Who would back against the Winnipeg Jets at this moment in time? The Canadian side, 19/1 for the Stanley Cup with 888Sport, have racked up 66 points from their opening 50 games of the campaign and it is difficult to back against the Central Division leaders on current form.
The brief mid-season break has come at a bad time for Winnipeg but victory over the Lightning can spur the Jets on as they look to build momentum in the closing stages of the regular season.
The Jets have been fantastic but Tampa Bay have been on another level. With 34 wins in 49 National Hockey League games this season, the Lightning are arguably the best team in ice hockey right now.
Jon Cooper’s men have scored more goals than anybody else (175) and have the best points differential (+50) in the league. A strong offense and reliable defence is the ideal recipe for success.
Resurgent Jets Heading In Right Direction
Winnipeg have won six of their last 10 games going into the All-Star break but the brief spell out of action should help the Jets to reset the batteries ahead of a gruelling few months.
At the present moment, Winnipeg have several injury issues to contend with and fans will be glad for the five days off. The Jets have enough quality to go far in the Stanley Cup race this year but will need everybody fighting fit and on top form.
KEY MAN: Patrik Laine. Winnipeg’s top goal scorer this season with 22, Laine can fire the Jets to the postseason. Alongside Blake Wheeler, another prominent star north of the border, Laine should flourish on the big stage in the coming months.
Laine is still just 19 years old and the second overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft is starting to mature into an elite talent in the professional game. Watch this space, he could be set for a massive second half of the campaign. He could be Winnipeg’s difference maker here…
Flash Of Lightning: Tampa Bay Eyeing Up Second Stanley Cup
The Lightning will take some stopping in their pursuit of a first Stanley Cup since 2004 and it would take a brave man to back against them on current form. Cooper is a competent head coach and Tampa Bay supporters will be expecting big things in the coming months.
Looking at their offensive unit, the Lightning are blessed with an elite unit led by Nikita Kucherov and the NHL points leader (63) will look to maintain his individual form after the break.
KEY MAN: Nikita Kucherov. Look no further than Kucherov for a HUGE game. On his return from the All-Star series, he will be looking to get back to business immediately and he is well placed to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season.
Steven Stamkos is another of Tampa’s big names who could shine against Winnipeg, the 27-year-old is in the prime of his career and he has certainly regained his swagger. He struggled to inspire confidence at the beginning of January but could hit top form in February.
Winnipeg are one of the NHL’s most improved franchises and they are a shoo-in to qualify for the playoffs but Tampa Bay are on another level. The Lightning are well fancied to go on and win the Stanley Cup this year, many bookmakers are pricing Cooper’s side as favourites to emerge victorious in the showpiece series.
With Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scoring at this rate, the Lightning are surely the team to beat. At the very least, Tampa Bay should be good enough to win this contest.
JETS 3-5 LIGHTNING