NHL Hockey Betting:  Tampa Bay Lightning at Pittsburgh Penguins&h=253&w=372&zc=1

The Eastern Conference Finals get underway on Friday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning head to the ‘Steel City’ to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Penguins advanced to the finals after eliminating the Presidents’ Cup Champion Washington Capitals in six games. The Lightning only needed five games to eliminate the New York Islanders. Tampa Bay is trying to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second straight season and obviously the Penguins will do whatever they can to prevent this from happening.

At first glance, the price on this game seems out of whack. The Penguins were definitely the hottest team in the NHL at the end of the regular season winning 14 of their last 16 games. They’ve now won 8 of 11 in the playoffs meaning that they’ve got 22 wins in their last 27 games. Even more impressive–they’ve done much of that without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury is ready to return to action after completing rehab for his second concussion of the season but now he’s relegated to backup status for the time being. That’s because 21 year old rookie Matt Murray is having a spectacular playoff run. Murray has lost only two playoff games to go along with his 9-2-1 regular season record. Murray isn’t even nominated for the NHL rookie of the year award but worth noting that none of the three players that are–Connor McDavid, Philadelphia defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere and Chicago forward Artemi Panarin–are still playing. Murray is and is a major reason why the Penguins are here and have a legit shot at winning they Stanley Cup.

The Lightning have been underrated throughout the playoffs. People seem to forget that they were in the Stanley Cup Finals last year and despite the absence of Steven Stamkos might be even better this year. Goalie Ben Bishop has entered the realm of elite goalies and the Lightning actually have a marginally better record this postseason than do the Penguins (8-2-0 vs. 8-3-0). And despite Murray’s excellence, the Bolts have the second best playoff goals against per game–and the best of any remaining team–at 1.90 (Washington is first at 1.83). Pittsburgh’s goals against average is a decent 2.27 and they’ve scored more goals than Tampa. A good indication of how evenly matched these teams are–Tampa has a 1.10 differential, Pittsburgh is 1.09.

In a battle of evenly matched teams we’ll take the price.