Blue Jackets Have Tall Order in the Lightning
Wednesday night’s contest between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets officially kicks off the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tampa Bay has earned home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They finished atop the league standings during the regular season. Columbus, meanwhile, has been playing must-win games for the last two weeks of the regular season. They had their backs against the wall just to qualify for the postseason. Regardless of how they got here, both the Lightning and Blue Jackets have an opportunity to capture Lord Stanley, beginning with Wednesday’s Game 1 matchup.
One may think that the Tampa Bay Lightning have been coasting after securing top spot in the NHL standings back in mid-March. They didn’t slow down one bit. They finished the regular season winning 7 of 10 and didn’t rest any regulars. While they avoided injuries, which was the key thing. We’ll have to wait and see if the Lightning experience any fatigue in the postseason.
If any team is at risk of fatigue it may be the Blue Jackets. They were playing desperation hockey all the way up to Game 81 of the regular season. They defeated the New York Rangers in a shootout to punch their postseason ticket. They’re running into the best team in the NHL and have a monumental task on their hands if they hope to advance to Round 2.
This, That and a Dart Throw
Tampa Bay made history in the regular season with an NHL record-matching 62 wins. The team hopes to continue their dominance in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. The Lightning have won all six games against the Blue Jackets the last two seasons. They have outscored them 17-3 in three victories in 2018-19, but they know little of that matters come playoff time.
The Lightning boast three 40-goal scorers. The NHL’s leading point producer is right wing Nikita Kucherov, with 128. They are expecting to have Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman back in the lineup after he missed the last four games with an upper-body injury. C Anthony Cirelli led all forwards in the league in short-handed playing time (222:39). He was tied for second with five short-handed goals.
Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy led the league with 39 wins despite missing a month with an injury. He has performed well in the playoffs, going 15-11 with a 2.68 goals-against average and .919 save percentage. Captain Steven Stamkos led the team with 45 goals. This season was his most since scoring 60 in 2011-12. Center Brayden Point and Kucherov added 41 apiece as Tampa Bay tallied 30 more times than any other team in the league. Hedman practiced the last two days while fellow defenseman Anton Stralman sat out both and is questionable.
The Blue Jackets have yet to win a playoff series in their history. Coach John Tortorella took Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. The Blue Jackets went 7-1-0 in their last eight games to make the postseason for the third straight year. G Sergei Bobrovsky has won at least 37 games in three straight seasons. He is 5-14 with an .891 save percentage in 24 career playoff games.
Blue Jackets Center Matt Duchene and left wing Ryan Dzingel did not make major impacts on the scoresheet with 12 points each since being acquired at the trade deadline. They supported a capable offense. Left wing Artemi Panarin may be leaving as an unrestricted free agent after the playoffs. He provided Columbus with a career-high 87 points this season. Right wing Cam Atkinson finished with a career-best 41 goals. The Blue Jackets are without two top-seven defensemen. Ryan Murray and Adam McQuaid both have upper-body injuries. Seth Jones and Zach Werenski led the blue line with 90 points combined. RW Oliver Bjorkstrand finished the regular season by scoring nine goals and setting up two others in his last 10 contests.
Dart Throw: Lightning 4, Blue Jackets 1
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Betting Odds & Trends
|Columbus Blue Jackets
|Columbus is 6-2 ATS in its last 8 games
|Columbus is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games
|The total has gone OVER in 4 of Columbus’s last 6 games
|The total has gone UNDER in 12 of Columbus’s last 17 games
|Columbus is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
|Columbus is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games on the road
|The total has gone UNDER in 11 of Columbus’s last 13 games on the road
|Columbus is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Tampa Bay
|Columbus is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing Tampa Bay
|The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Columbus’s last 7 games when playing Tampa Bay
|Columbus is 3-10 SU in its last 13 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay
|The total has gone OVER in 4 of Columbus’s last 6 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay
|Tampa Bay Lightning
|Tampa Bay is 20-5 SU in its last 25 games
|The total has gone OVER in 7 of Tampa Bay’s last 9 games
|Tampa Bay is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games at home
|Tampa Bay is 12-2 SU in its last 14 games at home
|Tampa Bay is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing Columbus
|Tampa Bay is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Columbus
|The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Tampa Bay’s last 7 games when playing Columbus
|Tampa Bay is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games when playing at home against Columbus
|The total has gone OVER in 4 of Tampa Bay’s last 6 games when playing at home against Columbus
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