The Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lightning are tied in their best-of-seven playoff series entering Saturday's Game 3, but one of these clubs has all the momentum.
CBJ lost the opener 3-2, enduring five overtimes only to come up short. However, the Jackets didn't flinch and had no trouble defeating the Bolts 3-1 in Game 2 on Thursday.
Who's going to pull ahead in this epic battle? Keep reading for the rest of abe Insights' preview, which features wagers analysis, key stats, and the best odds across the biggest sportsbooks — all designed for you to make more informed and profitable betting decisions.
Date: Saturday, August 15
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Lightning 62%; Blue Jackets 40%
Spread: TB -1.5 (+175); CBJ +1.5 (-180)
Moneyline: TB -160; CBJ +150
Injuries did a number on Columbus during the regular season, and after being rather healthy coming out of the long COVID-19 hiatus, the Jackets were without alternate captain Cam Atkinson for Game 2. His status is still up in the air for Saturday.
The Lightning's electric offense isn't quite at full voltage without superstar Steven Stamkos. He's been dealing with a lower body injury since February, and it still doesn't appear his return is imminent.
18.2 vs. 9.1: These opening dueling stats are the postseason power play success rates for Tampa Bay and Columbus respectively. The Bolts are doubly more effective with the man advantage, although CBJ got power play goals in each of the first two games of this series, whereas Tampa Bay has yet to tally one.
125 vs. 85: An even simpler set of digits, but a telling one nonetheless. Those are the shot attempts for each team in this series, naturally inflated by the marathon Game 1. If the Lightning continue outpacing the Jackets to such a degree in scoring chances, they're more likely to win out in the end.
51 vs. 46: The first number is the amount of goals Columbus allowed in the third period during the 2019-20 campaign, which was the NHL's lowest total. The second figure is the goal total allowed by Tampa Bay in first periods this past season, good for No. 2 in the league.
Any casual hockey fan knows this is a first-round rematch from 2019, when the Lightning were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup and expectations were low for Columbus as the eighth seed. The Jackets wound up sweeping Tampa, and after this year's Game 2, could we be seeing a trend in a similar direction?
Well, this is a slightly different Bolts club. They don't have Stamkos in action, which may be a blessing in disguise of sorts, because it's created adversity. Even after an epic postseason collapse, Tampa Bay still managed the No. 2 seed in the East, too.
One of the issues in terms of locker room makeup and team DNA from 2018-19 was that the Lightning didn't have a single player who'd won a championship before. That changed this season, when the team brought in Patrick Maroon, who was part of the Blues' magical run to the Stanley Cup a year ago.
Back in October, Maroon spoke about having a championship mentality, which could be a suitable bit of foreshadowing if the Lightning get revenge on the Jackets, per the Tampa Bay Times' Diana C. Nearhos:
"It's the mental part of it where you go into Game 7s and it’s who’s hungry. The skill is not going to take over, it's the heart, it's what's inside you. [...] Just believe in yourself, believe in the guys in here. Make sure you're still having fun, relaxing, enjoying the game you love playing."
One could argue Tampa Bay suffered a letdown in Game 2, although it's hard to blame any team for a slight slip following a quadruple-overtime victory — a paramount example of perseverance.
The goalie battle is fascinating and as always will be a critical element to deciding Saturday's victor. Despite being new to the playoff scene, Blue Jackets youngster Joonas Korpisalo has been sensational, recording an NHL-record 85 saves in Game 1 and stopping 36 of 37 shots in Thursday's win.
Korpisalo is more than holding his own against counterpart Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy last season as the league's top goaltender, but let up three goals on just 22 shots in Game 2.
Bettors can go against the Jackets at their own peril. While public sentiment is likely to push more wagers to Tampa Bay's moneyline and spread due to its superior offensive depth, it'd be a savvy strategy to hedge with Columbus to win outright, given the odds.
With regard to the goal total, it's set a little lower than is the NHL standard, due in large part to Columbus' elite defense and the presence of two excellent netminders. Erring on the side of safety, look for more bettors to go in for the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 12:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 15.
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