For years, the Carolina Hurricanes have been the darlings of the hockey analytics world. Season after season, Carolina is among the league leaders in Corsi (an advanced statistic that measures a team’s strength by its shot attempts taken and allowed).
However, sharp bettors haven’t been rewarded for their faith in the Canes. Despite its territorial dominance of opponents in recent years, Carolina hasn’t made the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2009 – the longest postseason drought in the entire league. Whether it’s a lack of ability to finish offensively or subpar performance from their goaltenders, the Hurricanes have seemed cursed to wallow at the bottom of the Eastern Conference year after year.
Could this be the season that everything finally changes and gamblers who rely on advanced analytics get to cash in on their belief in the Canes? It’s early, but the results so far suggest they just might. Carolina is off to a 4-1-1 start under new bench boss Rod Brind’Amour, continuing to play well at both ends of the ice but finally seeing some dividends.
The Hurricanes’ hot start will be put to the test Tuesday, however, as they visit the defending Eastern Conference regular-season champion Tampa Bay Lightning for a showdown at Amalie Arena. Can Carolina pull off its third road upset of the young season, or will the Lightning’s skill and depth be too much for the visitors? Let’s dig into this matchup in this edition of the NHL Pick of the Week.
Carolina Hurricanes vs Tampa Bay Lightning Betting Odds
Carolina’s always respected in the betting marketplace because of those advanced analytics I referenced above, but we’re seeing even more respect than usual for the Canes now that they’re winning some games. Tampa is a -157 home favorite for this matchup, which may sound steep until you realize that the Lightning has laid -185 or more in three of the previous four meetings in Tampa Bay. Carolina pays +142 to hand the Lightning a rare home loss (Tampa’s been one of the best home-ice teams in the NHL over the last few years).
If you’re looking to back the Lightning but want a shot at a much bigger return, you could lay the -1.5 on the puck line and try to land a +175 payout. Betting on NHL teams to win by more than a goal is always a risky proposition, but those long odds are often worth a shot – especially with the potential for a late empty-netter to cover the spread. If you prefer the safety of +1.5 with Carolina, you’ll have to lay a huge price of -205, but you’ll cash in on a one-goal game and be guaranteed a win if the game goes to overtime.
The total opened at 6 with slight juice to the Over, which is no surprise given how high-scoring the National Hockey League has been in general to start the season. Early money has been on the Over as well, juicing it up to -126 at the time of writing.
All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 12 p.m eastern on October 16, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.
Hurricanes Are In A Tough Spot
Carolina’s hot start to the year is no fluke. In fact, the Canes probably deserve to be 6-0, having dominated their opponents in each of their losses. The Hurricanes outshot the Islanders 46-20 in a season-opening 2-1 overtime loss in Raleigh, then badly outplayed the Jets Sunday in Winnipeg (outshooting their hosts 43-26) but ran into a hot goaltender and lost 3-1. On the year, Carolina has fired 254 shots at the opposing goal while allowing just 150 attempts at its own cage, an incredible (and unsustainable) ratio.
But tonight presents a very tough challenge for the Hurricanes. Not only is it Carolina’s third game in four nights, it’s also the final stop of a three-game trip that began up north with stops in Minnesota and Winnipeg. The Hurricanes are likely looking forward to getting back home for a few days before hosting Colorado Saturday, then going back out on the road again the following day to visit Detroit. It’s certainly worth noting that the Canes have lost 12 of their last 14 games when playing for the third time in four days.
Tampa Bay also hasn’t been a friendly place for the Hurricanes in recent action. Carolina has dropped seven straight visits to Amalie Arena, and has lost 21 of 28 meetings with the Lightning overall.
Lightning Offense Coming Off Eight-Goal Explosion
After leading the NHL with 296 goals last season (17 more than any other team), Tampa Bay is best known for its explosive attack. However, that attack was kept in check in the Bolts’ first two games, when Tampa managed just two regulation time goals against the Panthers and Canucks — teams that are hardly defensive powerhouses.
Things changed in a big way last time out for the Lightning, however. Tampa Bay shooters absolutely lit up Columbus Blue Jackets star netminder Sergei Bobrovsky on Saturday night, scoring three first-period goals and ending the night with eight markers. Although four of those came on the man advantage, scoring four even-strength goals against a solid defensive team is a sign that Tampa’s offense is finally awake. And when an elite offensive team breaks out after a bit of a cold spell, I’m always interested in backing that offense when it’s playing with confidence once again.
Tampa Bay’s early offensive struggles made it easy to overlook how well the Lightning has started the year in its own zone, which was a weakness for Tampa down the second half of last season. The Bolts have allowed just seven goals in their first three games, a total that goes down to five if you eliminate two empty-net goals by the Canucks last Thursday.
Hurricanes vs. Lightning Betting Pick
As well as the Hurricanes have played to start the year, there’s no question who the better team is in this matchup. Tampa Bay is once again one of the favorites to represent the Eastern Conference in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, while Carolina would be thrilled to simply make the playoffs after a nine-year absence.
The Canes’ strong start and Tampa’s early offensive woes has opened up some great value here on the Lightning, which would ordinarily be priced in the -180 range or higher. I like what I saw from Tampa Bay last game, and Carolina’s in a very tough spot playing its third road game in four nights.
While the Lightning -157 on the moneyline looks like a safe play, I’m more interested in backing Tampa Bay to get the job done in regulation time. That bet is available at virtually any sportsbook, whether on the 3-way moneyline (that’s the way to bet it at BetOnline) or laying -0.5 on the regulation puck line. If Tampa Bay loses in overtime, we’ll lose this ticket, but I’ll take my chances in order to get this bet close to even odds. For this week’s NHL Pick of the Week, I’m taking the Lightning to win in regulation at -115 odds.