Tampa Bay Lightning (+105) and Detroit Red Wings (-125, 5 o/u)
Blink and you might have missed it, but the Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1, 0-1 Road) and the Detroit Red Wings (1-2, 1-0 Home) have quickly developed one of the most heated rivalries in the NHL. The two teams traded punches once again to close out Game 3, a 2-0 Detroit win. The Wings now have a taste for blood and will aim to even up the series tomorrow at Joe Louis Arena (Tuesday, April 19, at 4:00 PM Eastern).
Tampa and Detroit had zero history together before the NHL realigned in 2013 and put both teams in the Atlantic Division. But after the Lightning eliminated the Wings in seven last year, these teams entered the playoffs with a hatred that rivals intrastate battles like Pittsburgh/Philadelphia.
Through three games, the two have combined for 215 penalty minutes, a number that’s rather out of the ordinary when you consider that Tampa and Detroit ranked 14th and 23rd in regular season PIMs, respectively. And it’s not just the goons getting involved; even four-time Lady Byng Trophy-winner Pavel Datsyuk has lost his cool (and some teeth) this series.
All the bloodshed will be worth it for Detroit if they can send the series back to Tampa knotted at two games. The Wings failed to protect home-ice in last year’s playoffs, going just 1-2 at the Joe. However, they’ve gone 3-0 against the Bolts at home this season. If they want to have any chance at revenge this year, they’ll need to duplicate Sunday’s effort and get another win in the Motor City.
The Wings change to goalie Petr Mrazek for Game 3 paid dividends, but the backstop benefited from an improved team effort on defense, as the Bolts had just 16 shots on net in Detroit’s win. Offensively, the Wings had a few lucky bounces go their way, but one could argue they were due, after outshooting Tampa for the third-straight game.
Still, Detroit needs to rediscover its edge on the powerplay: they’ve gone just 1 for 17 with the man advantage this series. Even though Mrazek has three career playoff shutouts and Tampa has been held to a goose-egg seven times this year, it’s foolish to think snipers like Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov won’t have a bounce-back game.
Tampa have lost four of their last five Game 4s heading into this one. While the scoreboard made them look like the more dominant team in the first two games, the tale of the tape for this series has been far closer. Look for Detroit to even things up on their way to sending fans to another Game 7 we so desperately crave.
Pick: Detroit (-125).
(Photo credit: Tom Gromak (Originally uploaded to Flickr. Photo has been cropped.)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/].)