Tampa Bay leads Washington by just a point atop the SE Division.
The NHL’s Southeast Division is in the spotlight this Monday when the Washington Capitals battle the Tampa Bay Lighting for first place in the standings. The puck drops at the St. Pete Times Forum at 4 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on Versus.
Washington has won three straight and six of its last eight heading into Sunday’s game against Florida. A win against the Panthers would move the Capitals into first-place in the division when they face Tampa on Monday.
This past Tuesday they grinded out a 2-1 OT victory over the New York Islanders as a 207 home favorite and followed this up with a 3-2 win over St. Louis as a 188 home favorite. The Capitals are currently 35-20-10 straight-up (22-43 against the spread) and have a total of 80 points.
Defense remains Washington’s strong suit as it is ranked seventh in the league in goals allowed; giving up an average of 2.45 a game. One area in particular where the Caps have been strong is against the power play with an 85.5 percent kill rate.
Michal Neuvirth should get the call in goal against the Lightning as backup goalie Semyon Varlamov is out until later this month with a back injury. Neuvirth has started 36 games this season and has a goals-against-average of 2.48 with a .913 save percentage.
Alex Ovechkin (25 goals and 42 assists), Nicklas Backstrom (16 goals and 38 assists), and Alexander Semin (22 goals and 22 assists) have provided a good chunk of the offensive production that has been lacking much of the season. The Capitals rank 23rd in the NHL in scoring, averagingf just 2.63 goals a game.
Tampa Bay is headed in the opposite direction with six losses in its last nine games, including three straight coming into this match. The Lightning have only managed to score four goals in this three-game slide.
They dropped back-to-back 2-1 decisions to New Jersey as a 126 road underdog and Boston as a 176 road dog earlier last week befaor falling to Montreal 4-2 as a 137 home favorite on Saturday. Tampa is now 31-27-7 SU on the year (33-32 ATS) and stuck at 81 points.
The Lightning still have one of the most potent offenses in the league led by Steven Stamkos, the NHL leaders with 41 goals and second in points with 78. Martin St. Louis is tied for third in the league in points with 75.
Tampa Bay is ranked seventh in the NHL in scoring with an average of 2.92 goals a game.
Unlike the Capitals, Tampa is not known for its lock-down defense as it is 25th in goals allowed; giving up an average of 2.98 a game. Dwayne Roloson has seen the majority of the action in net with 41 starts and should be in goal for this one. He has a 2.67 GGA and a save percentage of .911.
Washington is 31-24 as a favorite and 4-6 as an underdog. The total has stayed ‘under’ in eight of its last 10 games and in 46 of 65 games on the year, which is 71 percent of the time.
Tampa Bay is 20-12 as a favorite and 17-15 as an underdog. The total has gone ‘over’ in 34 of its 64 games, or 53 percent of the time, but has stayed ‘under’ in five of its last seven.
Head-to-head, the Capitals have won three of five games this season including a 5-2 victory on Feb.4 as a slight 101 road underdog. The total has stayed ‘under’ in three of these games.
This time around Tampa should be a slight favorite on the money line, but stick with the Capitals for the win on the road as they continue to build momentum heading into the postseason.