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Penguins Vs Lightning Game 1 Betting Lines
The Tampa Bay Lightning went 3-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the regular season but this is a different Pittsburgh club and the Lightning are without leading goal scorer and captain Steven Stamkos, out with a blood clot.
NHL Playoff Game 1 Prediction & Matchup
By Bob Duff
Tampa Bay Lightning (+160) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-169)
Could there actually be a goaltending controversy in Pittsburgh? Penguins coach Mike Sullivan wouldn't name his starting goalie for the opener of the Eastern Conference final against the Lightning, even though rookie Matt Murray, 21, has been sensational through two rounds. Regular netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, a Stanley Cup winner in 2008-09, missed the start of the playoffs with a concussion, is now healthy and backed up Murray during the second round against the Washington Capitals, but does it really make sense to make a change and fix what isn't broke? Fleury hasn't played since March 31.
This series figures to be a bit of a track meet. Both teams run deep in quick, skilled forwards and each has defensemen capable of joining the rush. Lightning rearguard Victor Hedman produced 4-4-8 numbers in their second round win over the New York Islanders. Kris Letang (1-7-8) and Trevor Daley (1-5-6) can both push the pace for the Penguins.
The Lightning won all three regular-season meetings and scored at least four goals in each game, but the Penguins have won 21 of their last 26 on home ice at the Consol Energy Center. Tampa Bay will still be without 36-goal scorer Steven Stamkos (blood clot) but defenseman Anton Stralman, out since March 25 with a fractured fibula, is close to being ready. Fourth-line forward J.T. Brown (upper body injury), sidelined since Game 2 of the opening round against the Detroit Red Wings, is expected to play in Game 1 of this set.
Other than the question mark in goal, the Penguins anticipate no lineup changes from their Game 6 win over the Capitals. Pittsburgh is getting more balanced scoring than the Lightning during the playofs. Eleven Penguins have scored at least two goals and five Pens have netted at least three goals. By contrast, just six Lightning have two goals to their credit and the forward line of Tyler Johnson (four), Alex Killorn (three) and Nikita Kucherov (nine) have accounted for 16 of Tampa Bay's 30 goals.
The Penguins are third in the NHL on the power play (27.5 per cent), while the Lightning are ninth (16.3 per cent). Tampa Bay rates third on the penalty kill (88.4 per cent); Pittsburgh is fifth (83.3 per cent). The Lightning are seeking to be the first Eastern Conference team to advance to consecutive Stanley Cup finals since the Penguins did it in 2007-08 and 2008-09.
Pick: The Penguins (-169)
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