Today's Free Picks for
Posted on Friday May 11 before Game 1
TAMPA BAY -1½ games +118 over Washington
Series pick – Begins Friday, May 11
8:00 PM EST. For the Capitals, their run of good fortune almost surely ends here. In Round 1 against the Jackets, Washington rallied from two games down to win it in six and the reason they won that series was because Columbus could not stay out of the box and Sergei Bobrovsky was shaky. Columbus was clearly the better team during five-on-five play and the metrics support that. In Round 2, Washington and Pittsburgh fought tooth and nails against each other with Washington winning the final game in OT and winning two others with a very late goal (under four minutes) in the third with the game tied. OT games and one goal victories are luck-driven results, as Pittsburgh could have just as easily got those bounces and won this series in six games. Braden Holtby found his Vezina form once again and really, that was the difference in that series. Holtby was better than Matt Murray and Washington got those one-goal-game bounces.
When comparing the two teams, the comparisons are not close, as Washington was and still is the luckiest team on ice. They finished bottom seven in just about every analytical category both offensively and defensively. Where the Caps thrived is on the power-play and in goal and that is why they made the playoffs, otherwise they were no better analytically than teams like Arizona and Vancouver but this market loves results and in the regard, Washington has more market appeal right now than they have for quite some time because they finally “got over the hump” against Pittsburgh. We’re not fooled and you shouldn’t be either.
The Capitals are stale as can be. This is basically the same team that has done nothing for years in the playoffs, only this year they are worse. They added no free agents of any importance and have relied on one line and Cross Your Fingers the entire year and well into the playoffs. Cross Your Fingers has come through so far. The Caps basically have stood pat for years while the Bolts, a great team to begin with, have attempted to get better every year. Status quo is not advancing any more.
Amazon started off selling books and was very successful but then they said, we’re going to start selling whole foods, we’re going to make movies, we’re going to buy up newspapers and start selling every item in the world and get it to our customers in two days. If the Washington Capitals were Amazon, they’d still be selling books and they’d be satisfied with it. That and everything above is what you would be buying if you wager on the Caps in this series. Braden Holtby may steal a game or maybe two but for the first time in these playoffs, the Caps are going to be running into a great goaltender in form so don’t be surprised if they get swept.
While the Caps were rallying from being in a hole in both series and betting pushed to almost the max with five OT games so far in 12 playoff games, the Lightning disposed of the Devils in five games and then disposed of what some were calling the best team in hockey, the Bruins in five games also. The Bolts didn’t just beat Boston, they beat them four straight after losing the first game, 6-2 and them holding the high scoring B’s to two goals or less in three of the last four games. The Capitals are ill-prepared to go nose to nose with the Bolts. The Lightning are filled with stars. Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov both had MVP-type seasons. Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn—standouts from the last deep run by the Bolts—have been excellent and are those playoff-like performers that every team needs.
What makes the Lightning so dangerous, though, is their unparalleled depth. Start with J.T. Miller. Arguably a throw-in for the Ryan McDonagh trade at the deadline, Miller has been one the team's best forwards. Playing on the first line, Miller finished the regular season with 18 points in 19 games. In 10 playoff games, he has seven points. In his second season, Brayden Point was a 30-goal scorer and has 10 points in the playoffs. Keep going down the list: Yanni Gourde, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli. The Bolts can score from any of their four lines, and have two of the NHL’s best game-breakers to start it off. The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson and Cross Your Fingers. Finally, the Bolts defense is superior by a wide margin and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, coming off a dominant regular season, has been even better in the playoffs. He's lowered his goals-against average and increased his save percentage. He had a clunker—Game 1 against Boston—but has otherwise been solid and now these two teams, that are not close to being equal will clash. Washington is not taking Tampa Bay to the limit here and frankly, that we get a price on the Bolts to win in anything but the maximum amount of games is pure value at its best.
NOTE: We will also be playing this series on a game by game basis regardless of this future bet as we see fit. In other words, we’re not going to allow any series bets to influence individual game wagers.
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TAMPA BAY -1½ +118 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.36)