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Posted at 1:30 PM EST
7:35 PM EST. The Tampa Bay Lightning are 5-1 after six games and appear to have the look of a dominant team in the East. Are we buying it? No fu**ing way. Four of Tampa’s five victories were by one goal. The other, a 5-3 win over Florida was by two goals but the Bolts added an empty netter with 14 seconds left in the game. Essentially, each of their five wins have been by one goal. Winning by one goal is nothing but pure luck.
In the world of hockey analytics, the dominant theory has been that a team's record in one-goal games is almost entirely unpredictable. This was first established by Gabriel Desjardins of Hockey Prospectus after the 2008-09 season. He ran a regression analysis on every team's data from 1979-80 through 2013-14 and found that the season-to-season correlation of a team's record in one-goal games was an almost nonexistent 0.05. It is a proven luck driven result so the Tampa Bay Lightning could just as easily be 0-6 as they are 5-1 but the market only sees a 5-1 record. The Lightning have been outshot -- in some cases by significant margins -- in all but one of their games and rank 27th in expected goals for at 5v5, 25th in expected goals against, and 30th in expected goal differential (only Buffalo ranks lower).They played in Detroit last night and once again were the second best team on the ice. The Bolts are getting some early headlines because of their great record but don’t pay for it. They have been extremely beatable every night and only the goaltending of Andrei Vasilevskiy has prevented them from being in a hole. Incidentally, backup Petr Budaj is likely starting. The Bolts have this market fooled and if you bet them here, you are paying for their misleading record.
The Devils are 4-1 but the market isn’t buying into their success just yet and until they do, we’ll continue to get behind this legitimate playoff team. For one, Cory Schneider is playing great and he’s playing with a different mindset too, knowing that his team doesn’t have to win 2-1 games anymore. The Devils can win 5-4 if need be. The Devils now catch the Lightning in a perfect spot. Only two teams have taken more 5v5 penalties than the Lightning and chances are that they’ll be even more susceptible to penalties tonight in the latter half of a back-to-back, especially if the Devils attack and really use their speed. Nico Hischier ranks 27th in the NHL in 5v5 scoring chances/60 and ahead of notables like Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos. If he continues to get good looks, it's only a matter of time before he pots his first goal. The Devils were not sharp on Saturday night against the Rangers but still won. Pavel Zacha was benched on Saturday for the last two periods but again, the Devils won. He took responsibility for it too, which is another good sign of leadership for this group. The Devils have a swag about them this year and while their .800 winning percentage is unsustainable, we're getting behind them here spotting -1½ pucks because the price is so sweet and the Bolts are about to get exposed.
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NEW JERSEY -1½ +271 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 5.42)