The Red Wings backed into the playoffs after losing their final two regular season games. Still, Detroit extended its playoff streak to 25 seasons, but the Wings are looking to win a round for the first time since 2013.
Tampa Bay came back from a 3-2 first round series deficit to knock off the Wings in seven games last season.
Stanley Cup Playoff Odds at BookMaker.eu.
Detroit Red Wings +130
Tampa Bay Lightning -150
Detroit isn’t heading into the playoffs in optimal form, losing two in a row when they needed a victory to secure their spot. But Ottawa did them a favor by beating Boston, and now it’s up to the Wings to seize the opportunity. The Red Wings stumbled on the road down the stretch losing four of their final five, including a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay.
The Lightning won’t have leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman. D-man Victor Hedman and forward Ryan Callahan sat out the final three games with injuries and are doubtful to open the series. Those losses will take a toll on the offense and they already have. In each of Tampa Bay’s last five losses, the Lightning failed to score more than two goals in any game. Still, Tampa Bay is heavily favored in Game 1 and the series.
Jimmy Howard suffered through the worst stretch of his career this season, playing in just three games during a seven-week span. When he did play, he had an 0-3 record, 4.14 goals against average and .876 save percentage. With Petr Mrazek playing like the NHL’s best goaltender in that time, many wondered if Howard’s days were numbered in Detroit.
The tables have turned in Howard’s favor, however. He relieved Mrazek in a 7-2 loss at Pittsburgh on Mar. 26 and started the final seven games. He gets the nod to open the postseason, but expect coach Jeff Blashill to have a quick hook if things turn.
Tampa Bay rode the goalkeeping of Ben Bishop to the Stanley Cup final last year and he’s poised to be large in net again for the Lightning. Bishop had career-bests this season with a 2.06 GAA and .926 save percentage while going 35-21-4.
Bishop allowed two or fewer goals in each of his four starts against Detroit this season and gives the Bolts a big edge between the pipes.
Both teams figure to have a difficult time scoring goals making special teams play that much more important than it already is in a playoff series. The Bolts are without leading goal scorer Steven Stamkos, who potted 36 during the regular season which is better than 16 percent of the team’s total. The Wings’ regular season total of 209 is the fewest among all playoff competitors.
Detroit connected 50 times with the man-advantage this season and clicked at an 18.8 percent rate. Tampa Bay ranked near the bottom of the league in power-play percentage at 15.8 and Stamkos will be missed with the extra attacker. His 14 power-play goals were tied for the fourth-most during the regular season.
Detroit backed its way into the playoffs this season and had a lackluster regular year based on past performances in Hockeytown. But the Wings did make it and that’s the important thing. Once the playoffs begin everyone is 0-0 with an equal chance of raising Lord Stanley’s cup. The loss of Stamkos is a game-changer for the Bolts. It’s hard to replace his 36 goals and what he provides on the power play.
But the Lightning are a deep club. Not many teams can reach into their AHL roster and pluck a player as talented as Jonathan Drouin to bring offense to the lineup, and he’s been on a goal scoring binge lately. Both teams will try and set the tone for the series in Game 1 and it should be a tight-checking, low-scoring contest with the Bolts relying on Bishop to be the difference.
NHL Odds: Tampa Bay 3, Detroit 1
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BookMaker's live betting platform means you always have access to odds and lines to every sporting event. Click here, and start wagering today! The puck drops for Game 1 of the series between the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning at 7 p.m. ET at Amalie Arena. The game will be televised live on NBCSN.