Smashville is set to host the NHL’s latest outdoor game Saturday at Nissan Stadium when the Predators host the Lightning. It will be the second outdoor game this season and the 34th since 2000.
Earlier this season, the Wild hosted the Blues at Target Field in the coldest outdoor game in history. No such records will be set Saturday, with a forecast of 44 degrees in Nashville.
The Predators have struggled since the holidays and don’t come close to matching the Lightning’s star power. Nashville typically has an edge in goal with Juuse Saros, but the Lightning will have Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pipes on Saturday. Both goaltenders are among the league’s best, but with two Stanley Cup rings and a Vezina Trophy, the edge goes to Vasilevskiy. The Lightning have an edge on defense as well, ranking in the top 10 of Evolving Hockey’s expected goals model. The Predators rank 21st in that category.
Tampa Bay also grades out as a top-10 offense, while Nashville is closer to average. The Predators rank 21st in expected goals for on a per 60-minute basis, while the Lightning are one of 11 teams that generate more than three expected goals per 60 minutes.
The Lightning are 11-5 straight up since Jan. 1, while the Predators are 9-9. Without question, the Lightning are the superior team. According to my model, the Lightning should be priced around -175. There is little evidence to suggest the Predators will find any home-ice advantage.
Home teams have won eight of the last 14 outdoor games, but over the course of the outdoor series, home teams have only won 45.5% of the time. Most recently, the Blues defeated the Wild 6-4 in Minnesota.
The Lightning will have had two days off prior to this game, one more than the Predators. Sportsbooks have not yet posted a game line, but there’s value if bettors can lay the Lightning at -155 or better. The Lightning sometimes don’t seem to be all that invested in regular-season games, but on a big stage such as this, I’m not concerned about whether the best team in hockey will show up. In order to justify a bet on the Predators, their odds would have to be + 185 or better.