Two of the NHL’s most successful franchises will open a new era Tuesday night. Namely, the Penguins and Lightning are synonymous with Stanley Cup success. Meanwhile, ESPN is renowned as the “World Wide Leader in Sports.” Following a 17-year separation, the NHL and ESPN have buried the hatchet. Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are the first game on the network since Game-7 of the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Thus, there is going to be both significant anticipation and curiosity for a major landmark event. Fans and gamblers are thrilled with two top contenders to hail the start of the NHL season.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will host the Pittsburgh Penguins Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. This game will take place on Tuesday, October 12, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. ET, with television coverage on ESPN.
Gamblers will have their choice of two name-brand power franchises. Of great concern is a rash of injuries to key Penguins players. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Jake Guentzel are all out of the lineup. That is a considerable amount of firepower. On the other hand, the defending Stanley Cup champions at home will command a top price. Cause by the masses loading up with them against the injury-riddled Penguins.
The Penguins have an odd hybrid of older veterans and aspiring young players. Still, Sidney Crosby remains the face of the franchise. Last year the tandem of Team President Brian Burke and General Manager Ron Hextall gave Pittsburgh a much-needed spark. However, in the playoffs, the Penguins were exposed for their weak goaltending and lack of depth. Head coach Mike Sullivan has been behind the bench since taking over during the 2015-16 season. Sullivan won the Stanley Cup in his first two seasons.
Of major concern is that the Penguins have not upgraded between the pipes. Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith remain the goaltending duo. That does not inspire confidence in fans or gamblers.
Once the sugar rush of Burke and Hextall arriving was over, Pittsburgh was confronted with harsh reality. The Penguins are a good team that may not be a serious Stanley Cup contender anymore.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay remains one of the model franchises in all of pro sports. Most important of all, the Lightning brings back most key contributors from their two championship teams. Namely, centers Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, left wing Ondrej Palat, right wing Nikita Kucherov, defensemen Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. This core brings the NHL’s strongest foundation.
Head coach Jon Cooper was celebrated as one of the NHL’s best before winning two Stanley Cups. Cooper threads the needle between being a modern communicator and a demanding taskmaster. Following an epic 2019 playoff failure, the Lightning stuck with Cooper. As a result, they were rewarded with the glory of Lord Stanley’s chalice.
Last year goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made his claim of being the best in the NHL. In the Stanley Cup Final against Montreal, he was clearly superior to the Canadiens’ Carey Price. Of course, Price has been touted as the best netminder in hockey for the past several years. Tampa Bay knows it can take more chances than most teams because of Vasilevskiy. Thus, his dominant goaltending adds to the potential of opening up the Lightning offense.
And then defenseman Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh give the Lighting a huge advantage. In a league where strong blue line play is mandatory, the Bolts get a huge edge from this tandem.
Pittsburgh vs. Tampa Bay Prediction
In this situation, the Penguins are too shorthanded against such a powerful opponent. Look for the Lighting to usher in ESPN and the new season with an emphatic statement-making win.
BookMaker Pick: Lightning 4, Penguins 1
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