Tampa Bay Lightning at Chicago Blackhawks

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Tampa Bay has the best goaltender in the NHL. Andrei Vasilevskiy is carrying his teammates on his shoulders. The Russian netminder has posted three straight shutouts for Tampa Bay over the last four games for the Lightning. Tampa Bay defeated Carolina 3-1 in the only game Vasilevskiy has not played in the last four. Tampa Bay is tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for first place in the Central division at 15-4-1 with 31 points and will be completing a back to back on Friday against Chicago after facing the Blackhawks at the United Center on Thursday.

The Chicago Blackhawks have had a strong start to the season and are fourth in the Central Division. Chicago is 12-7-4 with 28 points and trails first-place co-leaders Tampa Bay and Carolina by 3 points and third place Florida by 2 points. Chicago is coming off a 7-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings prior to its first of two consecutive games against Tampa Bay. Leading up to this two-game series, Chicago had won three of the last four, with the only loss a 5-3 setback at the hands of the Red Wings in the first of two consecutive games with Detroit.

Can anyone score on Vasilevskiy?

Overall this season Tampa Bay is allowing an average of only 1.95 goals-per-game. Andrei Vasilevskiy is the reason for that,as the Russian netminder is 13-3-1 with a 1.65 goals-against average. Vasilevskiy Is saving 94.2% of the shots he faces in net and has posted three shutouts while allowing only 28 goals in 17 appearances. Backup Curtis McElhinney, who could see action on Friday versus Chicago, is 2-1-0 with a 2.70 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage. The Tampa Bay penalty kill unit has been well above average as the Lightning are killing off penalties at a rate of 88.6% of the time when shorthanded.

Tampa Bay is not all about defense and goaltending as the Lightning score their fair share of goals. Tampa Bay is averaging 3.55 goals per game led by Steven Stamkos with 10 goals. The veteran center also has a team-high 20 points. The second-leading goal scorer for Tampa Bay is Ongrej Palat with nine goals and the left-wing also has a team-high six power-play goals. Victor Hedman is the leader in assists for Tampa Bay with 16 and is tied for the points lead with Stamkos at 20. Tampa Bay is scoring 26.5% of the time with its power play.

Injury Report: Mitchell Stephens is out until mid-April, while Anders Nilsson and Nikita Kucherov are out indefinitely and Marian Gaborik is out for the season

Blackhawks starting to give up too many goals

The Chicago Blackhawks are 3-2 over their last five games played but have allowed 18 goals for an average of 3.00 per game. On three occasions during that stretch, Chicago allowed five goals and lost two of the three games. The blue line needs to tighten up in front of goal to protect the Blackhawks netminders. Chicago’s Kevin Lankinen is 9-3-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. Lankinen has posted one shutout this season and has allowed 39 goals across 15 appearances. Chicago has an effective rate of 75.0% with its penalty-kill unit.

The Blackhawks have become a legitimate goal-scoring threat as Chicago is averaging 3.13 goals per game. Veteran Patrick Kane is the stats leader for Chicago with team-highs in goals scored with 11, assists with 23 and overall points with 34. However, Kane is not the only goalscorer as Alex DeBrincat has also scored 11 goals, while Dominik Kubalik has scored eight. DeBrincat is second-best in points with 25. Chicago has scored 22 power-play goals and the Blackhawks have an impressive 33.3% effective rate with the man advantage.

Injury Report: Chicago has several players with injuries. Questionable for Friday is Dylan Strome, while Kirby Dach is out until late May and Alex Nylander is out until early June. Brent Seabrook, Andrew Shaw, Zach Smith and Jonathan Toews are all out indefinitely

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet

While it’s always difficult to win two consecutive games over the same team in as many days, Tampa Bay will do it on Friday after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday when the two meet for the first time. Tampa Bay has the NHL’s best goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy who has posted three straight shutouts and is allowing only 1.65 goals per game. Tampa Bay also has one of the higher-scoring teams in the NHL scoring an average of 3.55 goals per game. Tampa Bay has owned the Blackhawks winning each of the last four played at the United Center on Chicago’s home ice and in 10 of the last 11 overall against the Blackhawks.

Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5

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Full-Game Total Pick

With Vasilevskiy in net, Tampa Bay will likely keep Chicago to a maximum of two goals and more likely one goal or none. Chicago is allowing an average of only 2.87 goals per game this season. Over the last 12 meetings between these two played in the Windy City, the total has finished under in 10 and over the last 20 games these two have faced off the total is finished over 13 times.