Wednesday NHL Odds & Picks: 2 Totals, 1 Player Prop Bet for Islanders vs. Lightning Game 2 (Sept. 9)
Elsa, Getty Images. Pictured: Barry Trotz.
- Tampa Bay is a -175 favorite for Game 2 against the Islanders, but there are plenty of alternative bets worth considering for tonight's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs match.
- See how we're betting the game total, Islanders team total, and a player prop bet for Islanders vs. Lightning Game 2.
The goals came early and never really stopped.
A goaltender change by the New York Islanders a mere 10 minutes and 46 seconds into the first period didn’t hamper the Tampa Bay Lightning as they produced an ugly 8-2 rout in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. It was shocking to watch New York, a team known for its stellar defense, get dismantled.
But each game is its own episode. While Game 1 should inform opinion, bets for Game 2 should anticipate how the two teams will be animated by their first encounter and what adjustments they will make.
I have three bets I like at DraftKings, including two totals. Let’s dive in.
Islanders Under 1.5 Goals (+195)
The Islanders and coach Barry Trotz will likely find a way to inhibit the Lightning’s scoring. I think that happens in Game 2, but if it doesn’t, it is likely that at some point Tampa Bay’s offense will be stalled by New York’s gridlock. It’s less clear whether New York has any hope of generating sufficient scoring.
We have a growing sample size of a Lightning defense that has gobbled up opponents. When teams get the rare chance to score, they have to overcome the vortex generated by Bolts goaltender Andre Vasilevskiy.
Like the discovery of penicillin or velcro, the merger of defensemen Mikahil Sergachev and Erik Cernak has an accidental quality. During the regular season, these two rarely played together. In a total of 67 minutes in 67 games, their numbers were dreadful, submitting a 33.31% expected goals.
Since the Boston series, Sergachev and Cernak have played the second-most ice time together among Lightning defensive pairings and have a 79.83% expected goals ratio. To be blunt: Together, they are crushing opponents when manning the blue line.
The stinginess of this defensive pairing is staggering as it has registered an expected goals against per 60 minutes of 0.71 in the last half-dozen contests. Even those who begrudge the Lightning have to view that with admiration.
In the seven minutes of ice time that the Sergachev-Cernak pairing saw in Game 1, the Lightning had five shots on goal and zero against. But as good as these two have been, it is not exactly like New York got a lot of traction against the other Bolts defensive pairings with significant minutes logged.
Ryan McDonagh and Zach Bogosian saw Tampa Bay generate four shots while allowing zero. Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk played the most time together and the Lightning doubled the Islanders’ shot count when they were on the ice. It was that kind of night for the Islanders.
Making matters worse is that Vasilevskiy is playing better than he did to start the playoffs. In the round robin and against Columbus, Vasilevskiy submitted a 1.14 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx), which is above average. But against Boston and New York, he has tendered a 3.12 GSAx.
With this backdrop, the most interesting bet on the board for the rest of the series is the Lightning to win without conceding a goal. As of this writing, that is +750 on DraftKings. I am recommending the safer play of under 1.5 at +195 on DraftKings because the Lightning defense is where the value is in this series.
Under 5.5 Goals (-132)
In Game 1, the abstract became concrete. Gap control is a concept that teams strive for, but its consequences on a game were painfully evident for New York.
On the first Brayden Point goal, New York defenseman Ryan Pulock slumped on his gap and ceded the blue line. This gave Point the room to gain speed as he carried the puck through the neutral zone and around Pulock to the front of the net.
If Pulock had challenged Point and was beaten to the perimeter, Adam Pelech could have shuffled over and cut off his path to the net since Anthony Beauvillier was in position to latch onto Ondrej Palat.
Compare that to two minutes left in the first period when Devon Toews challenged Nikita Kucherov on the entry. The rush was broken up and New York swung the puck up the boards, sparking a two-on-one for Brock Nelson. Nelson drew a penalty and almost buried the odd-man-rush chance. In the same period, a loose gap allowed a goal and a tight gap nearly precipitated a goal.
The Islanders looked fatigued after their long series with the Philadelphia Flyers. This partly explains why their defensemen receded and their forwards flagged in their back pressure.
But it wasn’t just the neutral zone that they abdicated to the Lightning. In their own end, New York was slow to layer and get into the shooting lanes. Corey Masisak of The Athletic tweeted that Tampa Bay had one missed shot in the game and it came from a Cedric Paquette tip with one minute left in the game.
Wowzers! The Islanders finished with 12 blocked shots and Tampa Bay posted 34 shots on goal.
We also saw the cost of the Islanders’ shoddy gaps in their defensive coverage on the cycle. When the game was still competitive in the first period, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Czikas had a clumsy switch leaving Tampa Bay’s Ryan McDonagh with the space to tee up a slap shot from below the left circle. Pulock went for the shot block and whiffed. McDonagh’s shot eluded him and Palat screened Thomas Greiss.
Grabbing under 5.5 on DraftKings isn’t a bet on the Islanders to win; it’s a bet that Game 2 will be drained of the skill plays in space that defined Game 1. It’s also a wager on better execution from the Islanders — which isn’t unreasonable given the large playoff sample size — along with confidence that Vasilevskiy will excel again.
Nikita Kucherov to Score (+175)
This line seems too high. Kucherov has three goals in his last five games. He perennially hovers in the 40-goal range during the regular season. As a comparison, the Vegas Golden Knights are having trouble putting the puck in the net and were shut out last game, yet their star forward Max Pacioretty is getting the same odds to score a goal as Kucherov.
Most importantly, Kucherov has Point on his line, and having a linemate who can lead the rush and allow him to work off the puck is invaluable.
If the Islanders seal off the neutral zone and gash the rush game, one concern is that the Point line will need to engineer its offense from strictly the forecheck. That theoretically cramps Kucherov’s space. In that thought bubble, will Kucherov’s possession time see him playing mostly as the high forward at the blue line in an effort to allow his defensemen to fan out? He is much less likely to score from long distance.
Still, it’s hard not to succumb to Kucherov’s gravitational pull since there are so many ways for him to score. Point can set him up off the faceoff. He can strike on the power play.
And while this may not be true on Wednesday, on Monday the Islanders were utterly incapable of kneecapping Point’s speed through the neural zone, which gave Kucherov a raft of chances. At +175 on DraftKings, I like this bet a lot.