(Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
#1 Tampa Bay Lightning (62-16-4, 128 points, President Trophy Winner) vs.
WC2 Columbus Blue Jacket (47-31-4, 98 Points, 5th In Metro)
Game 1: 4/10 7 P.M. EST. CBJ @ TB
Game 2 4/12 7 P.M. EST. CBJ @ TB
Game 3 4/14 7 P.M. EST. TB @ CBJ
Game 4 4/16 7 P.M. EST. TB @ CBJ
*Game 5 4/19 TBD CBJ @ TB
*Game 6 4/21 TBD TB @ CBJ
*Game 7 4/23 TBD CBJ @ TB
* If Necessary
Lightning 7-3 in their last 10 games (two game winning streak, and won 3 of 5)
Blue Jackets 7-3 in their last 10 games (two game winning streak, and won 7 of 8)
Head to Head Trends
Tampa Bay is 7-3 against Columbus in their last 10 meetings dating back to 2016. Tampa Bay is 3-0 (2 Home / 1 Road Win) this season outscoring them 17-3 with one shutout. Columbus is 3-10 in their last 13 games in Tampa Bay. The betting favorite has only lost five times in the past 22 meeting.
Tampa Bay clearly is the better team when it comes to offense in this series. Tampa has outscored their opponents by a +103 this season (3.89 GPG) compared to Columbus’ +26. They have three players that averaged more than a point per game (Nikita Kucherov 128 points, Steven Stamkos 98 points and Brayden Point 92 points) while Artemi Panarin is the only Jackets player to record a more than a point per game (87)
In every article I have posted in all of my previews I always stressed the importance of a good defence. Tampa’s defense is lead by last year’s Norris trophy winner Victor Hedman along with Ryan McDonagh, who might take Hedman’s Norris trophy from him this year, along with other great depth players like Dan Girardi, Braydon Coburn, and rookie Erik Cernak. On the other side of the ice, Columbus has its own star studded blue line lead by Seth Jones, Adam McQuaid, and David Savard. The only problem is experience as they have never made it past the first round as Blue Jackets. Given the experience of the Bolts defence, they have the slight edge.
-Special Teams (Power Play and Penalty Kill)
We already know how good Tampa Bay’s offence is and the Power Play is a big part of that as they are scoring more than once for every four chances they get (28.2%), while Columbus is toward the bottom of the league 15.4% (28th). Not many teams fare well in the playoffs when they have that bad of a power play. The last successful team to make it far with less than a 20% power play was the 2011 Boston Bruins, as they won the Cup with a 8.2% going into the finals against the Canucks.
To go along with the top power play the Bolts have the best PK in the league at 85% that is tied with another team in the East… the Blue Jackets. Something will have to give as the best Power Play will face the best PK in the league.
It’s no secret who will be starting between the pipes for both teams as 2 time Vezina trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will be in net for the Jackets and Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Bolts. “Bob” has been great for Columbus posting 37 wins again with a 2.58 GAA. with nine shutouts while Vasilevski has won 39 games with a 2.40 GAA. A lot of Vasilevskiy success has to do with the steller defence Tampa plays in front of him. Bobrosky is going to need to stand on his head for Columbus to have any chance in this series and can steal maybe a game or two but that’s about it.
Edge: Blue Jackets
Final Thoughts & Predictions
Overall Tampa Bay is the better team, while Bobrovsky is great Vasilevskiy isn’t that far behind him. If Bobrovsky and the rest of the Jackets keep the top scoring team in the league to minimum chances on the power play they MIGHT have a chance to make this a series but in the end I think Tampa Bay’s special teams will be the difference in the end but the series will be a lot closer than expected.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in 5
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