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Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Gambling Preview & Free NHL Picks

Habs vs Lightning NHL Handicapping

The puck drops on the NHL postseason on Wednesday night, one of the series features the league’s most storied franchise travelling to sunny climes to tangle with goal machine Steven Stamkos and the Lightning.

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Date/Time: Wednesday, April 16 2014, 7:00 pm EST
Venue: St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa FL
Montreal +1.5, Tampa -1.5
MoneyLine: Montreal 2.00, Tampa 1.77
Over/Under: 5

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It’s been a weird season for Tampa Bay. The franchise moved longtime cornerstone Martin St. Louis to the Big Apple and superstar Stamkos missed a profound amount of time with a broken leg. For a team that’s long seemed blessed with individual star power but cursed with depth, the Lightning have performed really well in 2013-14.

Having said that, Les Canadiens has thrived thanks to a career year for Max Pacioretty (39 goals), the skill and personality of defenseman P.K. Subban and the goaltending of Carey Price. Acquiring goal-scorer Thomas Vanek at the trade deadline from the Islanders didn’t hurt, either.

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Tampa fans should be amped up with the home game, but despite the excitement the crux of Game 1 – and possibly the entire series – is one of goaltending. Price’s accomplishments are well-known, but the Bolts have recently shut down starter Ben Bishop for at least part of the first round, who was having an inspired campaign but is gimped up with a wrist ailment.

That will be a major loss for Tampa Bay. Bishop is one of the few netminders that was playing as well as Price.

Once again, the Habs are a bit short, well… short in general (they do lack size) and, Brandon Prust notwithstanding, grit. But they are a veteran team that can skate and score. They could prove dangerous and not just in the first round.
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A major key will be Montreal containing Stamkos, who has 10 goals in his last 14 contests since returning from injury. He is virtually impossible to contain when healthy, and he’s not the type of player that takes games off even in the regular season.

Basically, he should be a force.

One of the things that can explain the Lightning’s strong season despite the hurdles is the team’s Corsi rating (like a plus/minus for shots on goal). Tampa Bay’s strong numbers in this area suggest that it has a lot of puck possession, spends ample time in the opponent’s zone and fires the biscuit.

Youngsters like Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn and Ondrej Palat have been revelations for this now-inexperienced squad (so long, Marty!)

There is a sizeable drop in performance between Bishop and backup goalie Anders Lindback, so Bishop’s health is certainly a key to the series.

In Game 1, however, I could see the Bolts buoyed by the home fans along with “Stammer” coming out like a terror and getting on the scoresheet. I expect the Habs to snag the upper hand in this series back home in Canada, but Tampa Bay could jump out to an early 1-0 series lead.

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If the Bolts can outlast Montreal in Round One, Bishop would likely be back in the fold and that would change the landscape. But they have to accomplish that first, and in the electric atmosphere of the Bell Centre I’m not sure it will happen.

Yet, I like Tampa Bay’s chances of getting off on the right foot in the opening game Wednesday night.

Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 2
take the OVER

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About James Hayes

James has been naming every player on the EA Sports video game rosters for half a decade now, he’s finally putting his knowledge to better use writing for us here at CappersPicks.com. Your comments are welcome below…Give Us Your Take!


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