Stanley Cup Final Game 2: Dallas Stars @ Tampa Bay Lightning Picks
The Dallas Stars took a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-1. Dallas was a sizable +140 underdog in the game but they came through for underdog backers in a big way.
After their impressive result in the opener, the odds have reflected a new found belief in the Stars as the Lightning are down from -160 favorites prior to Game 1, now being priced around -145 in Game 2.
Most people have predicted the Tampa Bay Lightning will win this series. However, I highly doubt many people expected a sweep. Game 1 of this series lined up well schedule wise for the Stars.
Dallas defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals in order to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. That game occurred on Monday of last week. On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning played a double overtime game against the New York Islanders which they lost. On Thursday, the Lightning played another overtime game against the Isles. Both games were tough, physical, grinding contests. Less than 48 hours later, the Lightning were on the ice for Game 1 of the Cup Finals.
So while Tampa was playing tough hockey and overtime games, the Stars were resting their bodies and preparing for their opponent. Game 1 was always going to give the Stars a slight advantage in that way, but kudos to them, they took advantage.
Prior to the series, the Lightning were -185 favorites to lift the Cup. This implied the Lightning had near a 65% chance of winning the series. It might seem high, but I think it’s actually pretty spot on. Tampa is better in every facet of the game and has better high-end talent than the Stars do.
In NHL history, only 51 of over 381 teams that went down 2-0 in a best of seven series came back to win the series. That’s 13.4% and it doesn’t line up with the near 65% chance I gave Tampa Bay to win at the start of the series. If I’m accurate in expecting Tampa Bay to win the Cup, it’s imperative they don’t go down two games.
Even though the final score might seem lopsided, the game was closer than the 4-1 scoreline might indicate. In fact, even if you adjust for score effects, Tampa Bay had 57% of the shot attempts in Game 1 and over 53% of the expected goals. The shots on goal for the contest were 36-20 in favor of the Lightning.
Anton Khudobin was splendid for Dallas in between the pipes, the only goal that beat him was a deflection off a skate, off his leg and over the goal line. He stopped 35 Lightning shots. Khudobin is quickly becoming a story in these playoffs for the Stars.
Andrei Vasilevskiy on the other hand was beaten three times on just 19 shots. Two of the goals he had little chance on, but the third Stars goal was definitely a shot Vasilevskiy usually stops. The Russian netminder will not concede three goals on under 20 shots very often, and if that’s the Stars’ strategy, they’re in for a rude awakening.
That being said, Dallas will struggle to generate offensive chances. No team in these playoffs gives up less expected goals per 60 minutes than the Lightning. Dallas is slightly below average in terms of shot quality, so that doesn’t help.
I just don’t see the Lightning going down two games in this series. They have learned to play tight checking games in these playoffs against teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets and Islanders. They’ve shown they can grind out wins and Dallas isn’t much different than those teams.
I don’t love betting favorites this big in hockey, but the implied probability of the Lightning evening this series at this line is 58.8%. I think it’s closer to 60-65% the Lightning tie it up, so I see value even with the favorite here.
PICK: Tampa Bay Lightning Moneyline (-143)