Only one team this century has repeated as Stanley Cup champion. The Tampa Bay Lightning are favored to be the second, but they may be without their best offensive player on Friday night, former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov, in Game 7 of their semifinal series against the visiting New York Islanders. Tampa Bay is a -170 favorite on the William Hill Sportsbook NHL odds, which is the smallest moneyline they have been at home in this series.
Tampa Bay is putting an impressive streak on the line: Since being shockingly swept in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs by Columbus, the Lightning have not lost back-to-back playoff games. They were 6-0 in last year's playoffs (not counting the qualifying round or it would be 7-0) after a loss on the way to winning the second Cup in franchise history and are 5-0 this postseason following a defeat.
Kucherov left early in the first period of Tampa Bay's 3-2 overtime loss on Long Island on Wednesday due to a cross-check from the Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield. Somehow, a penalty wasn't even called. Mayfield wasn't disciplined by the league, either.
Coach Jon Cooper wouldn't say what injury Kucherov was dealing with Thursday. He might be a game-time decision – teams are always vague about injuries in the NHL and often wait until the last minute to announce a player's status.
While the Lightning are used to playing without Kucherov considering he missed the entire regular season due to hip surgery, he leads all players this postseason, by far, with 27 points. He has nine assists and is plus-1 in this series -- at least one helper in every game but Game 6 when KO'd early.
One interesting player prop for Friday: The Bolts' Brayden Point is +150 for an anytime goal. He has scored a goal in nine consecutive playoff games, one shy of the league record. That he scores and the Lightning win in regulation is +275.
This is Tampa Bay's first Game 7 of these playoffs and the team is 5-3 all-time in them. New York hasn't played a Game 7 in this postseason, either, and is 4-5 in them. Islanders coach Barry Trotz is 1-0 vs. the Lightning's Cooper in a Game 7: Trotz's Washington Capitals beat Tampa Bay in Game 7 of the 2018 East Final in Tampa.
Tonight's winner would host Montreal in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, either Monday or Tuesday. This writer likes Tampa Bay on Friday if Kucherov plays but probably would do Islanders puckline if he doesn't.
Here are some interesting Game 7 statistics via NHL.com:
- The team that scores first is 137-46 (.749) in the 183 all-time Game 7s in the playoffs (2-0 in 2021).
- Home teams own a 106-77 (.579) advantage in the 183 all-time Game 7s in the playoffs (1-1 in 2021).
- Ninety-one of the 183 all-time Game 7s in the playoffs (49.7%) have been decided by a one-goal margin.
- Forty-five Game 7s in the playoffs have required overtime (24.6%). Home teams have a 23-22 edge in those contests.
Looking for the best picks against the spread, sharp action on the total and props you can take to the window? Join Jonathan Coachman on the Early Edge as he speaks with SportsLine's top handicappers to preview every day's biggest games. We promise to keep it short, sweet and to put some green in your pocket. Early Edge is under 10 minutes and in your feed every single day by 11 AM ET. Download right here or wherever you get your podcasts.