Capitals' Backstrom returns to lineup for Game 4 vs. Lightning

Capitals' Backstrom returns to lineup for Game 4 vs. Lightning

Capitals' Backstrom returns to lineup for Game 4 vs. Lightning

Coach Barry Trotz called him a game-time decision and said early Thursday that Backstrom had not yet been medically cleared. The Lightning are a +100 underdog, while the total is set at 6 goals.

Stamkos said he felt like the team had a bit of a chip on its shoulder after last season's disappointing finish and believed the team had put itself in position for playoff success this year. The Bolts are 29-17 SU as an away team in 2017-18. The pre-season expectation was that the Lightning would reach the final - if not win the Cup. Their penalty kill's gone from 75.6 percent in the regular season to 73.2 percent in the playoffs. Those numbers were around 60% in the first two games. It is not just that teams are several games over.500 so far; it's more the idea that some of the top teams have not been very good.

The fate of the NHL Eastern Conference finals will be at stake, with Tampa Bay looking to avoid the dreaded 3-1 hole.

Capitals' Backstrom returns to lineup for Game 4 vs. Lightning
Capitals' Backstrom returns to lineup for Game 4 vs. Lightning

If head coach Jon Cooper decides to rest him, however, Tampa Bay could go with Louis Domingue (7-13-1 record, .896 save percentage, 3.35 goals against average). The likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Victor Hedman are just a few of their high-profile players.

Instead, with the Tampa Bay Lightning star mired in a seven-week slump that began on March 6 and extended all the way into the second round of the playoffs, the focus turned to how Brayden Point had emerged as one of the best young players in the National Hockey League, how Nikita Kucherov had added a physical dimension to his game, and how everyone from J.T. Miller to Yanni Gourde was providing the secondary offence needed to win the Stanley Cup. Backstrom had five points (one goal, four assists) in five games in the second round.

Washington is 59-38 straight up (SU) and has earned 16.8 units for moneyline bettors this season.

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- Their power play paid off again. As for Washington, center Nicklas Backstrom (hand) has yet to play in this series.

To illustrate how infrequent this is, I graphed out the distribution of Tampa Bay's performance by those same scoring chance and shot attempt numbers over three-game segments in the last three years.

Braden Holtby (27.3 saves per game) has been the primary option in goal for the Capitals.

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Alex Ovechkin (59 goals, 47 assists) will pace the offensive attack for the hosts.

The under is 2-0-2 in the last four meetings in Washington. The average Tampa Bay team over the last three years has held 52 per cent of the shots.

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