It’s the seventh game between Tampa Bay and Chicago this Saturday afternoon as the Lightning look to win their sixth against the Blackhawks. The online sportsbooks continue to back Tampa heavily as the Lightning are 5-0-1 this season against Chicago.
I’ll support Tampa here as well. They’ve outscored Chicago 46 to 26 in this series and have covered the puck line in their last two games. Between these division rivals, Tampa is just the superior team.
Blackhawks vs Lightning Betting Preview
Blackhawks: Fourth in the Division, Last in Defense
In a division where there is a clear divide between the elites and the also-rans, the Blackhawks have that dubious distinction of being the measuring stick (them or the Stars). Chicago can beat up on the teams below .500 but lose to the three best teams.
Twenty-four of Chicago’s 33 points have come against Columbus, Dallas, and Detroit. But against Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Florida, they’ve only managed seven points in 13 games. That’s mainly because they have no defense, to put it bluntly.
Chicago has managed to score almost three goals per game and that’s across most teams in the division so they’re at least consistent. But this team also allows the most shots per game in the NHL and allows the third-most goals in the division.
Rookie netminder Kevin Lankinen has started to slow down and that would explain why Chicago only has two wins this March. Against the lower tier of the division, they’ll get by. But not against the elite.
Lightning: Still Too Good
The Lightning haven’t looked as invincible lately having lost to Nashville, Detroit, and Chicago all in this month. Moreover, their defense has not been the same and they’re allowing nearly three goals per game even in their victories.
You can pin a lot of it on the goaltending. Backup Curtis McElhinney has been terrible in his three starts this month. He’s allowed 11 goals in 74 shots for a measly 87 save percent (SV%). Even Andrei Vasilevskiy has been prone to subpar performances as his overall SV% is down to 91.7% this month.
The Lightning are still allowing the same amount of shots during this span, but have also seen their penalty kill decline. They’re down to just 75 percent this month, which is only the fourth-best mark in the division.
Yet amidst their weakening play in net, the Lightning have still gone 7-2-1 with Vasilevskiy winning all of his starts. It’s hard to get too down on this team when their offense is still able to make up for whatever else is falling apart.
Chicago Blackhawks vs Tampa Bay Lightning Betting Pick
The Lightning have not been underdogs on the NHL betting lines this season. Not even once. The defending Stanley Cup champions are just too good all-around that they can make up for any “weaknesses” their opponent exploits. So it comes as no shock that I like for them to beat the Blackhawks here.
I’d flirt with a bet on the puck line as Tampa has covered in 10 of their 13 games at home (16-13 overall). But the declining play in net and their lapses on defense could allow a team like Chicago to put in a quick goal or two to keep it a one-goal game.
If the Lightning also start McElhinney, I’ll switch my pick to the Blackhawks if they start Lankinen. But if it stays with Vasilevskiy, you can’t bet against the Lightning.