On Wednesday night, the 2021 National Hockey League regular season kicks off with a marquee matchup between the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Chicago Blackhawks.
Let’s take at how to play this one in our Blackhawks vs. Lightning betting preview with odds, picks and predictions.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning Betting Preview
Two of the NHL’s most successful franchises over the last decade-plus square off at Amalie Arena to open up what will be a crazy, condensed 2021 regular season schedule. The 56-game division-only sprint that clubs will run this year ensures that teams will become very familiar with one another, brooding some potential bad blood over the coming months.
For the defending champs in Tampa Bay, they start off the year with a large piece of their recent success missing for the season, as winger Nikita Kucherov is out recovering from hip surgery. The former Hart Memorial Trophy winner scored 33 goals and tallied 52 assists last season, plus another seven goals and 27 assists in the postseason to help the Bolts hoist their first Stanley Cup since 2004.
Thankfully, the Lightning will have their captain Steven Stamkos back in the line-up for this contest. The oft-injured sniper only played in one single game during last year’s playoffs, but he made the most of his appearance, scoring the opening goal in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. His talent, energy and leadership will be needed if this squad looks to repeat as Stanley Cup winners in 2021.
On the flipside, the Chicago Blackhawks are looking to fill some giant voids in their lineup left open due to injuries. Captain Jonathan Toews is out indefinitely due to an undisclosed illness, while second line centerman Kirby Dach is out for the year recovering from a surgically-repaired broken wrist. Previously, both players contributed heavily on both the power play and penalty kill, and their absence will be felt immediately.
There remains some solid talent with this Hawks squad, with superstar Patrick Kane still leading the way offensively, along with young snipers Alex DeBrincat and Dominik Kubalik, the latter of which finished as a Calder Trophy finalist. The 25-year-old Czech native scored 30 goals in his first season over in North America, adding another four goals and four assists in nine playoff appearances, playing a key role in their qualifying round upset over Edmonton before Chicago was eliminated by Vegas in the next series.
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Blackhawks vs. Lightning Odds
Here are the lines for Blackhawks vs. Lightning at DraftKings Sportsbook:
Spread: Blackhawks (+1.5 -137); Lightning (-1.5 +116)
Moneyline: Blackhawks (+185); Lightning (-225)
Over/Under: Over 6.5 (+100)/Under 6.5 (-121)
Bets We Like With a Blackhawks Win
Blackhawks Team Total OVER 3 Goals (+165, DraftKings)
The biggest strength for the Blackhawks this season is their offensive depth, starting with the aforementioned trio of Patrick Kane, Alex DeBrincat & Dominik Kubalik. Add into the mix a returning Andrew Shaw, who’s modifying his gritty style of play into a more offensive style after recovering from head injuries in each of his last two seasons. Also making some noise during the short training camp was newcomer Pius Suter. The 24-year old Swiss native joins the Blackhawks from the Swiss National League where he posted 30 goals and 58 points for Zurich ZSC.
Chicago will fire the puck early and often in this contest, and for them to have a chance to pull the upset, they will have to score at least three goals. Last season, the Blackhawks netted three or more tallies in 53 games, going 20-18-6 in those contests.
Teams that open the season after winning a Stanley Cup tend to start games a bit slower than usual. In most cases, there’s a big delay before puck drop with the banner raising ceremonies, which can be long and often emotional for the returning players and the crowds. However, with no fans in the stands for this year’s opener, the ceremony may not be as elaborate as in previous years. Regardless, this Lightning team is turning around quickly after a very long, grueling postseason run, and they may need a period or two to shake the rust off.
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Bets We Like With a Lightning Win
Lightning to Win in Regulation (-155, PointsBet)
NOTE: This play is listed under different names depending on your sportsbook of choice. Some call this a 60-Minute Line, others a 3-Way line or regulation line.
This Tampa Bay squad is still deep and talented, even with the absence of Kucherov and following the trades of Cedric Paquette and Brayden Coburn to Ottawa. The Bolts still have Stamkos, forward Brayden Point, who was a major factor scoring some clutch goals during the playoffs, and Victor Hedman, their top defenseman who took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP this past fall. With the goaltending of Andrei Vasileviskiy, the Lightning are always in-play to win a hockey game, and with their recent success against the Blackhawks, winning 8 of their last 10 meetings, I’m looking for the home team to open up 2021 with a victory in regulation.
Bets We Like Independent of Outcome
First Period Over 1.5 (-136, DraftKings)
Over the last three NHL Seasons, no proposition wager has been hotter amongst bettors than the first period over trend, and the two clubs who led the path with that prop are meeting up in this game.
Chicago’s defense and goaltending are gigantic question marks this season. Chicago ranked 30th out of 31 teams in total shots allowed last season with 2,852. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay fired off 2,620 shots on goal, and led the league with a 12.2% shooting percentage. Look for the shaky blue-line corps of Chicago, led by aging veteran Duncan Keith and a mashup of oft-injured Connor Murphy & Calvin de Haan, to struggle here against Stamkos & Company, especially if they take a penalty or two early.
As noted above, we could see an early lack of focus from Tampa Bay, so we should see at least a pair of goals score within the first 20 minutes of play.
Blackhawks vs. Lightning Prediction
The Lightning are still one of the best clubs in the NHL, and even with Nikita Kucherov gone, they have a strong unit up front, solid defense, and one of the best goaltenders in the world. Chicago is expected to go through a significant tailspin right out of the gate with Toews and Dach out. Outside of Patrick Kane, nobody in this line-up is consistently reliable. Look for Tampa Bay to pull away and win this game 5-2.
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