New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Game 2 Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions (Wednesday, Sept. 9)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Semyon Varlamov.
Game 2: Islanders vs. Lightning Odds
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|Islanders Odds||+148 [BET NOW]|
|Lightning Odds||-175 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (+108/-132) [BET NOW]|
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
Scoreboards can be dishonest. No matter the sport, the final score of a game should always be scrutinized, taken with a grain of salt and, a lot of times, ignored.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the New York Islanders, 8-2, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A look at the scoreline, combined with the Lightning’s eminence, and it’s easy to imagine bettors rushing to the window to get back on the Bolts for Game 2.
According to Evolving Hockey’s expected goals model, the Lightning created 2.1 expected goals at 5-on-5 and 3.6 in all situations in Game 1. The Islanders ended the game with 1.3 xG at 5-on-5 and 3.2 overall. In other words, Tampa was better than the Islanders and deserved a multi-goal win, but the final score was flattering. And that is creating value on the underdogs in Game 2.
It would be unfair to gloss over how good the Lightning played in Game 1. Sure, they caught some breaks and got the better goaltending, but they were also sensational.
Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov each had five points. Victor Hedman skated to a 69.5% expected goals rate in over 20 minutes of ice time. Andrei Vasilevskiy posted a +1.17 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx). Tampa’s got some of the best players in the world at their respective positions and they each played up to billing on Monday night.
If Point, Kucherov and Hedman turn in another effort like that, the Islanders won’t be able to keep up.
Point joined a chorus of pundits and bettors that noted that the Bolts had some good fortune in the series opener, but part of the reason it seemed like Tampa was getting every bounce is because the Bolts had the Islanders chasing the puck, which led to a menu of mistakes from the usually well-drilled Islanders.
As good as the Isles have looked during the postseason, they have not faced an opponent near Tampa’s caliber. The Lightning were terrific on the forecheck, they were in-sync on offense and they didn’t really make any mistakes on defense.
The Islanders have a well-earned defensive reputation but they also have been posting some head-turning offensive numbers in this tournament. Barry Trotz’s team is averaging 12.9 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 during the post season. The Isles were held to just 6 on Monday night.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.
Even if the Isles are more opportunistic going forward they will need to create more chances than that to keep pace with the talent-heavy Lightning.
Tampa’s ability to play a high-skill game at a fast tempo gave the Islanders a jolt, but a lot of New York’s issues are fixable, starting with the goaltending. Thomas Greiss and Semyon Varlamov were both quite poor in goal and never gave their team a chance to get settled in Game 1.
Neither Greiss nor Varlamov are stars in the NHL, but they are dependable goaltenders and they’ve both been in good form during the tournament. I’d be pretty surprised to see another dud from whoever starts on Wednesday night.
Greiss and Varlamov weren’t alone in the dud department, though. Mat Barzal, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Josh Bailey and Anthony Beauvillier all really struggled at 5-on-5. Those are five of New York’s best players and top performers in the postseason. It’s hard to imagine them not playing better in Game 2 because it’d be close to impossible for them to play any worse.
You can expect a bounce-back performance from the Isles, but will that be enough?
Game 2 Betting Pick
Betting on the NHL will test your nerves. The easy route for Game 2 would be to snuggle up with the Lightning, who have won five in a row by a combined score of 25 to 9, and ignore the fact that their price has jumped considerably since Game 1.
If that’s the type of analysis you’re looking for — bet the better team because they’re going to win — you’re in the wrong spot. Plus, I’ve got some good news. The Islanders are a much better team than they showed in the curtain-raiser.
Including Game 1, the Islanders boast a 59.6% goal share and 56.1% expected goal rate at 5-on-5 in the postseason. They are 11-6 overall in the tournament but three of those losses came in overtime and only one of them, Monday’s loss to the Bolts, was by more than one goal.
The Lightning are the better team and are more likely to win Game 2, but it’s likely we see a much stronger effort from the in-form Islanders on Wednesday.
The Islanders are hanging between +145 and +155 (BetMGM) for Game 2 (check out our updated NHL odds page to shop for the best number) as of 11:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.
Considering the Isles closed between +130 and +140 for Game 1, I think you can make a good case that this is a good buy-low opportunity on a team that deserves some faith after a terrific five-week stretch.
I’d try my best to get the Islanders at +150 or better, but I think they’re playable down to +145 on Wednesday.