Back in July, VSiN subscribers were given the 2020 Hockey Betting Guide back, which contained Stanley Cup projections from yours truly. The Lightning had the second best odds with a 21 percent chance ( 375) which meant that there was value betting the Bolts to win it all at 650 (13 percent chance). The Stars, meanwhile, are the dark horse that a lot of people thought they were. I was not as bullish on the Stars, though. At 15/1 (6 percent chance), I didn’t believe there was any value in backing the Stars to win the Stanley Cup. I estimated that they’d only win it about 4 percent of the time (24/1). Now, here we are some two months later, and while the gap between these two teams has narrowed, it is still a lopsided matchup on paper.
Of course, the game isn’t played on paper, it’s played on a sheet of ice that is 200 feet wide and 85 feet wide. So, while I can do my best to estimate the true talent of the Lightning and the Stars, there’s always the possibility that some of these players are not operating at 100 percent. With that being said, I am going to handicap this series assuming both rosters are healthy. That includes Lightning superstar Brayden Point, who missed two games in the Eastern Conference Final due to injury.
According to Evolving Hockey, on a per 60 minute basis, the Lightning have outscored opponents by about a full goal during even strength play. The Lightning have generated even strength goals at a rate of 2.5 per 60 minutes which is in line with the 2.5 expected goals the team has generated. In their own end, they’ve only allowed 1.6 goals per 60 minutes thanks to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has saved about 5 goals above expected at even strength. The Lightning also rank first in expected goals against per 60 minutes at even strength which goes to show how good they’ve been without the puck.
The Stars have posted a (slightly) negative goal differential at even strength during these playoffs. The team was scoring goals at a higher rate than expected, however, they have had to rely on their goaltender a lot as of late. Anton Khudobin who has been stellar, specifically on the penalty kill, is the reason the Stars have made it this far. The veteran goaltender grades out similarly to Vasilevskiy at even strength, but overall, Khudobin has lifted his team to more victories. Goaltending is the only area that the Stars might have the overall edge in, but it’s probably closer to even.
The Stars have proven that they can take down some of the best teams in the league, however, they have relied too heavily on their goaltender. The Lightning have played three teams that are very similar to the Stars, and haven’t had much of an issue eliminating any of those teams. By my estimation, the Lightning will win the Stanley Cup approximately 69 percent of the time, which means they should be priced around -225.
Of course, we still have to assume that Steven Stamkos makes his long awaited return to the Lightning lineup at some point. Assuming Stamkos plays the entire series, Tampa Bay’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup would be closer to 74 percent (-285). In other words, if you don’t think Stamkos plays in the series, the price should be closer to -225. If you expect him to play all seven games the price should be closer to -285. At BetMGM, the Lightning are listed as a -182 series favorite. That is a great price regardless of whether you think Stamkos will play in all seven games or none at all as I would recommend laying the favorite to win the series at -200 or better.