Not team has won three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. The two-time Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning are learning how hard that challenge can be early this season. Here’s a look at two games this week, including one involving the Bolts.
Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
- When: Tuesday, October 19th, 2021. 7:00pm ET
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
- TV: TVAS, BSSUN, BSFL
- Radio: 560 The Joe WQAM (Panthers) // AM 970 WFLA (Lightning)
- Live Stream: NHL Live
- NHL Betting Odds: Tampa Bay Lightning (-1)
These in-state rivals met in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Florida had home-ice advantage but would lose the series in six games. Andrei Vasilevskiy wrapped up the series with a Game 6 shutout, stopping 29 shots. The Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since the 1996 Eastern Conference Finals.
Florida enters this matchup at 2-0, beating Pittsburgh 5-4 in overtime and the New York Islanders 5-1 both in south Florida last week. Sam Bennett has picked up where he left off after the trade deadline last season. He scored a hat trick in the convincing win over the Islanders. Sergei Bobrovsky started both games in net but it will be youngster Spencer Knight on Tuesday.
With the No. 13 pick in the 2019 draft, the Panthers made Knight the highest-drafted goalie since the Kings selected Jack Campbell at No. 11 in 2010. Last year, Knight parlayed his international success (a sterling .940 save percentage and 1.63 goals-against average en route to World Junior gold) to the NHL, where he became the youngest netminder to win his first four games. He finished his rookie year at 4-0-0 with a 2.32 GAA but then also played in that Lightning playoff series.
Tampa Bay is lucky to be 2-1 as the Lightning were blown out in the opener at home by Pittsburgh and probably should have lost at both Detroit and Washington but won both in overtime. However, former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov is out indefinitely with an undisclosed injury. The Russian did not play the final 9:08 against the Capitals. He has scored four points (one goal, three assists) in three games this season.
“It’s definitely not a day-to-day thing,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s going to be out for a while here. We’re not going to put a timetable on it until we get an official word. In the short term here he’s definitely out.”
Kucherov didn’t play last regular season while coming off hip surgery but returned for the playoffs and led all scorers with 32 points.
NHL Betting Pick: Panthers
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
- When: Saturday, October 23rd, 2021. 7:00pm ET
- Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- TV: NHL Network, CBC, ATTSN-PT
- Radio: Sportsnet 590 The FAN (Maple Leafs) // WXDX‑FM 105.9 FM (Penguins)
- Live Stream: NHL Live
- NHL Betting Odds: TBA
One of the NHL’s biggest stars returned from injury Monday night in Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who led the league with 41 goals last year but had been recovering from wrist surgery this summer. Could future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby of the Penguins make his debut Saturday? Very possible.
Crosby had wrist surgery himself this summer and was not cleared for Tuesday’s game yet – Saturday is Pittsburgh’s next matchup this week. Crosby has been practicing with the team. His initial timeline for returning after left wrist surgery was a minimum of six weeks. He had surgery on Sept. 8.
Defenseman Mike Matheson joined Crosby and Evgeni Malkin skating Monday morning — Matheson wasn’t cleared for Tuesday. He could also play Saturday.
“That’s the hardest part about it,” Matheson said of the injury, “is one day it feels really good and you think you are there, and then kind of start looking at the schedule what game you can get into, and then maybe, ‘I can get into that one, but then we have a certain amount of days after that one and maybe it makes more sense to wait another one.”
Winger Bryan Rust has landed on injured reserve and is week-to-week. He was hurt last Thursday vs. Florida after not missing any games last season. While Rust is far from a star, his willingness to dig for pucks and sneaky playmaking skill are assets that the Penguins cannot easily replace in and around the net on their power play.
Saturday will be the first meeting of the season between the Leafs and Penguins. They didn’t meet last year being in different divisions. Pittsburgh will have an advantage here because it will be the second of a back-to-back for Toronto as it hosts San Jose on Friday.
NHL Betting Pick: Penguins