- The NHL Eastern Conference round robin continues on Monday, with the Tampa Bay Lightning battling the Washington Capitals
- The Lightning enter the series uncertain about the status of captain Steven Stamkos, and riding a four-game losing streak against the Metropolitan Division champion Capitals
- We’ve got you covered with all the odds and storylines ahead of this key matchup
It remains unclear whether Steven Stamkos will be available to play on Monday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning kick off their Eastern Conference top seeding round robin schedule against the Washington Capitals as -137 favorites in the NHL playoff odds.
Washington Capitals vs Tampa Bay Lightning Odds
|Washington Capitals||+118||+1.5 (-220)||O 6.0 (-122)|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||-137||-1.5 (+180)||U 6.0 (+100)|
*Odds taken on 08/02/2020. All odds include overtime and shootout
Stamkos’ Status Uncertain
Still recovering from a lower body injury suffered during voluntary workouts prior to the start of training camp, the Lightning captain had been an active participant in practice since the club arrived in Toronto a week ago, but was held out of both Wednesday’s exhibition matchup with the Florida Panthers and Saturday’s practice session.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 2, 2020
Stamkos battled an array of injuries prior to the suspension of the NHL season in mid-March, and missed 13 total games as a result, with his most recent injury coinciding with the Lightning’s shaky 3-6-1 run to close out the abbreviated regular season. But even with their captain in the lineup, the Lightning have struggled in recent dates with Washington, falling to defeat in each of their past four, including a trio of defeats over a period of just three weeks earlier this season.
Caps Dominating Head-to-Head
Tampa Bay has been largely dominated by the Capitals during their current four-game losing streak, tallying just nine total goals in those contests. Despite their lack of production, the total topped 6.0 in three of those contests, and sports bettors taking the OVER in puck totals betting have now cashed in five of six clashes between these two clubs going into Monday afternoon’s matchup at Scotiabank Arena.
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) December 22, 2019
In addition to their middling production against the Capitals, the Lightning offense also sputtered at times during the final weeks of the regular season, averaging just three goals per game over their final 10 contests, and scoring two or fewer goals on three occasions over their final seven.
Lightning Desperate to End Postseason Slide
The Lightning also have work to do to overcome a dismal trend in Game 1 situations. The club has fallen to defeat in each of their past three series openers, and eight of their past 12 since 2014. That includes last season’s shocking loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round, a series they would go on to lose in four games. Indeed, playoff hockey has been largely unkind to the Bolts over the past two years.
After taking a 3-2 series lead over Washington in their Eastern Conference Final clash two years ago, the Lightning failed to score in a pair of subsequent losses, and have now scored just eight total goals during a six-game losing streak in playoff action overall. Despite those dismal trends, Tampa Bay continues to sport short +180 odds of scoring first and coming away with a victory on Monday afternoon, while the puck total is favored to go OVER 6.0, with -122 odds.
Holtby Key to Capitals’ Success
While the Lightning look to halt their recent postseason freefall, the Capitals are hoping to bounce back from a shaky stretch run of their own, as they hit the ice as +118 underdogs in the Capitals vs Lightning odds. Washington claimed its fifth straight Metropolitan Division crown this season, but sputtered down the stretch, going 7-9-3 over their final 19 games.
CAPS TODAY: Braden Holtby enters the 2019-20 playoffs ranking second in NHL history among goaltenders with at least 50 career playoff games in save percentage (.928) and tied for seventh in goals against average (2.09). More info on Holtby and the Caps at https://t.co/HecIC0ECg1 pic.twitter.com/o7yqDeIqAQ
— CapitalsPR (@CapitalsPR) July 14, 2020
The silver lining to be found in the Capitals’ season-closing swoon was the improved play of goaltender Braden Holtby. Dogged by inconsistent play that opened the door for talented rookie Ilya Samsonov to make a case to take over as the starter, Holtby stepped up down the stretch, going 4-1-2 over his final seven starts.
That marked a dramatic improvement over the 5-10-0 record he compiled over his previous 15 outings. Holtby’s return to familiar form would be particular timely for the Capitals in light of the unavailability of Samsonov, who suffered a season-ending injury during the pause.
Backstrom On a Roll vs Bolts
And while the Capitals have a recent playoff failure to atone for, the recent rest will likely benefit the club’s veteran core, which is just two years removed from their first Stanley Cup championship win. Most notable among them is Nicklas Backstrom, who has powered the Washington offense during their recent domination of the Lightning.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) December 15, 2019
In addition to tallying three total points in the final two games of the Capitals’ playoff comeback against Tampa Bay two years ago, Backstrom has potted three goals and three assists over his past four regular season dates with the Bolts, and has recorded 15 career multi-point games vs the Lightning.
That track record adds value to the +360 betting odds of Backstrom scoring sometime during a Monday’s contest, in turn boosting the value of the Capitals to draw first blood in this series.
Picks: Washington Capitals (+118); OVER 6.0 (-122); Nicklas Backstrom to score (+360)
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