NHL Betting Picks (Friday, Sept. 11): Over/Under Bets, Props & More for Islanders vs. Lightning Game 3
Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Leo Komarov
- The Islanders have scored just three total goals through the first two games of the Eastern Conference Final.
- That isn't stopping Sam Hitchcock from backing the Isles to find the net on Friday night.
- Check out his favorite bets for tonight's matchup.
The Lightning advancing to the Stanley Cup Final may seem a fait accompli with their conference-final lead ballooning to 2-0. After all, winning four of the next five games is a tall order for the New York Islanders.
But gambling at its purest must not bow to sentimentality. The questions hovering over the series are: Will the Islanders win a game? And if so, when?
There is a lot of information to evaluate, but the injury to Brayden Point steers me toward taking props that have an Islanders bent for Game 3.
Home Team (Islanders) Total Goals Over 2.5 goals (+116)
In the first period of Game 2, the Islanders registered eight shots at 5-on-5. Over the next two periods, they recorded a total of six. In the first frame, New York had an expected goals of 62.25%. For the next two periods, their expected goals were 34.72% and 23.88% respectively.
What the Islanders did at the start of the game that they failed to do later was have their defensemen spur the offense. From 10 minutes into the second period onward, the New York defensemen were less aggressive with leading the breakout from their own end and with helping to support their forwards on the cycle. Regarding the latter, this allowed Tampa Bay to overload on the puck in its own end and cleanly exit the zone.
Scaling back the ambitiousness of their defensemen was costly for New York. Matt Martin’s goal less than two minutes into the game was a byproduct of defenseman Nick Leddy rocketing up the weak side and leading the entry. It resulted in Leddy guiding the puck below the goal line, catalyzing the forecheck. Seconds later the puck would be fished out of Tampa Bay’s net for the only time in the game.
When the Islanders’ defensemen took an active role, they exposed the Lightning’s switches in defensive coverage. On his goal, Martin found a crevice to crawl in between Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn.
In the first half of the game, New York forwards Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle both had prime scoring chances off blown coverage by the Lightning in the low slot. But once the duties of the forecheck and transition fell largely on the Islanders’ forwards to execute, those opportunities disappeared.
By contrast, a large part of the Lightning’s success is finding fissures in the Islander’s defense by giving their defensemen license to traverse the neutral zone with the puck and participate on the siege against their opponent. When Bolts defenseman Ryan McDonagh set up Nikita Kucherov for the game-winning goal, he was almost at the goal line.
It seemed as if the Islanders allowed the Lightning defensemen to tamp down their best instincts.
If the Islanders defensemen sit back, the team can’t create enough offense to win. New York is a score-by-committee squad, so a rabid defensive group propelling the puck forward would have an equitable impact on all four lines.
Coach Barry Trotz is a smart guy who has likely figured out that his defensemen need to take risks and pinch. The Islanders’ forwards need help, and I think the push will come from the back end in Game 3.
I think +116 on DraftKings for the Islanders to score 3 goals or more is a worthy play.
Over 5 goals (-130)
The road to the over is paved with penalties and power plays. The Lightning are notoriously undisciplined and have played to form, surrendering nine power plays in two games, including a five-minute major on Wednesday.
Where it gets interesting is that the Islanders were a very disciplined team during the regular season; their penalties taken per 60 minutes was 3.21, good for 24th in the NHL. But through two games, New York has given Tampa Bay nine power-play chances as well. In Game 1, four power-play goals were scored. In Game 2, there were none. Anticipating five goals in Game 3 seems a low hurdle when each team may see four power play chances. However, with the health of Point still unavailable as of this writing, the Lightning power play would have a different look.
If the Lightning win the Cup, Point will have a strong argument for the Conn Smythe Trophy. Trailing only Nathan MacKinnon in points and boasting a top-five individual expected goals at 5-on-5, the Lightning’s first-line center has been invaluable.
Having said that, if Point misses Game 3, Tampa Bay still should be able to cobble together a few goals. Anthony Cirelli playing with Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat was an unabashed success in Game 2 when they had an expected goals of 97.80%.
Check out our new NHL PRO Report, where we highlight factors that provide betting edges — like large wagers, historically profitable betting systems, model projections and expert picks — that when combined with sharp money can powerfully detail the smartest bets on a given slate.
But Cirelli joining the first line changes the composition of the second. Tyler Johnson is a leaky defensive player and Cirelli is a two-way force who helps ground that line. Can Johnson, Alex Killorn and a third forward be a force for good?
As good as the Yanni Gourde line has been all playoff long, they had a 41.22% expected goals on Wednesday. With Steven Stamkos missing and possibly Point, inevitably the forward depth will be affected. My guess is the Lightning can still produce goals if Point misses Game 3, but the Islanders will make inroads offensively against a few of Tampa Bay’s depth lines.
At -130 on DraftKings the price is meh. But in Game 3, I like betting on much more scoring as a backlash to Game 2.
Mathew Barzal +320 to score
Mathew Barzal provides protection and salvation against a ravenous Lightning defense. In Wednesday’s game he finished with eight shot attempts, four of which came at 5-on-5.
As the primary puck-handler and playmaker on his line and a threat to whistle a shot below the crossbar on the man advantage, Barzal is keenly aware that the onus is on him to generate offense. I expect him to smash rubber in this game at a consistent clip.
One thing Barzal did Wednesday that I think will continue in earnest in Game 3 is fire the puck on net from poor angles. The Lightning have done a nice job getting in the shooting lanes in the home-plate area, but if the Islanders look towards the off-slot, the aperture opens up.
The Lightning are a much better team at boxing out than in seasons past, but shots beget shots, and the Barzal line is well-versed in shooting to create rebounds. Heck, in the Islanders series with the Flyers, we saw Barzal utilize Carter Hart’s pads and the lower half-of the net as tools to set up his teammates.
Against Tampa Bay, Barzal has shown he can skitter along the perimeter. I want the player I’m betting on to hammer shots on net. Game 3 is the time to challenge Vasilevskiy at every opportunity inside the offensive zone. At +320 on DraftKings, this feels like an excellent value.