Hockey is back! And that’s exciting for the 32 NHL markets as the quest for the Stanley Cup begins tonight. However, the always competitive Penguins come into the season shorthanded, while the Lightning are coming off back-to-back Cups and looking to become the first team to win the title three seasons in a row since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s.
Usually, teams coming off a Stanley Cup victory are caught up in the emotion of one final pregame celebration as the championship banner is lifted to the rafters. This will be the second such ceremony for the Lightning in just 10 months, as the last two seasons were squashed together thanks to the pandemic.
But the Penguins are really going to need a team effort to try and catch the Lightning being too full after one more round of post-championship desserts.
Let’s take a look at this matchup between Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay from a betting perspective in our Penguins vs. Lightning betting preview with odds, picks, and predictions.
Click here to Bet $1, Win $100 if either team scores a regulation goal in tonight’s Penguins-Lightning game with DraftKings Sportsbook.
Penguins-Lightning: Things to Consider
Pittsburgh got some good news when captain Sidney Crosby started skating over the weekend for the first time after offseason wrist surgery. Still, the face of the Penguins is expected to miss the first week of the regular season. Couple that with a knee injury to Evgeni Malkin that will keep him out for two months, and the Penguins are thin at center.
In addition, Pittsburgh is hoping to improve on last season’s 27th ranked penalty kill but will face a stiff first test with the Lightning’s firepower with the man advantage. So, the message for the opener for the Penguins is to play within themselves and be a disciplined hockey team. Anything else could spell disaster.
The Lightning are excited about entering the season completely healthy, which is incredible since they have played more games than any team in the NHL in the last two seasons, including an additional 48 playoff games between August of 2020 and July of 2021.
They bring back all their star players, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Viktor Hedman, and the best goalie in the league in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The only loss for the Lightning was their uber-competitive third line -Blake Coleman, Yanni Gourde and Barclay Goodrow- all of whom signed free-agent deals elsewhere. But Tampa Bay was active in free agency themselves and brought in veterans Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to fill the gaps.
The Lightning are loaded for bear, and that’s got to worry the entire NHL, not just the undermanned Penguins.
Penguins vs. Lightning Odds
Here are the lines for Penguins vs. Lightning at DraftKings Sportsbook:
Spread: Penguins (+1.5 +140), Lightning (-1.5 -120)
Moneyline: Penguins (+195), Lightning (-245)
Over/Under: Over 5.5 (-120), Under 5.5 (+100)
Bets We Like With a Penguins Win
Jeff Carter to score a goal (+280, DraftKings Sportsbook)
Without Crosby and Malkin, Jeff Carter will be forced into a top-line center role for the Penguins. And while he may not be a top-line center in the NHL on a regular basis any longer at age 36, Carter proved last season after he was traded to the Penguins that he’s still got a scorer’s touch.
Likely to be used on the top power play as well and get a lot of ice time, Carter is the kind of player that you can rely on for offense, and at 2.5-to-1 odds, he’s a likely bet to score, especially if you think the Penguins can pull off the opening night upset.
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Bets We Like With a Lightning Win
Brayden Point to score at least one goal AND Tampa Bay wins the game (+200, FanDuel)
Want an easy way to swing the Tampa Bay odds of winning in your favor? Pair the expected victory with the best playoff goal scorer in the NHL over the last two seasons. OK, this isn’t a playoff game, but Point is still a dangerous goal scorer who plays a lot of key minutes for the Lightning. Tampa is going to score multiple goals in this game, so if you don’t think Point has it in him, you can get similar odds at FanDuel Sportsbook on Stamkos (+180), Kucherov (+200), or if you really want to be brazen, bet Hedman (+550).
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Bets We Like Independent of Outcome
OVER 5.5 goals (-120, BetMGM)
If you are a totals bettor, you know that in hockey, look for games to bet the OVER early in the season and the UNDER later in the season. That’s because defenses are still getting used to playing together, and goalies might not be as fresh early in the season but could be locked in later.
After taking that premise, look at the two teams. Tampa’s defense is decent but not great. The same can be said for the Penguins, who also have a goaltending duo that didn’t look all that super when we last left them in the postseason. As such, this game jumps out at you for the over.
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Penguins vs. Lightning Prediction
If Pittsburgh were healthy, this would be a far more intriguing matchup. Minus their top offensive players and Tampa at full strength and motivated to do something that hasn’t been done in 38 years and only three times in the history of the sport, it makes us think the championship celebration will be a positive, for once, and the defending champs will come away victorious.
Prediction: Lightning 5, Penguins 2