Wednesday NHL Betting Odds, Picks & Predictions: Islanders vs. Capitals Game 1 Preview (Aug. 12)

Credit:

Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Barry Trotz

  • The Capitals are favored over the Islanders in Game 1 of their first-round series, with the total at 5.5.
  • The Caps struggled through the round robin games, especially on offense, while the Isles' defense was stellar as usual against the Panthers in their qualifying round series.
  • Get Michael Leboff's full breakdown and pick for Islanders vs. Capitals below.

Game 1 Odds: Islanders vs. Capitals

Islanders Odds +116 [BET NOW]
Capitals Odds -134 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5.5 [BET NOW]
Time 3 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

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Fans of the Washington Capitals and New York Islanders know what to expect out of their teams: The Caps make up for a lack of defensive fortitude with sizzling offensive talent, and the Islanders do the opposite.

You can categorize this series in a number of ways: Offense vs. Defense. Talent vs. Structure. Barry Trotz’s New Team vs. Barry Trotz’s Old Team.

Most notably though, it’s close. And the odds back that up.

Only Dallas vs. Calgary has a tighter series line than Caps-Isles. Washington is the deserving favorite at -143, but the market also isn’t counting out the Islanders, whose +122 odds translate to a 43.5% implied probability to win the best-of-7 series.

This is also a matchup between two teams that are consistently swung-on-and-missed by bettors. Both teams have defied their projections and confused modelers in very different ways. The Islanders do it with their defense. The Capitals do it by outscoring their 5-on-5 metrics.

During the regular season, it was common to see bettors take a stand against each of these two teams. So, it will be interesting to see which way the market moves throughout this series.

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New York Islanders

Barry Trotz wants his teams to play a predictable style of hockey: Stay above the puck, keep the opposition to the outside and look for quality chances rather than just throw the puck at the net. The Islanders are also one of the league’s best teams at preventing odd-man rushes.

Most of this roster carried over from last year, when the Isles upset the odds to make it to the second round, so these Isles are well-versed in Trotzian Hockey.

One of the benefits of Trotz’s style is that it helps cover for a lack of scoring talent. The Islanders typically don’t need to score four goals to win a hockey game. They are most comfortable edging out 2-1 or 3-2 victories, relying on team defense to do the heavy lifting.

A lot of attention is paid to the Isles’ “boring” style of hockey, but many pundits gloss over this team’s depth when fully healthy. New York enters Game 1 at nearly 100%, which enables Trotz to roll out four lines and deploy his players as he sees fit.

Washington will have the last change in four of the seven games, but Trotz’s roster is set up so that none of his lines are liabilities if matched up against the Alex Ovechkin-Evgeny Kuznetsov-Tom Wilson line.

New York’s blueline is also more than capable of handling tough assignments, though I’d suspect the Caps will try to match Ovechkin’s line against Nick Leddy and whomever he’s playing with. Johnny Boychuk got hurt during the Islanders’ stomping of the Panthers in the Qualifying Round but he was replaced by Andy Greene, who is an upgrade over Boychuk at this junction.

The last time these teams met in the playoffs, the Caps tried to avoid having Ovechkin line up against Boychuk and Leddy. This time, that is Washington’s best option. So it goes.

5-on-5 Stat Result Rank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.22 25th
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.37 9th
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.19 22nd
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.29 15th
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes 52.38 27th
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes 60.44 28th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes 11.7 4th
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes 11.69 27th

The numbers make the Islanders out to be an average team buoyed by a good defense. That isn’t too far from the truth, but underestimate the Isles at your own peril. When this team is on song it will frustrate much better teams. The Islanders are the cliche “team nobody wants to play” in a best-of-7 series because of their ability to turn games into a coin flip.

Moreover, their mistake-free style of hockey makes them a good bet in close contests. They will gladly cede field position or possession in order to get the puck out of harm’s way. That type of thinking combined with their prowess in the neutral zone has made them a tough nut to crack.

Washington Capitals

Washington will win this series rather easily if it can get the Islanders off their game. High-event hockey or games dictated by special teams immediately swing the odds further in Washington’s direction.

But if the Caps can’t tear down the Isles’ defense, it could be a real grind — especially because Washington’s defense puts a real burden on its star forwards. While the Islanders are built to win 2-1 hockey games, the Caps are set up to win 5-3 games. If you want to go shot for shot with a team like Washington you are likely going to lose more often than you will win.

5-on-5 Stat Result Rank
Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.92 3rd
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.67 24th
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.45 5th
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.31 14th
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes 58.36 8th
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes 54.35 13th
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes 11.63 5th
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes 11.2 24th

Given their scoring ability, the Capitals don’t really need to dominate at 5-on-5. Players like Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Jakub Vrana are talented enough to make good on what they’re given. So, it isn’t surprising to see Washington outscore their expected goals (xG).

It wasn’t like their xG numbers were that bad, especially on offense. The Caps were able to generate the fifth-most xG per hour at 5-on-5 in 2019-20. If the Capitals can replicate that number against the Isles, then Washington should have its way in this series.

That is easier said than done, though.

Betting Analysis

It’s not surprising that there seems to be a bit of confidence in the Islanders around the Hockeysphere. As well-coached a team as any in the NHL, the Isles are tough to shake off their game. We’ve seen plenty of good defensive teams eliminate more talented, offense-first units in these playoffs.

The Isles’ ability to avoid making mistakes and their defensive fortitude make them a live dog in any series. That is especially true in this matchup specifically, because their defense is good enough to swaddle Washington’s dynamic offense.

I like New York’s chances to keep things close throughout, and I lean to Isles’ side in the series. They are built to scratch out close games, while the Capitals can often be a mistake-waiting-to-happen.

The Caps may be the better team and deserving favorites, but but the Islanders have the ability to level the playing field. Thus, I believe New York has value as the series underdog.

I like the Isles as a bet for Game 1 at +115 or better and at +120 or better to win the series. Speaking of that series market, the Isles are +150 at BetMGM at the time of writing (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET), which is much higher than the rest of the market. Most other sportsbooks have New York between +115 and +125 to win the best-of-7.

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

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