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Thursday NHL Betting Picks: How We’re Betting Islanders vs. Flyers, Golden Knights vs. Canucks (Sept. 3)

Thursday NHL Betting Picks: How We’re Betting Islanders vs. Flyers, Golden Knights vs. Canucks (Sept. 3) article feature image

Bruce Bennett, Getty Images. Pictured: Thatcher Demko

  • Our NHL staff breaks down their favorite plays for Thursday's NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs action, featuring Game 6 matchups for Islanders vs. Flyers and Canucks vs. Golden Knights.
  • Pete Truszkowski professes his stalwart support for the Isles, while Sam Hitchcock and Michael Leboff duke it out on either side of Canucks vs. Golden Knights.
  • Read on for a complete breakdown on each of our favorite Thursday night NHL bets for New York vs. Philadelphia and Vegas vs. Vancouver.

We finally have our first Game 7 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the books. The Colorado Avalanche have stormed back from a 3-1 series deficit to force Dallas into a winner-take-all contest on Friday.

By the time play is over on Thursday night we may need to make room for two more Game 7s as the Flyers and Canucks look to stay alive.

Here are our favorite bets for Thursday’s two-game slate:

Pete Truszkowski: NY Islanders (-111)

  • Odds available at BetMGM [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

The New York Islanders have won two series in the playoffs. In both cases, the Isles failed to get the job done in the first elimination game, only to do so the next time out. The Isles defeated the Florida Panthers, 5-1, and the Washington Capitals, 4-0, in those contests.

I’d normally say that’s a random trend that should probably be ignored, but in this case I think some credit needs to be given to Barry Trotz, the best coach in the NHL.

Teams always come out with added desperation in elimination games and coaches are more willing to experiment with some adjustments with their backs against the wall. Alain Vigneault did that in Game 5 by changing up Philadelphia’s forward lines.

The Islanders should be quicker to adjust to the Flyers’ changes in Game 6 and, as the home team, New York has the last change so it can get the matchups it wants.

The Islanders’ play has definitely wilted the last two games, but they were still able to earn a split. The Flyers may have got the better of the Isles on the shot clock in Game 5, but the Islanders were still able to keep the Flyers from getting a lot of quality looks. Two of Philadelphia’s goals cam via brilliant deflections, including the overtime winner.

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.

Injuries will play a factor in Game 6, as both teams have listed their No. 1 center as questionable. Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier left the game late in the second period after banging knees with the Islanders’ Mat Barzal. A period later it was Barzal who had to head down the tunnel after he got a stick to the eye. Neither player returned.

Trotz wouldn’t confirm that Barzal would play but did note that he was “trending in the right direction.” Couturier’s status is murkier. Philadelphia will be in big trouble if Barzal is in and Couturier, one of the best two-way centers in the NHL, is out.

At these odds I am putting my trust in Trotz and the detail-oriented Islanders to close out the Flyers.

[Bet now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Michael Leboff: Vancouver Canucks (+200)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 9:45 p.m. ET

The Vancouver Canucks are awfully lucky to still be alive in this series. The Canucks have been outscored, 12-6, by the Golden Knights at 5-on-5 and the underlying numbers are not pretty.

5-on-5 Stat Vegas Golden Knights Vancouver Canucks
Goals 12 6
Expected Goals 12.23 6.68
Shot Attempts 299 205
High-danger scoring chances 52 35

The only way Vancouver was going to be able to hang around in this series was if its goalie could steal a game or two. That is exactly what happened on Tuesday night when Thatcher Demko, who was filling in for the injured Jacob Markstrom, robbed Vegas with a 42-save blood-and-thunder show.

The chances that Demko, whose career numbers are not impressive thus far, is able to repeat that performance are low, but that doesn’t mean Vancouver is without a hope on Thursday night.

Outside of getting great goaltending from Markstrom or Demko, the Canucks do have another viable path to success against the Knights. Vancouver has plenty of high-end talent that can wreck a game without warning. Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, J.T. Miller, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser each are good enough to turn a game around in an instant.

If the Canucks can turn this game into a circus, they have a shot. The current odds imply Vancouver has a 32.1% chance of winning on Thursday and forcing a Game 7. I don’t expect the Canucks to win, but I think they have a better chance than that.

[Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Sam Hitchcock: Golden Knights to win in regular time (-139)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 9:45 p.m. ET

It took five games, but the Vancouver Canucks finally found a strategy for beating the Vegas Golden Knights: score more goals than Vancouver goaltender Thatcher Demko allows. Flip comments aside and even though they lost Tuesday night, Vegas submitted arguably its most dominant performance over Vancouver yet, which is why I like the Golden Knights to win Game 6 in regular time at -139 on DraftKings.

Game 5 was a bloodless massacre. The Golden Knights finished with a 71.92% expected goals. They pelted shots at Demko consistently for three periods, finishing with 34 shots at 5-on-5 to the Canucks’ 13. Vancouver nonetheless eked out a 2-1 victory, and the series now stands at 3-2 Golden Knights.

Aside from Demko replacing Jacob Markstrom in goal, probably the most interesting takeaway from the game was Golden Knights coach Peter DeBoer tinkering with his top-six forwards. Fourth line center Chandler Stephenson moved up to play with Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty. That bumped down William Karlsson, who was reunited with Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault on the putative second line.

DeBoer’s calculus is transparent: Smith and Marchessault need a boost. Over the span of 53:05 at 5-on-5 in the Canucks series, the duo has been on the ice for only one goal. Compare that with Stone and Pacioretty who have six goals in less ice time.

Goals can be driven by puck luck and other factors. But dig deeper and the gap between the first and second lines demanded to be addressed. The Stone and Pacioretty duo have an expected goals of 69.23% and are outshooting the opposition by 32 shots. Smith and Marchessault playing together have an expected goals of 59.73% and are outshooting Vancouver by 12.

We got an inkling of how Vancouver will stack up against the rejiggered second line, and it wasn’t positive for the team from Western Canada. In the three minutes of ice time Karlsson saw with his new linemates, they outshot the Canucks 3-0 and had a 77.83% expected goals. If Karlsson can be the offensive catalyst for his two new linemates, that could signal doom for the Canucks.

Ultimately, the Golden Knights are a much better team and wagering on Game 6 is about finding the right price to bet on them. Fear of the plucky Demko has me wary of the puck line, but I love Vegas to win in regulation.

[Bet now at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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