GAME 4: TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (-167) @ DALLAS STARS – TAMPA BAY LEADS (2-1): OVER/UNDER 5.5 – 8 PM
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
After last night, there is not a doubt in my mind that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the best hockey team on Planet Earth right now. What a performance, what domination. I’m very impressed. That’s why, for the pivotal Game 4, I like the Bolts to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has finally returned to the lineup after not playing a game since February and made his impact felt with an early 1st-period goal. Stamkos’ return makes the Lightning’s scoring depth really scary as they had five different goal scorers in their 5-2 Game 3 victory. The veteran clearly isn’t rusty at all and came back ready for the highest level of competition. Love to see it.
Likewise, the team didn’t let a disappointing first period of being outshot 16 to 8 get to their heads. Tampa Bay dominated the shots, including a 21-to-4 advantage in the 2nd period, scoring three goals. This squad of relentless goal-scorers outshot Dallas 23 to 7 after the first period. That’s remarkable domination if I’ve ever seen it. All in all, this team is sticking to their winning regiment: Every Game 4 in the playoffs this year, the Bolts have carried a 2-1 series lead into Game 4. Oh, and by the way, Tampa Bay is 3-0 in Game 4s throughout the playoffs, averaging 3 goals per game in a Game 4.
As for Dallas, these gentlemen have some issues to deal with. Whenever the Stars have over 16 penalty minutes in the playoffs, they are terrible. They can’t afford to take penalties against a top 5 team in power-play goals. No one can. Discipline was key, and they locked themselves out of contention without it. Simple as that. If they’re not focused now, I don’t know when they ever will be.
The most notable element present so far in this series and very much including Game 3 was the physicality. Tampa has been matching the physicality of the Dallas Stars, recording almost the same number of hits thus far. Each game, both teams have had at least 50 hits each, making the hit totals over 100 per game. Game 3 had a total of 112 hits, and Game 4 could very likely see more. This is an optimal category to throw money on tomorrow night.
In addition to a Tampa win, pick the under for Game 4. Blowouts in the Cup finals are rare and probably won’t happen again. It’s over with for this series. As amazing as Tampa’s scoring is, the Stars will tighten their defensive screws. While they won’t tighten them hard enough to win, they won’t get trampled quite as badly.