The Tampa Bay Lightning will look to close out their series against the New Jersey Devils on Saturday afternoon on NBC. The Lighting won the first two games of this series at home and then split two games in New Jersey to take a 3-1 series lead. Tampa is a big favorite to close out this series on Saturday at home and advance to the conference semifinals. Let’s look at this matchup and NHL Playoff picks.
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Tampa Bay is listed as a -235 favorite in this contest with the total listed at 6. The Devils played well in New Jersey but they couldn’t do enough in Game 4 to even the series and now they head back to Tampa Bay facing elimination. The Lightning showed that they are the top contender to win the Stanley Cup led by Nikita Kucherov, as he scored two goals and assisted on another. "Kuch tonight flexed his muscles," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said to the media. "He's pretty dynamic on the power play, but tonight, all around, I thought he was the best player on the ice." Kucherov has four goals and five assists in four games in this series.
The Lightning also got a strong game from Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy who stopped three breakaways in making 27 saves. "Vasy made some great saves, especially early on the game with a couple of breakaways," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "That calmed us down a bit and I thought we played a great third period."
The Devils are trailing this series but they are saying the right things as they head into Tampa on Saturday. "We were picked to finish last in the East and last in the Metro," Devils defenseman Ben Lovejoy said. "This is a spot we are comfortable. We are comfortable being the underdog. We need to go out and win one game in Tampa. We need to go out and play our best game."
Tampa Bay was 5 for 9 on the power play in the first three games of this series but they were 0 for 5 in Game 4. They have been very good in penalty killing, as they have killed off 6 of the 7 New Jersey power plays.
The Lightning do lead this series 3-1, but overall, recent meetings between the teams have been close, as the teams have split their last ten games overall, with five of the last seven going over the total. Tampa has taken 8 of the last 10 at home against the Devils, with the last three going over the total.
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The Devils have been competitive in this series, but it is obvious that they don’t have enough scoring to compete with the likes of Kucherov and Stamkos. The Devils also don’t have the goaltending to win this series. New Jersey has already had to change goaltenders, as they went from Keith Kincaid to Corey Schneider. The Lightning have the better goaltender in this series in Vasilevskiy and he gives them a big edge. The Lightning have dominated the Devils in Tampa in recent seasons and I don’t see any reason that is going to change on Saturday. The price is high, but Tampa is a serious Stanley Cup contender and they should close out this series on Saturday afternoon. There could also be some value on the total, as these teams have been going over the total recently, so I will also play the game over the total.
NHL Odds: Lightning 5, Devils 2
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