Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Pittsburgh Penguins, 01/08/17 – Prediction
Written by: Stephen Sobek
Tampa Bay Lightning (19-22 SU, 20-16-5 O/U) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (25-13 SU, 24-10-4 O/U)
NHL: Sunday, January 8 @ 5:00 p.m. ET
The Line: Pittsburgh -240/Tampa Bay +215
The Tampa Bay Lightning play their second game in as many days on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins in PPG Paints Arena. The Lightning fell 4-2 to Philadelphia on Saturday and they won’t have it any easier against the NHL’s leading scorers later this afternoon. The Penguins have won four consecutive contests dating back to New Year’s Eve but have yet to officially take the ice in 2017.
The Tampa Bay Lightning can’t put a solid period of defensive hockey together, much less a full game. Jon Cooper’s squad has relinquished 16 goals over its previous three contests. It’s very apparent that the Bolts are missing Ben Bishop in net, as the combination of Andrei Vasilevskiy and Adam Wilcox haven’t been getting the job done recently. Tampa Bay still scores at an above-average rate of 2.8 goals per game, good for 11th in the NHL. That’s the lone bright spot for a team that has been riddled with major injuries to key players the entire year.
The Lightning couldn’t handle the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, a squad that had lost five straight games entering the matchup. The final score was 4-2 in favor of the home side as the Flyers peppered the Tampa net all game long with 44 shots in total. On the other end, the Lightning could only muster 26 attempts on Michal Neuvirth’s goal. The second period proved deadly for the visitors, as Philly registered all of their goals during the middle frame. Tampa’s Nikita Nesterov had a nice outing, notching two assists and exiting the contest with one of the only positive plus/minus numbers on his team.
Don’t Mess With The Best
Don’t look now, but the Pittsburgh Penguins are putting together another solid winning streak. They’ve emerged victorious in four-in-a-row heading into Sunday’s contest with Tampa Bay. The Penguins have had an uncharacteristically long layoff, as their schedule has been empty for eight straight days. The last time they took to the ice was against Montreal at home in a 4-3 overtime win.
Defenseman Kris Letang notched assists on Pittsburgh’s last two goals versus the Habs in his first game back from injury in over two weeks. Letang has been so critical to the Pens’ success over the years, but injuries and health scares have limited his impact. Head coach Mike Sullivan remarked that Letang is: “…such a difference-maker for our team and we use him in so many situations. It’s hard to ease him in because when he’s on your bench, it’s so tempting to put him over the boards. He means so much to this team.” Evgeni Malkin tallied the game-winner in overtime via the power play on one of the Penguins’ 41 shots. He also picked up an assist earlier on to grab sole possession of second place on the NHL’s scoring list, just three points away from leader Connor McDavid, who has 46.
The Lightning are:
- 1-8 in their last 9 road games
- 3-9 in the last 12 meetings in Pittsburgh
The Penguins are:
- 8-1 in their last 9 Sunday games
The Lightning have been woeful on the road recently, and it won’t help playing one of the Eastern Conference’s most talented squads on the second half of a back-to-back. I could see the Penguins coming out flat after such a long layoff, but they’ll find their groove soon enough en route to a dominant victory over Tampa Bay.
The Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins
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