Two of the league’s preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup will meet in the rocky mountains tonight, as the Tampa Bay Lightning (39-15-5) will visit the Colorado Avalanche (33-18-6). The Avalanche walloped the Lightning early in the season, winning by a score of 6-2.
Here is a preview for Monday night’s powerhouse matchup, along with odds and a free pick.
By the Numbers
The Lightning are the hottest team in the league, currently riding a 10-game winning streak with eight of those wins coming in regulation. Tampa Bay is second in goals per game with 3.54, trailing only their opponents tonight.
Despite their 15th-ranked 31.4 shots on goal, their 11.3 shooting percentage is the best in hockey. Their power play is also among the league’s best with 23.3 percent success, ranking sixth.
With 2.64 goals allowed, the Lightning are fourth in the NHL, establishing themselves as a great defensive team as well. They have allowed 30.9 shots per game on average, and have a penalty kill that cracks the top-five with 83.5 success.
The Avalanche were also playing good hockey recently with five consecutive wins and seven wins over eight games but come in with back-to-back losses. Just like they have for much of the season, Colorado leads the league with 3.56 goals allowed on 32.9 shots, which is seventh.
They also have the third-best shooting percentage at 10.8, but their 19.3 percent success on the power play is only 19th.
Colorado is also a fairly well-balanced team, coming in eighth in the NHL with 2.79 goals allowed. But their 31.8 shots allowed is 20th, while their penalty kill is 18th with a 78.9 percent success rate while they’re shorthanded.
Who to Watch
Last year’s MVP Nikita Kucherov is at the forefront of Tampa Bay’s surge. After a two-point night against the Flyers, Kucherov has at least one point in each of his last 13 games. He now has 28 points and 44 assists as he continues to rise up the points leaderboard as the Lightning rise up the standings.
Tampa’s other stars like Brayden Point and Victor Hedman are also having big stretches. Point, who now has 56 points in as many games, has a 10-game, 14-point streak on the table against the Avs.
Hedman is also continuing his reputation as one of the league’s best offensive defensemen, with 40 assists in 57 games. Seven of those assists have come in the last six contests.
Colorado’s league-high scoring is due in large part to Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon, a former Hart Trophy finalist, had two goals and four assists during his recent five-game point streak. He’s now one of just four players in the league to reach the 80-point mark, scoring 30 goals and dishing out 48 assists.
MacKinnon’s linemates are also finding success in recent games, making Colorado’s first line very dangerous. Mikko Rantanen has two goals and an assist during his three-game point streak, reaching 40 points in an injury-shortened 41 games.
Meanwhile, Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog had a pair of goals during a three-game point streak, now giving him 15 goals in 41 games as well.
Expect Tampa Bay’s star goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy to man the net. Vasilevskiy is 32-9-3 with a 2.42 GAA and .921 save percentage.
Colorado will likely counter with Philipp Grubauer in goal. Grubauer is 18-12-4 with a 2.63 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Odds and Pick
Despite Tampa Bay’s 10-game winning streak, the Avalanche are slight favorite tonight at -130. Colorado is 15-9-4 at home this season, while Tampa Bay has a 19-8-3 away record.
These are the two highest-scoring teams in the NHL, so the potential for lots of goals is certainly there. But each team also has a fairly good defense and strong goaltending as well.
However, I give the slight edge to Tampa Bay, who has the better goalie and a deeper team, along with an advantage on special teams. Give me the Lightning +110 to take the victory and make it 11 in a row.