NHL Betting: Do or Die for Lightning in Game 6
It’s been a great playoff run for the Tampa Bay Lightning and their supporters, but it could all come to an end Monday night. At 8:00 PM ET (NBC), Tampa Bay will visit the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks are ahead 3-2 in this series, and at press time, they’re –170 favorites on the moneyline, or –1.5 (+175) on the puck line.
The Lightning weren’t expected to get this close to hosting the Cup for the second time in franchise history. They were third-tier contenders at 12/1 on the futures market going into the playoffs, and they were +130 to beat Chicago once they advanced to the finals. Now Tampa Bay is +160 just to make it to Game 7.
Beg Your Pardon
Beating the NHL odds is nothing new to the Bolts. Even with a pair of narrow 2-1 losses putting them on the brink of elimination, they’ve pulled in 5.32 betting units against the puck line in these playoffs, second only to the Anaheim Ducks (plus-5.57 units). The chalkier Blackhawks have only earned 0.21 betting units, and given how difficult beating Tampa Bay by two goals has been, Chicago could end up in the red while winning its third Stanley Cup in five years.
Ben Bishop (.920 playoff save percentage) is expected to start in goal for Tampa Monday night. After missing Game 4 with an undisclosed injury, Bishop made 27 of 29 saves against the Blackhawks on Saturday and looked none the worse for wear. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Chicago scored its first goal after Bishop accidentally collided with teammate Victor Hedman, allowing Patrick Sharp to fire away at an empty net.
Crashing the Net
The Bolts are less certain about the status of forward Nikita Kucherov (10 goals, 12 assists in 25 playoff games), who had to leave Game 5 after crashing shoulder-first into Chicago’s net during the first period. Kucherov made the trip to United Center with his teammates and was being considered a game-time decision.
Losing a forward is usually less worrisome than losing your starting goalie, but Kucherov has been one of Tampa Bay’s best players this year. The Russian sophomore had a breakout campaign during the regular season with 29 goals and 36 assists, and was fourth overall on the team with 9.9 Point Shares – barely behind Bishop at 10.0 PS. Only Tyler Johnson (13 goals, 10 assists) has scored more goals for Tampa during the postseason.
The fact that Kucherov traveled with the team is promising. Lightning head coach John Cooper compared Kucherov’s uncertain status to Bishop’s in Game 5, and told reporters the extra day off before Game 6 would give his talented winger “the rest he needs.” Not just Kucherov, but the rest of the Lightning, too – they didn’t practice on Sunday. That freshness factor could make all the difference at the end of a long season.