The marquee matchup on a busy Saturday of NHL action is the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Boston Bruins in a potential playoff preview. Which way to lean at BMR’s top-rated sportsbooks?
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Boston Bruins
Saturday, December 4, 2021 – 07:00 PM EST – at TD Garden
It’s a shame that Tampa Bay and Boston are both in the Atlantic Division because both at full strength are plenty good enough to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, but they can’t meet in that round because they are in the same division.
To win the East, which the Lightning have done the past two seasons on the way to capturing back-to-back Cups, Tampa Bay is +800 at BMR’s top-rated books and Boston +1600. It’s doubtful either wins the Atlantic Division simply because both Florida (+125 for division) and Toronto (+160) are also very good.
We are pretty deep into the season yet this will be the first regular-season meeting between the clubs with four scheduled. Last season with the unusual scheduling during the pandemic, the teams didn’t play. Their last meeting was in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in the summer of 2020 in the bubble. The Lightning won the series in five.
Tampa Bay is 16-5 ATS in the past 21 meetings overall.
Lightning Avoid The Blues
Tampa Bay (13-5-4) snapped a two-game skid (both on the road) with a 4-2 home victory over St. Louis on Thursday – the same Blues team the Lightning lost to 4-3 in a shootout in St. Louis on Tuesday, blowing a 3-0 lead.
Defenseman and former Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman was the No. 1 star Thursday with two goals and an assist. His score at 8:09 broke a 2-2 tie. He scored again a little over two minutes later. Hedman, a future Hall of Famer, notched his eighth career multi-goal game and first since March 5, 2020.
Ondrej Palat also had a goal, snapping a 10-game points drought. Anthony Cirelli had the other goal, his eighth of the season and second straight game with one. It was Cirelli’s third power-play goal of the season, the second-most on the team.
The Bolts won despite allowing the Blues to go 2-for-4 with the man advantage. Tampa Bay did block 22 shot attempts by St. Louis. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 26 saves to improve to 11-4-3 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. He should be in there Saturday.
Tampa remains without two of its best offensive players in Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, and both are out longer-term. Right-wing Mathieu Joseph missed Thursday’s game injured but did travel with the team so he’s getting close. He has three goals and four assists in 20 games.
Regarding Saturday’s game, the Bolts are 2-5 on the NHL picks in their past seven as road underdogs.
Bruins Consistently Inconsistent
Boston (12-8-0) has alternated wins and losses over its past seven so perhaps is due a loss here as the Bruins won in Nashville 2-0 on Thursday. The team essentially rotates Jeremy Swayman and Lucas Ullmark in net and Swayman got the call in that one and stopped a career-high 42 shots. It was his third career shutout and Swayman was only the fourth Boston netminder to record 42 or more saves in a shutout and the first since Jonas Gustavsson back on March 8, 2016.
We won’t know who is in net for Saturday’s game likely until early in the day, but I’d find it hard to believe that the team wouldn’t go back to the hot hand in Swayman. The Bruins were 1-for-4 on the power play vs. Nashville and have scored four power-play goals over the last three games in 10 opportunities.
Coach Bruce Cassidy is away from the Bruins in the COVID protocols. Assistant Joe Sacco is running the show for now. Winger Anton Blidh missed his second straight game Thursday due to injury and defenseman Jakub Zboril left injured. Not huge losses.
This will be the last game of a three-game suspension for Bruins star forward Brad Marchand. He was dinged by the NHL for slew-footing Vancouver's Oliver Ekman-Larsson last Sunday even though Marchand wasn’t penalized on the play. Slew-footing is a player using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent's feet out from under them. Marchand leads the team with nine goals and 24 points.
The Bruins are 11-4 on the NHL odds in their past 15 as favorites. I’m backing Boston simply as it’s at home. If the Lightning were at home, I’d do the same. When teams are evenly-matched, that’s the tiebreaker.
*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.