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2011 Stanley Cup Playoff Picks – Lightning vs. Capitals

NHL Playoff Betting – Lightning vs Capitals Series Preview & Pick

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2011 EASTERN CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS | #1 Washington vs. #5 Tampa Bay
Friday, April 29 at Washington, 7:00 p.m., Versus, TSN
Sunday, May 1, at Washington, 7:00 p.m., Versus, CBC
Tuesday, May 3, at Tampa Bay, TBD, Versus, TSN
Wednesday, May 4, at Tampa Bay, 7:00 p.m., TSN
*Saturday, May 7, at Washington, 12:30 p.m., NBC, TSN
*Monday, May 9, at Tampa Bay, TBD, Versus, TSN
*Wednesday, May 11, at Washington, TBD, Versus, TSN

Odds To Win Cup: Tampa Bay +700, Washington +245
Lightning vs Capitals Odds To Win 7 Game Series: Lightning +160, Capitals -190

The run-and-gun Southeast Division rarely if ever gets center stage to feature a rivalry, so the Washington Capitals’ upcoming battle with the Tampa Bay Lightning could be a breath of fresh air.

Each team took a very different path to reach the Eastern Conference semifinal. The top-seeded Washington Capitals had it fairly easy against an injury-ravaged New York Rangers team that was just happy to make the playoffs.

Still – that doesn’t mean the Caps didn’t accomplish some encouraging things in that five-game series. Several of their offensive stars delivered under pressure. Alex Ovechkin led the team in points with six, including three goals, in five games –important numbers following a disappointing regular season in which he notched a career-low 32 goals. Alexander Semin, notorious for disappearing in the playoffs, scored three goals and four points, including an overtime winner. Mike Green overcame a disastrous, injury-plagued regular season to tally five points in five games. Now, the Caps just need Nicklas Backstrom to shake his funk.

Though the Rangers were an offensively challenged opponent, it was still encouraging to see the Capitals continue their trend toward vastly improved defensive play during the first round. They held the Rangers to one goal or fewer three times in five games. Michael Neuvirth came up huge, with a 1.38 goals against average and .950 save percentage for the series.

Tampa Bay took a much more difficult path to reach round two, grinding out a Game-7 victory on the road in Pittsburgh. The Lightning pose a very different threat to the Caps than Rangers did.

Even with Steven Stamkos struggling since about January, this team can score. The ageless, wily Martin St. Louis is a big-game player; he had eight points in the series against Pittsburgh. Simon Gagne carried over his hot play from late in the season and Vinny Lecavalier even chipped in six points with two game winners. The agitator Steve Downie was a major ex-factor in the series, tallying seven points with 16 PIMS. He’ll be counted on to get under the Capitals’ skin.

And then there’s Dwayne Roloson, of course. The 41-year-old goaltender has been absolutely spectacular in the playoffs. He has a 1.77 goals against average and a .950 save percentage to match Neuvirth’s despite facing 108 more shots.

After Jaroslav Halak stoned the Capitals last year, a hot goalie will always spook Caps fans and bettors. But Washington conquered an all-world goalie in Henrik Lundqvist last round. Roloson is unconscious right now but Lundqvist is still as good as anyone. That tells me that the Capital forwards are up to the task of beating Rollie the Goalie.

It also helps that the Caps should play with increased confidence in this series. They know that have a cool-as-a-cucumber- goaltender behind them in Neuvirth. They’ve won 20 of the last 26 meetings with Tampa and nine of the last 11 in Washington.

I expect a back-and-forth series. Roloson should still be a major factor; he shut Washington out twice this season. But I give Washington the slight edge. Both teams are great offensively, both teams are strong in goal – but I think Tampa is more over-reliant on its goalie whereas the Caps play sounder defensive hockey as a team. Factor that in plus the home-ice and I like the Caps to win a wild series.

Capitals vs Lightning series prediction: Capitals in seven

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About Shea Matthews

Shea Matthews the Senior Writer at CP. Lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national papers. Shea applies his knowledge to sports betting + handicapping daily, and shares winning picks with the world.


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