Today's Free Picks for
Posted May 16, before Game 1.
Series Wager: Tampa Bay -1½ Games +120
7:38 PM EST. The Panthers are this year’s “surprise” team. Analytical intellectuals have always viewed a few of Florida’s players as upper-tier. This season specifically, Mackenzie Weegar has turned into a bonafide analytics star. The Panthers also roster the true surprise player this season in Carter Verhaeghe, who has had an absolutely stellar year. Florida’s roster was one of the most improved from the 2019-2020 season with big improvements from Aleksander Barkov, Anthony Duclair, and Sam Bennett. However, Aaron Ekblad’s injury is a big blow for the team. Furthermore, Florida is already quite top heavy, lacking depth when compared to other contenders such as this first round foe, and the loss of Ekblad further extenuates that.
It’s kind of boring at this point to heap praise on Tampa, but here we are. The reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Lightning are still good. Quite good actually. Magically, Stamkos and Kucherov are ready for the playoffs and it’s not a coincidence. Tampa is not only getting a healthy Kucherov back, but a healthy Kucherov is as impactful a player as an Austin Matthews or Sidney Crosby for example. The Lightning are an experienced, well-rounded, and extremely deep team still within their never-ending window. Tampa’s third line of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow continues to provide a spark with their disciplined and determined hockey. The trio were outstanding in last year’s playoffs, they were outstanding this year and they’re known for making life hard on opponents with their forecheck and relentlessness.
The Lightning are so deep that Tyler Johnson is their fourth line center. That dude is a second line center on most teams. The Lightning barely broke a sweat during the regular season after winning the Cup last year. Stamkos and Kucherov being “rusty” is an absurd narrative that the talking heads are turning to for a reason to get behind the Panthers. It’s hockey for fuck’s sake, something they have both been playing since they were three years old. The “step behind” narrative will not be heard from again after Game 1.
Now to the meat…..Florida has a big question in net while Tampa does not. Does it even matter who lands between the pipes for the Panthers?. Whoever they end up going with will greatly impact their chances (they probably shouldn’t go with Bobrovsky). Give massive edges to Tampa in depth, playoff experience and the #1 deciding factor in deciding outcomes (goaltending) and then go bet that team at a steal of a price.
A GREAT OFFER FOR SPORTSWAGERS READERS:
We’re offering a better and cheaper alternative to cable TV. You will literally save thousands of dollars. If you’re sick of paying a fortune for programming that you don’t even want or need, this is for you. All pro sports -- EVERY GAME, tons of college football and basketball games and tons of regular programming (non-sports). Over 2500 channels all in HD for a mere $20 per month. You have to be nuts not to get it.
Tampa Bay -1½ +120 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.40)