Stanley Cup Odds & Preview — Game 1: New Jersey Devils at Tampa Bay Lightning

The New Jersey Devils have done very well for themselves, in one season going from having the worst record in the National Hockey League to getting a playoff spot. And as they open up their best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference, they do have the confidence of knowing that they scored a three-game regular-season sweep over their opponent, even though they were outshot in all three games. But they’ve got a fighting spirit and one of the game’s biggest stars as they take the ice on Thursday night at 7 PM ET at the Amalie Arena in Tampa. If you are BetAnySports customer, you can get reduced juice on this one, and also place wagers while the action is underway using the state-of-the-art software from Live Betting Ultra.
New Jersey earned itself the top pick in the amateur draft, and they used it to take Nico Hischier, who is now the center on the team’s #1 line, which also includes Taylor Hall, who had 39 goals and 54 assists for 93 points, and was by far New Jersey’s leading scorer. What’s important to take note of is that Hall has 13 goals on the power play, and the Lightning have had great difficulty killing of penalties. In fact, they are 15 that of the 16 playoff teams in that statistic.
The Lightning, however, are also very powerful on offense. They lead the league in goal-scoring in five on five situations, and they have a couple of major people who are very hard to stop. Nikita Kuckerov (100 points) and Stephen Stamkos (86 points) occupy the top line along with JT Miller, who can score and make a pest of himself around the net, and came over in a trade with the New York Rangers.
New Jersey finished the regular season with a record of 44-29-9 for 97 points, while Tampa Bay was 54-23-5 for 113 points. Neither of these teams has won the Cup in over a decade.
In the Stanley Cup odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, Tampa Bay is favored:
Money Line 
Tampa Bay Lightning -220
New Jersey Devils +180
Puck Line
Tampa Bay -1.5 (+135)
New Jersey +1.5 (-155)
Total
Over 5.5 Goals -130
Under 5.5 goals -110
The Lightning is also a whopping -320 to win the series, with the Devils priced at +260.
It was the intention of New Jersey head coach John Hynes to emphasize the mental part of the game with his players, and they have responded very well. It is “New Jersey vs. Everybody” on this team, and Hynes and his staff have done a very good job incorporating first-year players in with the veterans. Aside from Hischier, who had 20 goals and 32 assists, they got 13 goals apiece out of Jesper Bratt and Blake Coleman, and Will Butcher had an outstanding rookie season on defense, also contributing 44 points, which was 10th-best among rookies.
Hynes was also pretty good at manipulating his personnel, and made a few changes on his lines. One of those was to bring Hischier up to the first line, and another was elevating Miles Wood to the second line, playing alongside Pavel Zacha.
One of the top rookies in the league plays for the Tampa Bay side. Yanni Gourde scored 25 goals this season and had the third-best plu- minus rating in the NHL. The Lightning was second in the league in offensive efficiency, and they had the third-most potent power play as well. But defense is going to be an issue here. Jon Cooper’s team is middle-of-the-road in that category, and Andrei Vasilevskiy is somewhat vulnerable in goal if he is faced with enough pressure. The other side of it is that he had eight shutouts on the season. His opposite number, Keith Kinkaid, has never started a Stanley Cup playoff game.
Stamkos was hurting down the stretch, and he is not 100% for this series, and Tampa Bay tallied seven points is a team over the last eight games, so they are not exactly taking a world of momentum into this one. They lost three one-goal verdicts against the Devils, and that tells us a lot about New Jersey’s mettle. An upset here is possible.
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