Columbus Blue Jackets (47-31-4) at Tampa Bay Lightning (62-16-4)
NHL Hockey: Monday, April 9, 2019 (Amalie Arena)
Line and Odds: Tampa Bay Lightning -220 Over/Under 6.5
Draftkings Picks TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING vs. COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Oh my god! Oh my god! It’s April! You know what that means? It means 4/20; Easter and the Stanley Cup Playoffs are now among us. How long some of us have been waiting for this month to come, if only because the lack of the Sabres securing a playoff spot made the race oh so anti-climatic to me. In reality, it wasn’t anti-climactic at all. In fact, it was one of the most exciting races to the playoffs in recent years but the spots have been secured and the race to Lord Stanley has officially begun.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the first team to secure their spot. They’re coming off one of the greatest regular seasons in NHL History. They’re only the third team in NHL History to win 60 or more games in the regular season and tied the NHL record for wins with 62.
The last team to do so, the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, was stopped by the Avalanche of Colorado in the Conference Finals. That led to one of the greatest rivalries in the history of sport. No pun intended when I say this but will lightning strike twice in this regard? If so, which team will emerge as the arch-nemesis of Tampa Bay and will the rivalry be as intense?
In any event, there’s no team in the NHL that’s loaded in every facet of the game quite like the Lightning are. Nikita Kucherov had the highest scoring season in 20 years and will walk away with the Hart Trophy. There’s a good chance Andrei Vasilevskiy wins the Vezina. That Victor Hedman wins another Norris Trophy, despite missing the last few games, and that Jon Cooper walks away with the Jack Adams Award (although, Barry Trotz most likely has this award locked down).
On the outside looking in, it doesn’t appear any team in the NHL poses a real threat the Tampa Bay Lightning. Least of all, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who just squeaked into the postseason. I know this is the postseason and that the regular season doesn’t mean a damn thing but it’s looking like Columbus is going to be a sacrifice team for the Bolts.
Looking at the strengths of Columbus entering this game, it’s their skilled forward and goalie who both happen to hail from the same country of Russia. Oddly enough, the most skilled forward on the Lightning and their goalie also hail from Russia but if we’re making a comparison here, the Lightning are the Red Army team and the Blue Jackets are the US Olympic team. I don’t see a miracle happening here.
FanDuel Picks COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS VS TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
What would it take for a miracle? Well, the Lightning would have to reincarnate the 2007 Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks came off of their Finals loss to the Heat with the greatest regular season they’ve ever had. Dirk was named MVP of the league and the Mavs were expected to go far. They didn’t make it past the first round because they underestimated the Golden State Warriors and their game plan fell apart.
Tampa Bay might be slightly underestimating their opponent in the first round but I don’t think they’re going to fall apart like the Mavs did. When I look at the Lightning, I see a team that doesn’t have any weaknesses. Some could point to their performance in last years Conference Finals and throw the “Choker” label around but it was one run.
This Lightning team is far greater than either last years team or the teams that won in 2004 or lost in 2015. If Sergei Bobrovsky can steal a game for the Jackets, that’s the only way I can see them having a chance but even that might not be enough for them to take game one. Even if the Jackets do take game one, it might be the only win they have in this series. I’m not expecting them to win any games in this series but this is the playoffs we’re talking about.
In any event: Tampa Bay 6-Columbus 2