Wednesday NHL Picks: Our Best Bets for Islanders vs. Flyers, Avalanche vs. Stars (August 26)

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Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Radulov

  • Need some quick NHL bets for Wednesday? Our staff weighs in with their favorites on the three-game slate.
  • We're taking one favorite, one dog and a series price on the Avalanche, who will need a win in Game 3 to have any hope of advancing.

The Round 2 storylines are starting to take shape in the NHL Bubbles. The Islanders can’t be stopped. The Flyers can’t score. The Bruins and Lightning are neck-and-neck. The Avalanche are in trouble. The Stars are all of a sudden an offensive juggernaut.

Will we be singing a different tune after Wednesday’s action?

Check out our favorite bets for today’s three-game NHL slate, which kicks off at 3 p.m. ET with Game 2 between the Islanders and Flyers.


Check out our free NHL odds page, which automatically surfaces the best line for every game.


Michael Leboff: New York Islanders (+100)

  • Odds available at FanDuel [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 3 p.m. ET

At some point during these playoffs, recent form will matter more than the numbers a team put up during the regular season. Under normal circumstances, I typically wait about 20 games into a new season before I consider changing my tune about a team.

As expected, the New York Islanders are playing a sound defensive game in The Bubble. Barry Trotz Hockey. However, what is unexpected — and deserves some deeper thought — is just how well New York has been executing during the tournament.

Not only are the Islanders 8-2 in the playoffs, but they are taking it to their opponents. The Isles made quick work of the Panthers, dominated the Capitals and they’re now off and running against the Flyers, who have scored just 11 goals in their last seven games.

This isn’t a mirage, either. Trotz’s Islanders sometimes get painted as a mediocre team that gets bailed out by great goaltending. That’s been true to some extent over the past two seasons, but that isn’t what’s happening here. The goalkeeping has been splendid, but the entire team is pushing play in the right direction.

The Islanders are surrendering just 0.77 goals on 1.8 expected goals per hour at 5-on-5. The Isles aren’t blowing anybody away offensively, but they’re still creating plenty of high-danger scoring chances (11.92 per hour) and allowing very few (7.95).


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.


Ten games is still a small sample size, but New York is a peculiar case, so it may mean more for it than it would to other teams. That’s because we are actually seeing this team’s full capabilities for the first time.

That brings us to Game 2 against the Flyers: A team that, when all is going well, doesn’t look that far off the Islanders; a deep-but-not-spectacular group that pulls in the same direction. But, the Flyers look a bit lost right now.

I don’t think the Flyers are this bad. In fact, I still think Philadelphia deserves to be favored on a game-to-game basis. But, I was also skeptical that the Flyers were ever as good as they were made out to be at the start of Round 1. A hot-streak to end the season, followed up by a 3-0 stretch in the round robin, ballooned the price on a good-but-not-great team.

These two teams are not that far off from one another. The Islanders are playing better right now, but the Flyers are the better team overall. Now, if I had to lay some serious wood on the Islanders, this would be a no-brainer bet on Philadelphia.

But they aren’t -130 in this matchup; they are the underdogs (check here for updated NHL odds so you can shop for the best number).

So, while you are buying high, you’re not taking a huge risk here. I’d bet the Islanders up to -110 for Game 2.

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Sam Hitchcock: Avalanche Series Moneyline (+240)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 10:30 p.m. ET

The Dallas Stars deserve credit but should still be eyed with suspicion when evaluating their 2-0 lead over the Colorado Avalanche. With DraftKings offering Colorado winning the series at +240, there’s an opportunity for bettors.

It seems like in every playoff we see a team fall behind 2-0, then claw back to win a series. In this case, what makes a comeback seem plausible for the Avalanche is how they have lost.

Game 2 was especially wrenching in this regard. On Monday, Colorado was winning 2-0 in the second period when it underwent a run of really poor luck. Stars forward Alexander Radulov scored a blooper goal without shooting. Dallas defenseman Esa Lindell scored without scoring. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon rang a shot off the crossbar. It was a fall from grace worthy of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

But much like Fitzgerald’s protagonists, the Avs cannot quite shirk responsibility for their own demise. Yes, their breakout issues are the fault of both their forwards and defensemen. Without question their discipline failed them in Game 2. (Hello, Ian Cole.) But these are fixable changes that can be remedied by the players.

From a coaching perspective, the first order of business is that Colorado coach Jared Bednar needs to break up the first line and redistribute the elite talent.

The complete abnegation of offense from the second line is maddening. Nazem Kadri has been centering Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi and through two games they have had two high-danger chances at 5-on-5. They have a 46.78% expected goals. They have allowed one goal while scoring none. It is time to try something new. After Game 2, Bednar commented on the lack of secondary scoring, so this fact has not eluded him.

During the round robin, we saw what Gabriel Landeskog can do when shepherding his own line: blanket the opposition and chip in offense. The Stars have been winning the matchup battle and that needs to change immediately. Even without defenseman Erik Johnson, the Avs possess the talent to win this series. Believing that Colorado will find its stride could be lucrative for bettors.

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Pete Truszkowski: Colorado Avalanche (-137)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 10:30 p.m. ET

A few days ago, the Avalanche were coming off back-to-back 7-1 thrashings of the Arizona Coyotes in Round 1 and were the Stanley Cup Favorites heading into Round 2. The Avalanche looked like the team to beat and almost nobody expected Dallas to be the team to do it.

Colorado was below 50% across the board in shot attempts, expected goals and high-danger chances in Game 1, so it deserved to be in an 0-1 hole heading into Game 2.

Even though the Avalanche blew a two-goal lead and lost, 5-2, in Game 2, they were actually pretty good. The shot attempts were 49 to 22, the high-danger chances were 11 to 6 and the 5-on-5 expected goals were 1.82 to 1.41 all in favor of Colorado. The difference was goaltending and special teams.

Pavel Francouz did not cover himself in glory in his first start of the postseason but there’s no reason to panic about him taking over for the injured Philipp Grubauer.

Francouz had a higher save percentage and Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) than Grubauer during the regular season. Francouz is a good goalie, but the optics of the backup playing, coupled with his performance on Monday, might be causing an overreaction.

I think it’s safe to say that the market was too high on Colorado for both Game 1 and the series price. Now, it seems like the opposite is true. It’s hard to bet a team at +118 when it was 30 cents higher a couple of nights ago.

The Stars have played well and this was always going to be a much tighter series than people projected, but these odds have probably moved too much.

If you told me before Game 1 that Colorado would be down to -137 for Game 3, I would have expected an injury to someone like MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Cale Makar, not Philipp Grubauer.

I lean toward the Avalanche at -140 or better. You are buying low on an extremely talented and desperate team. Colorado didn’t get the desired result in Game 2, but it was the better team. Had the Avs won, where would this line be?

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