been able to finish. Believe it or not, the Lightning, who ranked third in five-on-five shooting percentage a season ago, sit dead last in conversion rate through four games.

While they did lose some talent up front – most notably Ondrej Palat – and Anthony Cirelli’s out with an injury, there’s still reason to expect positive regression sooner than later.

The Lightning still have Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Brayden Point, among others, meaning there’s plenty of firepower remaining to create – and finish – high-danger looks.

I expect the Bolts to produce more than their fair share Friday night against the Panthers.

Florida ranks 25th in high-danger chances against per 60 minutes at five-on-five. The team’s also spent more time shorthanded than any other in the league (and was also undisciplined last season), which is problematic when going up against Tampa Bay’s lethal power play.

Not to mention, the Panthers are severely lacking on the back end, with MacKenzie Weegar a Calgary Flame and Aaron Ekblad out for a while with an injury. They simply don’t have the horses to slow down Tampa’s stars.

With a better five-on-five profile, an enticing power-play matchup, and an edge between the pipes, the Lighting are worth backing.

Bet: Lightning (-110)

Stars (TBD) @ Canadiens (TBD)
Oct 22, 7:00 p.m. EST

The Canadiens have won three of their first five games behind their star forward duo Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, including victories against the Maple Leafs and Penguins.

While the Canadiens deserve credit for getting timely goals and knocking off a couple perennial playoff teams, things don’t look so good under the hood.

The Habs have controlled just 44.89% of the expected goal share at five-on-five, putting them just ahead of a tanking Blackhawks team.

Montreal grades out even worse if isolating high-danger opportunities. Their share sits at a putrid 36%, placing them above only the Coyotes and Ducks.

The Stars look much better across the board. They have played their opponents evenly in terms of high-danger chances while getting the better of the expected goal share.

Dallas’ top line has remained dangerous, while newcomers like Mason Marchment (six points through four games) and Nils Lundkvist (yet to be on for a goal against in 54 minutes of five-on-five play) have stepped in and made an immediate impact.

Jake Oettinger has also picked up where he left off following a dynamite playoff series in April, leading the NHL in Goals Saved Above Expected in the early going.

There’s a lot to like about this Stars team. I expect them to rebound from an overtime loss and best a Canadiens side that has played a little above its head.

Bet: Stars -145 (lookahead line)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

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