A Stanley Cup rematch hits the ice on Thursday as the Dallas Stars (21-16-2), and Tampa Bay Lightning (33-14-2) meet up in Tampa. The Stars are coming off of a loss on Tuesday, just their second in two weeks, while the Lightning have won their last three heading into the game.
Just like the Cup final, Tampa has owned this series thus far, winning four of the first five matchups. It’s part of the reason they’re a -172 to win this home at home, while Dallas is a +144 underdog.
By the Numbers
Offensively, the Lightning enter the game with a slight edge. Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the NHL with 3.39 goals per game on 30.3 shots, while Dallas is 15th with 2.82 goals per game on 30.2 shots. Their power plays are neck-and-neck, however, as the Bolts maintain a slight 24.7 to 24 percent advantage with the extra attacker.
On the defensive side, the Stars grade out as the superior defensive crew. Dallas is sixth in league with 2.51 goals allowed on the second-fewest shots at 26.9, while Tampa Bay is eighth with 2.61 goals on just under 29 shots. However, the Lightning have a solid advantage on the penalty kill, coming in at 82.5 percent compared to their opponent’s 78.8 mark.
Players to Watch
Dallas has gotten a massive season from veteran center Joe Pavelski. The longtime Shark has three goals in his last five games, giving him a team-leading 21 goals and 44 points on the season.
Not far behind is Calder Trophy candidate Jason Robertson. The rookie left wing has a nine-game point streak in play in which he has four goals and nine helpers, bringing him to 40 points in total.
The Stars are also getting nice contributions as of last from left-wing Jamie Benn as well as right-wing Denis Gurianov. Benn had a four-point performance on Monday to cross him over the 30-point threshold, while Gurianov has five goals in his last eight games, nearly doubling his season output to 11.
As for the Lightning, three players are all clustered together near the top of their points list. The leader is center Brayden Point, who, after putting up consecutive three-point games, leads the team with both 21 goals and 45 points.
The two others who are just a point behind Point are defenseman Victor Hedman and left-wing Ondrej Palat. The latter has been on a tear, currently on a six-game, nine-point streak, while Hedman tacked on a goal and assist in Sunday’s win over the Blue Jackets.
Wingers Blake Coleman and Alex Killorn have also been putting up numbers in recent games. Coleman netted a goal and assist on Tuesday and had a two-goal effort last week as well, while Killorn had two goals on Tuesday and points in three of his last five altogether.
With Anton Khudobin drawing the last start, Dallas will likely hand the reins over to 22-year old Jake Oettinger. The rookie has been very solid this season, going 10-6-6 with a 2.26 GAA and .915 save percentage.
As for the Lightning, there should be no surprises in the net with Andrei Vasilevskiy starting once again. The former Vezina winner is a candidate yet again, going 29-8-1 with a 2.15 GAA and .927 save percentage.
The Lightning have displayed a clear dominance over Dallas in their first five matchups and should have more than enough firepower to be able to do it again. In addition, the Stars have a very underwhelming 8-9-4 record on the road this season. Give me the Bolts to make it four straight wins on Thursday night.
Pick: Lightning -172
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