Back in July in VSiN’s 2020 Hockey Betting Guide, my power ratings gave the Lightning the second-best chance to win the Stanley Cup at 21 percent, which equates to +375 odds. That meant when the lines were released, I saw value betting the Bolts to win it all at +650.
I was not as bullish on the Stars, though. I gave them a four-percent chance to win the Cup (equivalent to 24/1 odds). The initial odds put them at 15/1, which looked to be a bad bet. 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.
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 because of 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 scored even-strength goals at a rate of 2.5 per 60 minutes and have allowed 1.6 goals per 60 minutes thanks to goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who has saved about five goals above expected at even strength. The Lightning also rank first in expected goals against per 60 minutes at even strength, which illustrates 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, it has had to rely on their goaltender a lot as of late. Anton Khudobin has been stellar, specifically on the penalty kill. Goaltending is the only area where the Stars might have the edge, but it’s probably closer to even.
The Stars have taken down some of the best teams in the league, but they have relied too heavily on Khudobin. The Lightning have played three teams that are very similar to the Stars, and haven’t had much of an issue eliminating any of them.
By my estimation, the Lightning will win this Stanley Cup matchup approximately 69 percent of the time, which means they should be priced around -225, without Steven Stamkos. If Stamkos can return, Tampa Bay’s chances would be closer to 74 percent (-285). BetMGM lists the Lightning as -182 series favorites. That is a great price regardless of whether you think Stamkos will play in all seven games or none.
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