Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue Jackets

 

 

Image licensed from USA Today Sports

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning (2-0-0) will be traveling to the Nationwide Arena on Thursday night for their first matchup of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets(1-2-1). This will be the first game played in the Nationwide Arena for the Blue Jackets as they begin the season with a four-game road trip. This will be the first road game for Tampa as well as they opened up their regular season with a pair of decisive victories over the Chicago Blackhawks, including a 5-2 win where they failed to score until the second period. Columbus is entering this game on a bit of skid as they have lost three of their first four games, including a 3-2 overtime loss against the Detroit Red Wings in their last game, where it only took 15 seconds into the extra period for the winning goal to be scored.

These two teams are separated by just a single point in the standings so this could be a crucial two-game set in the early stages of the season. Let’s take a deeper dive into this game and figure out where we should be placing our wagers.

First Line Needs to Score

With a hip injury that has forced Nikita Kucherov to miss the entirety of this 56-game regular season, a lot of the scoring pressure has fallen onto center Steven Stamkos. He has definitely taken advantage of more time with the puck as he has five points (two goals, three assists) in the two games he has played so far. The line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos could provide a lot of issues for this Columbus team as they have combined for five goals already. In their last game against Chicago, this line produced two goals as Palat opened the scoring early in the first period while Stamkos ended the game late in the third with a goal of his own. This is one of Tampa’s biggest strengths and they need to score only a few goals per night if they want to win.

The Blue Jackets are expected to continue splitting time in the goal between their two goalies as Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins have spent almost the exact amount of time on the ice. Korpisalo has been the better of the two so far as he has a 94.366 save percentage (four goals on 71 shots). In their last game, they had Merzlikins in the net and he struggled at times, especially in the second period, as he allowed three goals on 27 shot attempts in a losing effort. The Blue Jackets need to figure out a way for their goalies to take the next step this season as their offense hasn’t found a way to step up and take control.

Center of Attention

Center Alexandre Texier has been the leading scorer for the Columbus Blue Jackets in the early stages of this season. He has provided four points (three goals and an assist) in his first four games. He has scored a goal in three consecutive games, so it’ll be important for Tampa to figure out a way to stop that from happening. In his last game against Detroit, he finished a goal on two shots on goal with his lowest amount of time on the ice this season at 15:25. It was the third game in four days so it’ll be interesting to see if the off-day will give him any trouble in extending his streak.

Tampa has one of the best goalies in the entire league as Andrei Vasilevskiy has been a monster. He has allowed just three goals this season and has produced a save percentage of 95 percent. The three goals he has allowed this season is the fewest by a team this season, so it will be difficult for the Blue Jackets to get anything going offensively. He has been solid throughout his career as he is sitting at a 2.55 goals against in his career with a 161-73-18 record. Tampa’s defense entirely has been incredible to say the least and it will be difficult as they have not been tied after the first goal of the game has been scored. It’ll be interesting to see what the Blue Jackets can throw at them.

The Bottom Line
What to bet on this game.

Full-Game Side Bet
Rating:

The Lightning have been an impressive team and are coming in well rested after their two-game set with the Dallas Stars was postponed. Texier has been on a goal streak of three games but the defense provided by Vasilevskiy should end that at three games. Tampa Bay has been the more impressive team, even dealing with the loss of one of their best players for the season. The Lightning dominate bad teams, which Columbus seems to be middle-of-the-pack at best. The Blue Jackets have won eight of their last 29 games and are coming in this game as the fourth game in six days. They could be coming in on tired legs and the fatigue factor will make this even easier. Expect the Lightning to win this game by multiple goals and spoil the home opener for the Blue Jackets.

Prediction:
Tampa Bay -155

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Full-Game Total Pick
Rating:

The under should be the only thing on your mind here as Tampa’s defense has been incredible so the scoring chances for the Blue Jackets should be extremely limited. Columbus is expected to start Merzlikins in this game and he is decent but is coming off allowing three goals against the Red Wings. Tampa should be able to put up three or four but this game will not approach six goals combined so go with the UNDER here.

Prediction:
UNDER 5.5