NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction, Expert Pick: Islanders vs. Penguins (March 9)
Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Brock Nelson.
- The Islanders head to Pittsburgh as underdogs to face the Penguins on Thursday night.
- New York has already beaten Pittsburgh three times this season and our expert is expecting a repeat performance.
- Continue reading to see why Greg Liodice is backing the Islanders.
Islanders vs. Penguins Odds
|Time||7 p.m. ET|
|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.|
After a huge win against Buffalo, the New York Islanders head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins. This is certainly a big matchup as both teams are fighting for playoff positioning. The Islanders have been hot, going 6-2-2 in their past 10 games.
The Penguins are coming off a massive comeback victory against the Blue Jackets. Despite the win, Pittsburgh has played mediocre hockey, going 5-5 in its past 10 games.
Here’s a look at our odds, as well as our prediction for the New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins.
New York Islanders
The Islanders can be viewed as a controversial team with their defensive style. Since acquiring Bo Horvat, the team has excelled (as has he), but lost Mathew Barzal to injury. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee have picked up the slack in Barzal’s absence, along with Noah Dobson after a two-month cold spell.
Offense has been coming in abundance for the Islanders after a rough start to the new year. During a two-week span, they’re 10th in expected goals with a 52.55 xGF%, but the power play has suffered since Barzal got hurt.
The defensive numbers don’t exactly favor the Isles, but they’re improving rapidly. Since February 20, they’ve maintained a fifth-best xGA/60 (expected goals allowed per 60 minutes), and have allowed 2.64 goals per game.
I’m curious to see if coach Lane Lambert rolls with Ilya Sorokin or Semyon Varlamov. Sorokin has played like a Vezina netminder with +32.6 goals saved above expected (GSAx) and a .926 SV%. Varlamov has +4.5 GSAx and a .914 SV%.
Pittsburgh has had one of the more efficient cores for the past decade-plus. Sidney Crosby is an ageless wonder with 76 points, and Evgeni Malkin has 66 points. Jake Guentzel was having a down year, but has four points in his past five games. Rickard Rakell is also producing at a solid rate.
With that core, the Penguins have generated even-strength offense at a high rate. Over the past two weeks, Pittsburgh is 11th in expected goals with a 52.42 xGF% and had one of the better power plays.
The Penguins are struggling on the defensive end. They allow 3.21 goals per game and are a bottom-10 team in xGA.
Since coming back from injury, Tristan Jarry has struggled, posting an .873 SV% in six games and 0.0 GSAx. He was even pulled from Monday’s game before Casey Desmith saved the day. My guess is Jarry starts again to help him get back to his old form.
Islanders vs. Penguins Pick
The Islanders and Penguins have already played four times this season and the Penguins have blown a pair of leads. The talent is there, but the struggling defense and uncertainty in net present a couple of red flags. It’s also concerning that Pittsburgh was down to the 32nd-ranked Blue Jackets.
New York is playing exceptional hockey right now, but is very limited offensively. Defensively, they are back to where they were two years ago and that could cause problems for the Penguins.
This could be tricky since Pittsburgh is incredible at home (17-9-4), while the Islanders are 13-14-5 on the road. However, I’m in favor of picking the Islanders in this battle.
FanDuel has the Islanders moneyline at +126, which is incredible value given how hot they’ve been lately. With New York’s stifling defense, reinvigorated play and elite goaltending, I’m backing the Islanders.
Pick: Islanders Moneyline (+126)
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