The Tampa Bay Lightning managed to keep the dream of a three-peat alive after winning back-to-back elimination games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. The 4-3 series win will see the Lightning take on the Florida Panthers in the second round of the playoffs, pinning the reigning Stanley Cup champions up against the President’s Trophy winners. We’ll be making our Lightning-Panthers predictions for their second-round series ahead of the high-stakes matchup.
While the Panthers enjoyed a prolific regular season, they struggled in the first round against the Capitals in what many expected would be a cakewalk of a matchup. Florida went down early in the series before rallying and winning 4-2, but it was a far closer matchup than many had anticipated. The Panthers’ offense wasn’t as sharp as it looked throughout the regular season. While they managed to get the job done, Florida was often slow out the gate and found themselves playing from behind far too often. That might have been something they could overcome against Washington, but it would be far more difficult to claw back against the Lightning.
Click here for our Risk Free $1000 Bet!
*To claim, new users need to register, make a first deposit, and then simply place their first real-money wager on FanDuel Sportsbook up to $1000! If a user loses their first wager, we’ll refund their losses in the form of a free bet up to $1000!*
The Lightning are looking to become the first team in NHL history to win three consecutive Stanley Cup Championships, and getting past the Panthers will be their next test. Without further ado, here are our bold predictions for the Lightning against the Panthers.
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy is dominant in net
One area the Tampa Bay Lightning will have the advantage in this series is in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy is one of hockey’s best goaltenders and he proved that throughout the first round. When the team needed him most, Vasilevskiy was impenetrable, surrendering a total of four goals in the final two elimination games. In that span, the 27-year-old recorded 60 saves on 64 shots, good for a sterling .938 save percentage. He’s at his best in games following a loss, and he’s been huge for the Lightning in the clutch all year. If he’s at his usual self, the Panthers’ high-octane offense may struggle to inflict its usual damage.
2. Nikita Kucherov records more than 10 points in the series
The Lightning have some of the most experienced playoff performers in the league on their roster, and they’ll lean heavily upon them in the series against the Panthers. Nikita Kucherov could be the team’s X-factor in the series and will likely look to be assertive offensively in order to give Tampa an edge. Kucherov had eight points in the first-round series against the Maple Leafs, and we’re expecting him to play an even bigger role against the Panthers. The 28-year-old pulls all the strings for the Lightning, alongside Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point, and the trio will look to inflict damage every time they step out onto the ice. Double-digit points may sound like a lot, but for a player of Kucherov’s caliber, it’s something he can achieve even if the series doesn’t extend seven games.
1. Lightning take care of business in 6 or fewer games
Tampa Bay needed seven games to get past the Maple Leafs, but they’ll be entering this series on a high after winning in back-to-back elimination games. The Lightning have played well defensively in each of the last two games, and could overwhelm Florida’s defense early on. While the Capitals relinquished leads to the Panthers rather easily, that won’t be the case against the Lightning. Florida’s tendency to fall behind against Washington won’t be as simple to overcome against a team like Tampa Bay, who are superior defensively and can also extend a lead in the blink of an eye. While Florida’s offense carried them throughout the season, they seem to have lost a step in the playoffs. If Florida’s offense can’t get in rhythm, Tampa should have this series wrapped up without needing seven games.