NHL Odds, Preview, Prediction: Penguins vs. Islanders (December 27)
Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Tristan Jarry
- The New York Islanders host the Pittsburgh Penguins to begin the post-holiday schedule on Tuesday night.
- Pittsburgh entered the break among the hottest teams in the league, and is understandably favored here despite playing on the road.
- Continue reading for a full breakdown of this matchup, including a betting pick.
Penguins vs. Islanders Odds
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|Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.
The Islanders got off to a strong 15-8-0 start to the campaign, but have won just four of their last 12 games. The break has given them an opportunity to reset, but that can only help so much when their next opponent is the talented Penguins.
Can the Islanders kick off their post-holiday schedule with a victory, or will they be one of the many squads to fall to Pittsburgh?
Same Old Penguins
The Penguins have a 19-9-5 record, but even that undersells just how good they've been. Pittsburgh endured a seven-game losing streak from Oct. 24-Nov. 5, and since then has gone 15-3-3.
A key component of the Penguins' turnaround has been the play of Tristan Jarry. Through Nov. 17, he posted a 5-3-2 record with a 3.60 GAA and .895 save percentage. Since then, he hasn’t just shake off that early slump, he completely reversed his fortunes by posting a 10-0-2 record, 1.90 GAA and .942 save percentage over his last 12 contests.
Given that this is the Penguins’ first game back from the break, it seems fair to believe that he’ll be in net versus the Islanders.
In addition to facing one of the league’s hottest goaltenders, the Islanders will also be up against the seventh-best offense in the league. Pittsburgh has averaged 3.42 goals per game this season, thanks in no small part to Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby has been something special this season with 19 goals and 43 points in 33 contests. A lot has been made of Alex Ovechkin’s longevity lately given his pursuit of the goal scoring record and impressive play at the age of 37, but Crosby's defiance of Father Time is no less impressive. Even at the age of 35, Crosby is tied for eighth in the NHL’s scoring race.
Malkin, 36, has been impressive, too, with 11 goals and 33 points in 33 games. His biggest problem in recent years has been his health, but he’s available and producing right now. In fact, the Penguins are relatively healthy overall. Even defenseman Kris Letang is back after suffering a stroke Nov. 28. Amazingly, he got right back into the swing of things, and has recorded a goal and four points in his last four games while averaging 26:45 of ice time.
On the injury front, the Penguins’ only major absence is Jeff Petry (upper body) and while that certainly hurts, they’re still in a potentially better position than the Islanders.
Predicting the Islanders’ lineup for Tuesday’s game is a little tough because at the time of writing Brock Nelson (head), Casey Cizikas (upper body) and Simon Holmstrom (knee) are all questionable. If Nelson can’t play, that would be a huge blow for the Islanders given that he currently leads the team with 15 goals and 34 points in 35 contests.
The Islanders are a respectable 15th offensively with 3.20 goals per game, but they would struggle to fill the void if Nelson isn’t available. They would still have Mathew Barzal, who has five goals and 33 points in 35 contests, but then their next best offensive threat is Anders Lee, who has 11 goals and 26 points.
Meanwhile, the Penguins have three forwards with at least 33 points. The Islanders also have just four players with at least 20 points including Nelson (Noah Dobson has 23) while Pittsburgh has six.
In other words, the Islanders will be at an offensive disadvantage regardless, but losing Nelson would meaningfully widen that gap.
New York will be looking for goaltender Ilya Sorokin to make up the difference. Semyon Varlamov is on the injured reserve list with a lower-body issue, so unless something changes, Sorokin has a very strong chance of playing over Cory Schneider.
Sorokin is among the league’s top goaltenders. He has a 2.37 GAA and .925 save percentage in 23 starts this season, which is in line with what he did in 2021-22. If Jarry wasn’t hot right now, it would be a simple matter to give the Islanders’ the edge in goal. Even with Jarry’s recent success, it wouldn’t be surprising if Sorokin outplays him.
That said, while the Islanders haven’t played Pittsburgh yet this season, Sorokin did find the Penguins to be challenging in 2021-22. He had a 1-2-0 record, 2.97 GAA and .913 save percentage in three starts against them. Not disastrous, but it wasn’t his best work, and given the current state of the Penguins, he figures to face similar challenges Tuesday.
Penguins vs. Islanders Pick
Given how hot Pittsburgh — and Jarry in particular — have been lately, taking the Penguins makes sense. And while I don't like their odds on the puck line, I really like their chances of coming out on top.
If you want an alternate suggestion, given the strong projected goaltending and the possibility of Nelson not being available, taking the under of 6 seems very reasonable to me.
That said, I feel more comfortable siding with the hot Penguins than the under, especially given that Pittsburgh’s strong offense makes the total a little too risky.
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