NHL’s Best Should Have Another Slobber-knocker
Two of the top clubs in the NHL this season will face off on Tuesday when the Winnipeg Jets fly south to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Both clubs are securely in playoff positions with under 20 games left in the season. The powerhouses will look to put their offensive play on display in what should be another classic matchup.
It’s clear that the Tampa Bay Lightning have been the best team in the NHL during the regular season this year. Their closest competition trails by 15 points in the standings. Playoff hockey is a different beast and tonight will be a primer. The Winnipeg Jets play a hard-nosed style that Tampa should come to expect come the postseason.
Winnipeg are winners of two straight games and have a one-point cushion over the Nashville Predators for first in the Central Division. Blake Wheeler has been on fire of late. Wheeler scored a career-high four goals in Sunday’s 5-2 victory at Columbus to open a four-game trip. Wheeler’s performance Sunday, which helped earn the NHL’s Second Star of the Week, gave him five goals to go along with seven assists in his last six contests and the Jets have won two in a row after a 1-4-1 slump to remain one point ahead of second-place Nashville in the Central Division.
Defensemen Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Mikhail Sergachev each scored in the 5-1 victory for Tampa Bay. The Lightning tied the NHL record for the fastest to 50 wins in a season at 66 games. The record was set by the Detroit Red Wings in 1995-96. The Lightning received four tallies and nine points from their blue-line for an 11th win in the last 12 contests Saturday against Ottawa.
This, That, and a Dart Throw
The Winnipeg Jets are 39-22-4 on the regular season. Wheeler reached 80 points for the second straight season. He is 11 shy of his career-high of 91. He is sitting second in the league with 63 assists, behind only Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, who has 75. Scheifele has also been on a hot streak with a pair of goals, five assists and a plus-7 rating in the last three games. The run has allowed him to push his season total to 75 points. That is seven away from his career high set in 2016-17. Scheifele’s overtime goal beat the Lightning 5-4 on Dec.16 as four of the past seven meetings have gone past regulation. Laine is warming up as well with four goals in the past five contests to pull within one of 30 and fellow forward Kyle Connor has six points (three goals) in six games. LW Nikolaj Ehlers has six goals and three assists in seven career games against the Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are 50-12-4 on the season. Kucherov recorded seven of his league-leading 106 points in the past five games. He is two shy of the franchise’s single-season record set by Vincent Lecavalier in 2006-07. Captain Steven Stamkos has not scored in six games. He has bee productive as he has set up five tallies in that span. He remains two goals behind Lecavalier (383) for the club’s all-time scoring record. Hedman reached 40 points (41) for the fourth straight season after posting four (two goals) in the past three games. Fellow defenseman Ryan McDonagh (33 points) leads the team with a plus-27 rating. G Andrei Vasilevskiy boasts nine straight wins to reach 30. He is fourth in the league and is 10-0-2 in his last 12 starts.
PREDICTION: Lightning 4, Jets 3
NHL Betting Odds & Trends
|Winnipeg is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games
|The total has gone OVER in 5 of Winnipeg’s last 7 games
|The total has gone OVER in 6 of Winnipeg’s last 8 games on the road
|Winnipeg is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Tampa Bay
|The total has gone OVER in 5 of Winnipeg’s last 7 games when playing Tampa Bay
|Winnipeg is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay
|Winnipeg is 5-11 SU in its last 16 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay
|Tampa Bay Lightning
|Tampa Bay is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games
|Tampa Bay is 11-1 SU in its last 12 games
|Tampa Bay is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games at home
|Tampa Bay is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
|Tampa Bay is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Winnipeg
|The total has gone OVER in 5 of Tampa Bay’s last 7 games when playing Winnipeg
|Tampa Bay is 11-5 SU in its last 16 games when playing at home against Winnipeg
|Tampa Bay is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games when playing at home against Winnipeg
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