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We closed out Round 3 with an 8-2 record to continue what's been a very profitable postseason. Now, we're about to be treated to a terrific Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars.
The Lightning entered the postseason as betting favorites in the Eastern Conference and have shown why by losing just four times en route to the finals.
Dallas took a much different path. The Stars began the playoffs with +1600 odds to win the Stanley Cup, which were only the fourth-best in the Western Conference and more than double that of the Vegas Golden Knights (+550) and Colorado Avalanche (+650), both of whom Dallas beat to secure a date with the Lightning.
The Stars were doubted every step of the way, being offered at longer than 2-1 to beat out the Avalanche and Golden Knights, as well as at plus-money in every game in those series. Oddsmakers are now offering them at +160 to lift the Stanley Cup for the second time in franchise history.
Here's how these teams have fared at five-on-five so far in the bubble, including round-robin play.
|METRIC||TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING||DALLAS STARS|
|xGF/60||2.35 (6th)||2.16 (11th)|
|xGA/60||1.75 (1st)||2.23 (19th)|
|xGF%||57.30 (4th)||49.18 (13th)|
|HDCF/60||11.35 (9th)||10.68 (11th)|
|HDCA/60||8.16 (3rd)||10.93 (16th)|
|HDCF%||58.17 (4th)||49.42 (14th)|
|SH%||8.11 (9th)||8.48 (8th)|
|SV%||94.09 (5th)||91.80 (15th)|
The Lightning hold an edge in almost every category, but these numbers don't tell the whole story.
Dallas faced two of the league's best possession teams, with the Golden Knights and Avalanche sitting first and second, respectively, among playoff teams in offense generated. Those matchups will prepare the Stars for a similar opponent in the Lightning.
The Stars have also significantly improved throughout the playoffs and enter the finals playing their best hockey. They did well to limit the Golden Knights to just 2.08 expected goals for per 60 minutes, well below their overall playoff rate of 2.80. Goalie Anton Khudobin found his form at the perfect time, too, posting a .950 save percentage in five games against Vegas, and the Stars' offensive consistency hasn't wavered.
Injuries will also play a significant role. Conn Smythe favorite Brayden Point is far from 100% as he continues to nurse a lower-body injury, and based on how the Lightning are monitoring his usage, it's safe to assume he'll miss at least one game and play at less than full strength when he is out there. Add in the fact that Steven Stamkos remains unavailable, and the needle shifts significantly in the Stars' direction.
Tampa Bay is still the favorite in this series, but much less so than the betting line indicates. For those considering a series bet on the Lightning, perhaps wait until after Game 1 for a potentially much better price.
Game 1 being played Saturday night is a significant disadvantage for the Lightning, who've played nearly nine periods of hockey in the last four nights while the Stars have been idle.
That's especially concerning for Point, whose status is up in the air after he played nearly 26 minutes in Game 6 against the New York Islanders. With the Lightning having less than 48 hours to recover from a grueling series, the Stars are excellent value to take Game 1 and move within three wins of lifting the Stanley Cup.
Should that happen, you'll get the Lightning at close to even money to win the series from down 1-0. But anything +140 or longer warrants a bet on the Stars to win it all.
Pick: Stars to win series (+160), Stars to win Game 1 (+140)
(Odds source: theScore Bet)
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.