Thursday NHL Odds, Betting Picks & Predictions: Islanders vs. Capitals Game 5 Preview (Aug. 20)

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Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Ovechkin

  • The Capitals are a short favorite at some books over the Islanders, while others make Game 5 a toss-up.
  • The Isles had a chance to close out the series on Tuesday night, but gave up a two-goal lead and now will attempt to end it on Thursday.
  • Michael Leboff likes the Islanders to get it done tonight, believing the line has drifted too far back in Washington's favor after one win.

Islanders vs. Capitals Odds

Islanders Odds -105 [BET NOW]
Capitals Odds -112 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 5 [BET NOW]
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBCSN

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The Washington Capitals looked like they had one foot out the door of the bubble during the first period of Tuesday’s Game 4. Down 3-0 in the series and 2-0 in the game, the Caps pulled themselves together in time to come back and win, 3-2, extending the series to at least five games.

It was a deserved win for the Caps and it could have been a laugher had it not been for some sturdy goaltending from Semyon Varlamov for the Islanders. For the first time in the series Washington controlled the run of play, posting a 64% shot share and a 66% expected goals rate at 5-on-5.

Washington is still a +600 longshot to win the series but it was at least a shot across the Islanders’ bow. The Isles had looked like a legitimate contender during their first seven games of the tournament, but Tuesday served as a reminder that they are not talented enough to outscore mental mistakes. If one of Barry Trotz’s lines isn’t in sync, the whole team wobbles.

Outside of Game 4, this series has been one-way traffic for the Islanders. Even with their disastrous effort on Tuesday the Islanders come out ahead in every 5-on-5 metric in this series, especially on defense where they are limiting Washington to just 1.26 expected goals and five high-danger scoring chances (5-on-5) per game.

Washington Capitals New York Islanders
Goals 3 10
Expected Goals 5.03 7.08
Shot Attempts 160 167
High-danger scoring chances 20 42

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.


For the Capitals to win on Thursday they’ll need to jolt the Islanders from their usually steady game. A high-event game filled with scoring chances and penalties swings the pendulum towards Washington, especially since the Isles’ power play is 1-for-19 through five games. The Islanders just don’t have the scoring talent to keep pace with Washington in seesaw battles.

After closing at -136 ahead of Game 1, the Washington Capitals were underdogs in a do-or-die Game 4. The Caps responded with an impressive win and are now back in Chalk Land for Game 5.

Washington Capitals New York Islanders
Game 1 -136 +118
Game 2 -125 +108
Game 3 -109 -106
Game 4 -104 -113
Game 5 -112 -105

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At the time of writing (11 p.m. ET on Wednesday), the Islanders are priced between +100 (FanDuel) and -106 (BetMGM). One thing to keep in mind is that there’s a chance that Nicklas Backstrom plays for Washington in Game 5. If Backstrom draws in, I’d expect the betting market to move towards Washington.

Backstrom gives the Caps a better chance of winning but bettors often overreact to news like that so in a weird way Backstrom playing could offer more value on the Islanders.

When the odds are this tight I tend to lean towards the more stable team, and that’s the Islanders in this case. Washington certainly has the talent to win on any given night, but a lot more has to break right for the Caps than it does for the well-drilled Islanders. Another mistake-free night for the Isles is a more likely outcome than another dog-and-pony show like we saw on Tuesday night.

I’d like to get plus-money on the Islanders but I’ll be in at -105 if that’s all that pops.

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

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