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Eastern Conference Semifinal
Tampa Bay +146 over Florida
7:00 PM EST. OT included. Perspective is everything. In light of the Lightning’s Game 1 win in Sunrise, one could argue the Bolts were “lucky” to get the 4-1 win. The talking points are all there. Tampa spent the first 40 minutes chasing the puck and the Panthers. It was 1-1 heading into the third. That score flattered Tampa, as the Bolts had been outshot 24-18 after two periods. Three of the Lightning’s four goals came on the power play. That’s another strike against Tampa if one wanted it to be. It’s not hard to talk one’s self into the Panthers. That’s evident by the efficient market taking a stand on the Cats bouncing back in Game 2.
That’s one take, but what if one were to make the case for the Bolts based on what happened in Game 1? How about five on five, in that third period, Tampa dictated the pace of play. Florida wilted and was completely toothless as the Lightning force fed six High Danger Scoring Chances to Sergei Bobrovsky. The Bolts peppered “Bob” with 18 shots in that final 20 minutes. From our perch, the Panthers threw the kitchen sink at Tampa for 20 minutes and were not rewarded. Then, they faded. Sure, the Bolts added a pair of power play goals late, but that was because the Panthers were tired, frustrated and undisciplined. When the Cats needed Bobrovsky to save the game, their $8-million man failed to step up. Again.
On the other side of that equation is Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who kept his team in it when the Cats were on the extreme offensive in the first period. Florida fired five High Danger Scoring Chances at Vasilevskiy, but only came away with one goal. One could argue at that time the Panthers broke, as the second period was much more evenly matched when it came to scoring chances on both sides. If mindset is to be considered, one cannot predict how the Panthers will react when “Bob” inevitably puts them behind the 8-ball.
One cannot help but notice that the Bolts appear to be living rent free in the Cats’ heads. Tampa is the big brother here. If the Panthers can regroup and keep their composure tonight, while also getting a world class goaltending performance from Bobrovsky, then so be it. However, there is too much value on the table here to not come right back on the Lightning in Game 2. Tampa is playing with house money having already gotten its split and gaining home ice advantage, but if there’s one thing we know about big brothers—rarely do they want to let little brother off the mat. The Bolts figure to be a live pooch here with a great shot to go back to The Bay Area up 2-0 in this series.
Tampa Bay +146 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.92)