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Lightning vs. Avalanche Game 1: Top Stanley Cup Finals Betting Odds & Pick (6/15)

by June 15, 2022
Alex Killorn

It feels like we’ve been here before, doesn’t it?

Two years ago, the NHL world discounted the Tampa Bay Lightning at the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after the Columbus Blue Jackets swept them out of the first round the year prior. And what happened? Tampa Bay marched right through the bubble and captured the second Cup in franchise history.

Then last year the offseason was too short. It was too quick of a turnaround; too many games in a short amount of time. The Lightning simply couldn’t muster the energy to put together another Stanley Cup run. But they did, and they lifted the Cup for the second-straight season.

And this year, there was simply no shot for Tampa Bay to make it three straight, was there? They lost their entire third line in the offseason. They played the highest number of games in a two-year span in NHL history. They wouldn’t have home ice advantage in a single playoff series after finishing third in the Atlantic. But here we are yet again; 11 consecutive series victories after the aforementioned sweep at the hands of Columbus. The Lightning are back again, poised and ready to take home their third consecutive Stanley Cup.

But standing in their way is perhaps their toughest foe of any playoff round throughout this dynasty: the Western Conference champion Colorado Avalanche. Loaded from top to bottom, front to back with superstars the likes of which are hard to compile in a video game.

This’ll be a series for the ages, and here’s my best bet to get it started off.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

Bet $10, Win $200 if Either Team Score a Goal >>

Lightning vs. Avalanche Game 1: Top Stanley Cup Finals Betting Odds & Pick

We all saw this coming, right? I couldn’t wax poetic about the Bolts in my open if I wasn’t going back up my praise with a wager, of course. For those who’ve followed my best bets over the last two years, you’ve placed quite a few bets on the Lightning. Here’s one more before we wrap this year up.

This wager isn’t just about how the Lightning have “been here before”. It’s about what the Lightning are doing right now. And what they’re doing right now is absolutely stonewalling teams in the neutral zone. And if you want to beat the Avalanche, you’re not going to do it by trying to outscore them. You’re going to do it but frustrating the heck out of them and not allowing them to beat you in transition. Tampa thrives at that, and I think it’s going to throw Colorado completely off their game in the opening contest.

The Lightning made a subtle switch in Game 7 of the opening round against Toronto. When Brayden Point left with a leg injury, they formed a makeshift second line of Brandon Hagel, Anthony Cirelli, and Alex Killorn. Since that switch, Tampa has held their opponents – Toronto, Florida, and the Rangers, keep in mind – to one or zero goals in eight of 11 games. That line has been on the ice for 251 minutes five-on-five and has only allowed six total goals. They’ve got the best goalie in the world behind them, sure, but this line has turned into a shutdown trio that’s poised to give the MacKinnon line fits. At least out of the gate.

Also, let’s not forget what the Lightning looked like in Game 1 of their last series against the Rangers, because the Avalanche are about to face a similar hurdle. After nine days off, Tampa looked like they were skating in quicksand; Andrei Vasilevskiy wasn’t himself either. No matter how experienced, how good of a team the Lightning were and currently are – there was noticeable rust to shake off, and there was a visible ramp-up period as they got back into game speed. And the Rangers buried them 6-2.

Colorado hasn’t played since they swept Edmonton a week ago. I expect similar struggles, even in front of their home crowd at Ball Arena. The total in this game is set at 6, which seems a bit low for two teams who know how to put the puck in the net. But I think the total is trying to send us a message. The market doesn’t expect a shootout, which means the more defensive-minded Lightning have the Game 1 edge. Play the Bolts down to +135.

Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning ML (+135; DraftKings)

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