The Tampa Bay Lightning have come close, but they have not captured the Stanley Cup since 2004, so it is probably with some guarded optimism that supporters of this team come into the 2018 NHL playoffs. But by virtue of the Boston Bruins failing to beat the Florida Panthers on the last day of the season, the Lightning, which posted 113 points with a 54-23-5 record, are the top seed in the Eastern Conference, as they come into their first-round best-of-seven series with the New Jersey Devils. That will begin on Thursday, and VietBet customers will have the opportunity to place wagers during the action in each and every game as they access the state-of-the-art software from Live Betting Ultra.
2018 NHL Playoff Odds – Tampa Bay Lightning vs New Jersey Devils:
In the 2018 NHL Playoff Odds posted on this opening-round Stanley Cup series at VietBet, the Lightning are a big favorite:
Tampa Bay Lightning -320
New Jersey Devils +260
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2018 NHL Playoff Odds: CJ’s Take on Tampa Bay:
When you look at the Lightning on paper, and compare them to the Devils, it does appear, to a certain extent, to be a statistical mismatch. After all, the Bolts have two of the great scorers in the league, when you consider the talents of Nikita Kucharov (39-61-100), who was third in the league in points, and Stephen Stamkos (27-59-86), who had 15 goals on a very potent power-play unit. There is a lot of depth down the roster as far as putting the puck in the net is concerned, and their cause was bolstered with a yrade right before the deadline that landed them JT Miller from the New York Rangers. Miller is not as prolific a goalscorer as Stamkos or Kucharov, but he is rather physical and gives this line some versatility it did not have before.
So can Tampa Bay fulfill its promise, or will some of the holes in this team’s make up and performance possibly heard it against a very determined New Jersey squad?
There is no question that the Lightning will offer a stiff challenge to New Jersey defense; after all, they did lead the league in goals scored in five-on-five (full strength” situations. They got some great stuff from rookies as well, including Yanni Gourde, who had 64 points, which was third among rookies, and a +34 plus-minus figure, which was tied for third-best in the league. Anton Stralman, the veteran defenseman, had only 18 points in 80 games, but he was ninth in the league with a +29 plus-minus. And Victor Hedman, who tied for the NHL lead in goals by a defenseman with 17, was sixth best in the league in that plus-minus category.
Still, even though we mentioned those defenseman, that is a potential weakness of this squad. Tampa Bay may have been the #1 Eastern seed,but they were just 14th in defensive efficiency, as goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy faced a barrage of shots. There is no question that he did good job under the circumstances, with 44 wins and eight shutouts, but Tampa Bay did not finish the season strongly, with only seven points in its last eight games. They simply must be able to kill penalties better; Jon Cooper’s squad allowed power-play goals 28.7% of the time since February 1, and that is one of the worst figures in the league. Psychologically, they must be able to overcome the fact that they lost all three meetings against the Devils this season, and Stamkos, who has suffered from the residual effect of a lot of injuries, as admitted he’s not coming into this post-season at 100%. Could this team the ripe to get taken down?
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