Today’s NHL Predictions features two intriguing opponents who recently captured the Stanley Cup. On Tuesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning (15-13-5) defeated the St. Louis Blues by a score of 6-1. The depth provided much-needed help on offence, one of the three keys to winning we mentioned in the prediction for the game. Furthermore, Nikita Kucherov tallied two goals and continues to lead the NHL point-scoring race.

On the other side of this matchup, the Vegas Golden Knights (21-7-5) proved the Stanley Cup hangover did not apply to their roster. Yet again, Vegas looks like a top-three contender for Lord Stanley. Jack Eichel leads the charge with 37 points in 33 games. In addition, Adin Hill has been excellent in net with 12.6 goals saved above expected on the year (12.6 GSAx). 

Tampa Bay is in for a test against Vegas as they continue their late December home stand. The Lightning must establish their identity as we approach the second half of the 2023-24 NHL season. The team has played quality hockey in some games as of late. Now, the Bolts have to replicate their quality play every game. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.

NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay vs Vegas

Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay

Bottom-Six Goal-Scoring

On Tuesday, the bottom six contributed two goals to the 6-1 victory. Michael Eyssimont and Tyler Motte scored goals, with assists from Conor Sheary and Tanner Jeannot. Heading into the season, the Lightning had acquired sneaky wingers in their bottom six that could be X-factors. When players like Sheary and Eyssimont find themselves on the scoresheet, the Lightning are hard to beat. 

The Lightning moved Nick Paul to the top line in their last game. Paul scored a goal and notched three points on the night. Jon Cooper should keep Paul on the first line against Vegas. He proved himself to be a solid complimentary player to the superstars.

Shots from the Point

An offensive system that Tampa Bay adopted is an excess of shot attempts from the point by the defencemen. Then, the Lightning place two forwards in front of the net for screens and deflections. Luckily for the Bolts, Vegas allows their opponents to fire shots from the point, as they prefer to protect the middle of the ice. 

From the Golden Knights’ 5v5 defensive Shot Map from HockeyViz, we can conclude that the team struggles to defend the point. The blue regions identify a team that generates less than the league average rate of shots, and the red regions for more than the league average. 

Tampa Bay will have limited opportunity to generate high-danger chances against a structured defensive team in the Golden Knights. The team has found success with shot generation from the blue line before. After all, this strategy may change the outcome between a win or loss for Tampa Bay.

Stop Eichel and Stone

While the Golden Knights have a deep hockey team, their top line has been electric this season. Eichel ranks tied for 13th in the NHL point-scoring race with 37 points. Moreover, Mark Stone has 33 points on the season as his linemate. The dynamic duo played a huge role in the Golden Knights’ 2023 Stanley Cup Championship. The Lightning have a few solid defensive forwards in Anthony Cirelli and Paul to play against Eichel and Stone. 

Additionally, Stone provides one of the most stable defensive impacts in the NHL as a forward. He is hard to play against on both sides of the ice. The Lightning are in for a challenge against the explosive Eichel and superb Stone. The Bolts must shut them down if they have a chance to win.

Prediction Time

This matchup between two teams of recent success in NHL history will offer an excellent game to view tonight. Tampa Bay must be excited to play against one of the top teams in the league. The Lightning have shown signs they can compete with some of the best when they beat the Boston Bruins in overtime last month. However, we have Vegas winning this game in a nail-biter. 

Prediction: Vegas wins 3-2 in OT

Shot Map via HockeyViz

Goals Saved Above Expected via Moneypuck 

Main Photo: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Akash Mahi, a dedicated enthusiast of the game, is a recognized expert in the domain of tennis balls. With a keen understanding of materials and aerodynamics, he has contributed to the evolution of tennis ball design, enhancing playability and performance. Mahi's expertise continues to impact both casual players and professionals alike.