NHL Playoff Betting – Penguins vs Lightning Series Preview & Pick
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2011 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS | #5 Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh #4
Wednesday, April 13 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC (HD)
Friday, April 15 at Pittsburgh, 7:00 p.m. CBC (HD)
Monday, April 18 at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. CBC (HD), VERSUS (JIP)
Wednesday, April 20 at Tampa Bay, 7:30 p.m. CBC (HD)
*Saturday, April 23 at Pittsburgh, TBD CBC (HD), VERSUS (JIP)
*Monday, April 25 at Tampa Bay, TBD CBC (HD)
*Wednesday, April 27 at Pittsburgh, TBD CBC (HD)
Odds To Win Cup: Tampa Bay +650, Pittsburgh +450
Lightning vs Penguins Odds To Win 7 Game Series: Lighting +130, Penguins -150
“Penguins vs. Lightning.” It has a nice ring to it. Sounds like a snazzy BBC documentary chronicling a species’ fight against climate change. Only it’s something better than that. It’s an NHL playoff series – and I think it’ll be a damn good one.
It’s strange to say it – but I don’t think there was a more “under the radar” success story than the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second half of the 2010-11 season. Am I crazy? The Pens had Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, a hit HBO series and the Winter Classic outdoor game. How could they be under the radar?
The Pens crept up on us all because Malkin and Crosby both suffered serious injuries. Malkin blew out his knee; Crosby suffered a major concussion. As soon as the two superstars went down, most bettors and pundits crossed Pittsburgh off their list of contenders and said “wait until next season.”
But something crazy happened. In a sense, having no Crosby and Malkin opened the door for a major success story in Pittsburgh. The rest of the Penguins got an ultimate test, a chance to prove that they could win hockey games without the stars. And Pittsburgh totally rose to the occasion. This is by no means a one-man team.
Marc-Andre Fleury still struggles with inconsistency but he’s one of the game’s best “big-game” goalies because of his athleticism. Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy have elevated their play, transitioning from two-way players into offensive threats.
The neatest part about the Pens’ second-half heroics, which helped them finish with their second-highest point total in franchise: they reinvented themselves. They posted the league’s best penalty-killing percentage. They allowed the seventh-fewest goals in the league. These aren’t the high-flying Pens anymore; they’re the gritty, stingy Pens, the East’s answer to the Nashville Predators, and they’re damned good at what they do.
Still – standing in front of the Pens is a dangerous opponent in the Tampa Bay Lightning. New head coach Guy Boucher, a power-play guru, was the perfect fit this season. He made the most of snipers like Steven Stamkos and St. Louis, who both challenged for the scoring title; he finally got something out of Simon Gagne and Vinny Lecavalier in the latter parts of the season.
2010-11 was a resounding success for Steve Yzerman and the new Tampa management team; but I think the buck may stop here. The Lightning have lots of flash and dash but the truth is that this is still a flawed hockey club.
Of the 16 playoff qualifiers, only Detroit allowed more goals than Tampa this season. The Lighting have size on the back end with Victor Hedman, Pavel Kubina, and Mattias Ohlund, to name a few guys, but they don’t play consistently well and they don’t always play to their size.
In goal, Dwayne Roloson is a major question mark for Tampa. Is he good enough to steal a series when he’s on? Absolutely. But Rollie the Goalies is also 40 years old. He had a .922 save percentage in January, an .895 percentage in February and a .918 percentage in March. He’s all over the map.
Another surprising question mark for Tampa is its supposed superstar, Steven Stamkos. After tearing up the league in the first half this season, he had just seven goals and 24 points over his final 31 games. He has to be playing hurt.
The Lightning have the firepower to push Pittsburgh to the limit – especially if the Pens get into penalty trouble. But Pittsburgh is a more complete, defensively sound, battle-hardened team. Even without Crosby, I think the Pens have what it takes to slip past Tampa. If Sid the Kid returns from his concussion during the series, that’s just gravy.
Penguins vs Lightning prediction: Penguins in 7