Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:30 AM EST.
7:05 PM EST. OT included. We’re going to make this wager before starting goalies are confirmed in anticipation of Andrei Vasilevskiy starting for the Bolts. What’s so fascinating about Vasilevskiy is that he missed six weeks and in his return, he had one of the best games one will ever witness in a 4-1 victory over the Maple Leafs. Toronto fired away 49 shots on Vasilevskiy. The Bolts appeared to be a bit flat in that game but rarely are they and we’ll trust them come up with a much better effort here in the first game of an exciting four-game trip through Western Canada.
The Lightning are so deep and so good that they were winning when Vasilevskiy was injured and career back-up Louis Dominique was asked to fill in. With the return of Ondřej Palát and the breakout play of rookies Mathieu Joseph and Anthony Cirelli, the Lightning have 14 forwards fighting for 12 roster spots on any given night. They now have one of the best goaltenders in the game back, making the Lightning a true juggernaut.
The Jets have won eight of nine games to push their record to 21-9-2 for 44 points, good for first place in the Central Division. However, unlike the Bolts, the Jets are not a juggernaut. In Expected Goals +/- differential, over the past month (November 16th to December 16th) Tampa ranks 1st while the Jets rank 13th. We could compare the two all day long and Winnipeg will be below the Jets in every single metric or surface stat for that matter. The Jets are good, they’re tough but when it matters most, they are usually the second best team and this one matters, as it’s been billed as a “Cup Preview”. The Jets will be playing their third game in four nights here and are coming off overtime wins over the Oilers (5-4) and Blackhawks (4-3) on Thursday and Friday, respectively but what’s more important is that they’ll also have the second best goaltender in this game and that matters too. A lot.
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Tampa Bay -105 (Risking 2.1 units - To Win: 2.00)