As the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning prepare to face off in Saturday's round-robin finale, the high stakes are simple to grasp: the winner gets the No. 1 playoff seed in the East.
Philadelphia has swept through games against the Bruins and Capitals by a combined score of 7-2, while Tampa Bay eked out one-goal victories over those two clubs. Boston was the regular-season champion, yet can only do as well as the third seed now.
In the following betting preview from abe Insights, you'll find analysis of how wagers should trend for this exceptional matchup, along with the best odds available and informative stats to consider before wagering.
Date: Saturday, August 8
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Flyers 45%; Lightning 57%
Spread: PHI +1.5 (-210); TB -1.5 (+200)
Moneyline: PHI +120; TB -134
After notching a goal and an assist in the 4-1 win over Boston, Michael Raffl was injured last Sunday. The Flyers are even more dinged up with top-line forward Jakub Voracek out, and the club was a little coy as to why he couldn't play Saturday.
The clear notable injury on Tampa Bay's side continues to be franchise cornerstone Steven Stamkos. He's been dealing with a lower body injury since late February, and doesn't appear on track to return any time soon.
3.89 vs. 3.18: The latter figure was Tampa Bay's average goals per game after the All-Star break in the regular season. Philly led the NHL during that time span in nearly averaging four goals per contest, and that momentum has carried over to the playoffs.
24.2 vs. 12.9: Another post All-Star break comparison here is the Flyers' far superior power play percentage amid the 2019-20 campaign's home stretch. The Fly Guys ranked tied for eighth, whereas the Bolts were 27th of 31 teams.
1.50 vs. 2.61: These are the goals against averages for probable starting goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Carter Hart from their regular-season meetings this year. The Lightning got the upper hand on both occasions, as Vasilevskiy's superior total suggests.
While Philadelphia's offense has carried the load in a big way to position the franchise for an improbable No. 1 seed, it was the defense the last time out that really got the job done. In a 3-1 victory over Washington, the Flyers yielded only 17 shots to the Caps' explosive attack.
That certainly made things easier on goaltender Brian Elliott, who will likely sit in the round-robin finale in favor of prodigious netminder Hart. The 21-year-old was far better at home than on the road this season, yet he turned aside 34 of 35 shots in his last start against the Bruins, so Hart seems to be adjusting fine to the playoff atmosphere.
Chemistry is a bit of a concern for Philadelphia's first line without Voracek, and the good news for the Lightning is, they've adjusted to life without Stamkos for some time now. Plenty of depth exists on both offenses, so it'll likely come down to how well Hart and his counterpart Vasilevskiy guard the crease.
Vasilevskiy is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the NHL's top goaltender. One lingering demon he and Tampa Bay have to fight off, though, is the fact that they got swept out of the first round by Columbus in last year's postseason. No evidence of a carryover effect as of yet, but something to monitor on Saturday and going forward.
Both these offenses are extremely explosive, and despite the presence of savvy goalies, one of these round-robin games is bound to be a high-scoring thriller, which we haven't really seen yet. Thus, expect more action to be taken on the Over goal total.
As for the winner and puck line? Well, oddsmakers seem to favor Tampa Bay, and there's no question the Lightning spread is the more appealing option. Philadelphia has done surprisingly well away from home in the round-robin tournament, though, and given the aforementioned playoff hex Tampa is fighting against, wagers are liable trend toward the Flyers moneyline at slightly better odds.
Note: Odds current as of 11:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 8.
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