No team has won three straight Stanley Cups since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1980-83. The Tampa Bay Lightning begin their quest to end that threepeat drought tonight in the first game of the NHL's 2021-22 regular season as they host the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will be without arguably their three best offensive players in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jake Guentzel. The Lightning are heavy favorites at Caesars Sportsbook but not Cup favorites. Click here for Tuesday's expert pick.
Tampa Bay really has never been able to celebrate its previous two Stanley Cups properly in front of the home fans on opening night of the next season. The Bolts won their first Cup in 2004 and there was no following season because of the NHL lockout. They won it again in 2020 but didn't raise their title banner until last March because they wanted to do so when fans were allowed at Amalie Arena due to the pandemic. There will be a banner raising tonight and a full house in Tampa.
It's a bit surprising that the Lightning are +700 second-favorites to win another Cup next season behind Colorado (+550). Tampa Bay didn't lose any of its key players this offseason, while Colorado lost No. 1 goaltender Philipp Grubauer to free agency. The Lightning are given an Over/Under of 108.5 points – it is back to a regular 82-game schedule. Andrei Vasilevskiy is the +400 favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for the second time in his career. The Russian won the 2021 Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP.
Pittsburgh has an Over/Under of 96.5 points and will be very short-handed Tuesday. Crosby had offseason wrist surgery. He has been taking part in practices, but the team wants to play it cautious and he will not go Tuesday. Crosby had 24 goals and 38 assists in 55 games last year.
Malkin was limited to 33 games and had eight goals and 20 assists. He's going to miss at least the first half of the season or so following offseason knee surgery. Guentzel just came off the COVID list Monday but won't play as he gets his conditioning back. He was second on the team last year with 57 points (23 goals, 34 assists). Yet another forward, Zach Aston-Reese, is also out because he also recently came out of COVID protocol. He had 15 points in 45 games last year.
Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh didn't play last season because of the unusual division/schedule format. This will be the first national televised NHL game on ESPN since 2004.
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