The Tampa Bay Lightning has swept the Florida Panthers in just four games in extraordinary fashion in their Eastern Conference 2nd Round Playoff.
The Lightning is now the second favorite with the top Vegas NHL betting sites to retain the Stanley Cup. And after winning it for the previous two seasons, can they now upset the current Stanley Cup betting favorites, the Colorado Avalanche, and make it three Stanley Cups in a row?
|2022 Stanley Cup Winner Odds|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+250||+225|
|New York Rangers||+1500||+1600|
|St. Louis Blues||+10000||+8000|
Going into the 2nd Round Playoff series, the Florida Panthers were the favorites to win the series and the second-favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2022.
Many NHL observers might not be shocked to see the Panthers eliminated at this stage. But I guess that most are shocked by the manner of their elimination.
The Panthers were taken apart by the Lightning. Scorelines of 4-1, 2-1, 5-1, and 2-0 show just how dominant Tampa Bay has been.
Right from the off, Tampa was on the front foot. In the opening match at the FLA Live Arena, the Lightning crushed them by four goals to one. In hindsight, that may be the point the dye was cast.
The Panthers never really recovered from that 4-1 thrashing. And although they ran Match 2 close, losing to Ross Colton’s winner after 19 minutes and 56 seconds of the 3rd Period was a knockout blow.
With the best of seven series then standing at 2-0 to the Lightning, the tie switched across town to the home of the Lightning, the Amalie Arena. On home ice, Jon Cooper’s team won Match 3 by five goals to one. And then Match 4 by two goals to zero.
In three of the four matches between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers, the Lightning’s goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was the busier man. In Match 1, Vasilevskiy made 33 saves from 34 shots; Florida goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, made 32 saves from 36 shots.
In Match 2, Vasilevskiy saved 36 of the 37 shots he faced, while Bobrovsky only had 29 shots to deal with, of which he could only save 27 of them.
Then in Match 3, Vasilevskiy saved 34 shots out of 35. With Bobrovsky only able to keep out 31 of the 34 shots he was asked to deal with.
Finally, in Match 4, Vasilevskiy made an astonishing 49 saves from 49 shots. Bobrovsky had only 25 shots to face, almost half as many less, and he could only keep out 24 of them.
The 27-year-old has been instrumental in helping Tampa Bay win back-to-back Stanley Cups and is playing a large part in this season’s run to the Conference Final.
It is no coincidence that Vasilevskiy won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player in the 2021 playoffs. Just for good measure, he also won the Vezina Trophy in 2018/19.
With Tampa Bay currently guaranteed their spot in the conference final, they are going to have the edge in the betting odds. Should the Carolina Hurricanes overcome the New York Rangers, it could be a different story for the tag of favorites.
The latest Vegas NHL betting odds for the Eastern Conference are:
The Lightning has shown themselves to be masters of this format over the past two years. Last year they defeated the Hurricanes four games to one in the 2nd Round – underlining their superiority when it comes to best of seven series.
In the opening two matches between the Lightning and Hurricanes, Jon Cooper’s won them both 2-1. On both occasions, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the busier goaltender – and by some considerable distance in Match 2.
The point is, the Lightning seem to be able to absorb pressure and grind their opponents down. This is what they did to the Panthers in the last round, and it was an instrumental tactic in their victory over the Hurricanes last year.
The game plan is ideal for a best-of-seven series, and I can see them doing it again to the Hurricanes if they make it to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Lightning didn’t have things all their way in a topsy-turvy conference final with the New York Islanders last year.
The Islanders pushed them in a series that involved an 8-0 match to the Lightning. But ultimately, the Lightning won the series 4-3 with a 1-0 scoreline deciding the final match.
To date, along with the 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in this year’s 1st Playoff Round, this is the closest the Lightning have been pushed.
But even in both these close contests, they found a way to come through.
As has been the case all season, the Colorado Avalanche are the main threat to the Lightning. Jared Bednar’s team has been the favorites all season, and it’s going to take some team to beat them.
In the two years that Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup, they didn’t have to face the Avalanche in the playoffs.
While Bednar’s team may be the favorites, they don’t have the experience of Tampa Bay when it comes to going deep into the playoffs.
It would be some final if the two teams could get there. And I’m hoping and expecting they will.
Dean has a strong affinity for the English Premier League and cricket, but his extensive understanding of sports allows him to discuss a wide range of athletic topics. Previously, Dean has explored the world to attend events such as the FIFA World Cup and Ashes cricket matches, but currently, he prefers to enjoy sports from the coziness of his home.