NHL Playoffs Odds, Preview, Prediction for Islanders vs. Lightning Game 7: How to Bet Decisive Series Finale (Friday, June 25)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Yanni Gourde.
- Tampa Bay and New York play one final time in Friday's Game 7 to determine who will play in the Stanley Cup Final.
- The Islanders could receive a huge boost, if in fact Nikita Kucherov is unable to play.
- Matt Russell breaks down below how he's betting the game and why he thinks New York will emerge victorious.
Islanders vs. Lightning Game 7 Odds
|Over/Under||5 (-120 / +100)|
|Time||Friday, 8 p.m. ET|
|Odds updated Friday afternoon and via DraftKings|
Let’s get the narrative stuff out of the way first. It would be very big for believers in karma if Nikita Kucherov was unable to go in Game 7. As of this writing, the Tampa Bay Lightning remain mum on their star sniper and leading point-getter of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
It’s been much-discussed that the defending champs stashed Kucherov right until the end of the regular season so as to circumvent the salary cap, giving them a loaded roster for their title defense.
So it would be fitting if they had to win their first elimination game in over two years with the version of the team that existed throughout the regular season. His absence is the fundamental basis for the handicap of Game 7 between the Lightning and New York Islanders.
Islanders Must Convert Offensive Chances
Whether it’s in this space, or over on NHL.com with The Action Network content provided by our own NHL editorial leader, Michael Leboff, we’ve made a big deal about the Islanders play at even-strength in comparison to Tampa Bay. Why not keep that energy going and drop this table on you?
|High-Danger Chances For 5v5||7.67||8.17|
|High-Danger Goals 5v5||9||6|
|High-Danger Conversion Rate 5v5||19.5%||12.2%|
|Expected Goals 5v5 (per game)||1.85||1.97|
|Expected Goals Share 5v5||.485||.515|
|Power Play %||29.4||6.25|
As you can see, the Islanders are generating more offence than the Lightning are at even-strength but are not converting at the same rate that Tampa is.
The Bolts’ 19.5% conversion rate is considerably above the 14% average in the NHL, which isn’t too surprising given the talent they have on the team. Even without Kucherov this season, the Lightning converted at 16.2% during the regular season.
The last line in the chart isn’t all that surprising either, given that the Lightning came into the series converting at higher than 40% of their powerplay opportunities in the first two rounds. So how are the Islanders doing this?
Guts, guile, gumption, an electric home facility? Sorry, but none of these are actual reasons. The three games they’ve won in this series have come by scores of 2-1, 3-2, and 3-2, which aren’t as flashy as say 8-0, but each count just the same.
In those three games, the Isles have given Tampa Bay just 2, 1 and 2 power play opportunities, with no goals resulting on those chances. That’s a pretty good recipe for making it an even-strength game, where the Isles are proving equal to the Lightning.
Lightning Are Different Team Without Kucherov
Tampa’s story for Game 7 without Kucherov is a different version of the tale told when he’s in their lineup. Often when a player is forced out for a game or two, it becomes a very inexact science trying to quantify his impact.
Here’s the rare situation where we actually can quantify his impact with a decent degree of certainty. Let’s take a look at another sweet chart.
|Reg. Season (w/o Kucherov)||Playoffs (w/ Kucherov)|
|Expected Goals 5v5||1.74||1.79|
|High-Danger Chances 5v5||7.8||8.8|
Tampa’s power play has been the literal difference-maker this playoff season. While 5-on-5, the Lightning haven’t been near dominant, averaging 1.79 Expected Goals For against three quality teams, but those opponents have averaged 1.88 Expected Goals of their own.
Through 17 games of playoff hockey, the Lightning have killed teams who dare to take a penalty against them, converting at an outlandish 37.7% rate. This is due to a power play that features Kucherov on one side, Steve Stamkos on the other, and a trio of characters in the middle that either set them up, or feed off them.
When one of those wing weapons goes out, it becomes easier to defend. How much easier? The Lightning power play was a modest 22.2% during the regular season. That’s the difference between the expectation of scoring on one of three opportunities, or one of five opportunities. So if Kucherov is unable to go in Game 7, and the Islanders are stingy with the penalties, where is the difference-making offence supposed to come from?
The quick answer to that is to list their other star talent making up their still-over-the-cap salary commitments, beginning with Brayden Point, who hopes to score in this league-record 10th straight playoff game. However, near records like that, and accolades that follow Stamkos and Conn Smythe-winner Victor Hedman are all built into the numbers above.
With the Lightning having to revert to the version of themselves from the regular season, the key cog will be Andrei Vasilevskiy, and that’s not the worst thing in the world, as the best goaltender in the league has outrageous numbers after a loss in the playoffs en route to an 11-0 record for the Bolts in bounce-back situations.
Betting Analysis & Pick
My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, makes the Lightning a -200 favourite at home, which has widely mirrored the prices of the games in Tampa so far, as they’ve been between -185 and -210 in Games 1, 2 and 5.
Now the Lightning have fallen to -165 on the moneyline, which is indicative of two things: the likelihood that the Lightning will be without Kucherov, and the even-strength numbers between the two teams built up over six games, making it clear that this is much more of a coin-flip than we thought.
It’s impossible to recommend a bet on the Lightning, knowing what we know now, especially if what we don’t know for sure ends up being the case for Kucherov. Even with the most recent memory of the Isles getting pasted in Tampa in Game 5 still fresh, the only way to play Game 7 is to back the underdog Islanders.
Moreover, the regular season Lightning were a team worth backing the under for. At 5.0 +110, that’s worth a play too in a do-or-die situation that often lends itself to low-scoring games.
Pick: Islanders ML (+140 or better) OR Under 5.0 Goals (+100 or better)