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NHL Playoffs Game 3 Betting Odds, Preview: The Line That Makes No Sense

Credit:

Brad Penner, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Cal Clutterbuck

We are now getting to gut-check time in Round 1 of the NHL Playoffs. Every series is now through two games, meaning the venues will shift for Games 3 and 4. There are four games on Sunday, including three teams that will look to avoid an 0-3 hole.

  • New York Islanders (+180) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-200), 12 p.m. ET on NBC
  • Tampa Bay Lightning (-130) at Columbus Blue Jackets (+120), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN
  • Winnipeg Jets (+135) at St. Louis Blues (-150), 7:30 p.m. ET on CNBC
  • San Jose Sharks (+133) at Vegas Golden Knights (-146), 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The most intriguing game on the docket is Columbus vs. Tampa Bay. The Blue Jackets went into Tampa Bay and came out with a 2-0 series lead against the Presidents’ Trophy winners. Nobody could see that coming, but this is hockey and volatility runs wild on the ice.

The Bolts are road favorites but will need to win without their best player, Nikita Kucherov, who is suspended for Game 3 for a dirty hit on Markus Nutivaara late in Game 2.

I am giving Tampa a good look in this game, but hope that the line dips into the -125 range. Until then, I’ll pass.

The one game I am wholly interested in, both as a fan and as a bettor, is Game 3 between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders.

Betting odds: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Islanders moneyline: +180
  • Penguins moneyline: -200
  • Over/Under: 5.5
  • Time: 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: NBC

This line is out of control.

The Islanders held serve by winning Games 1 and 2 at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles needed overtime in Game 1 and came back in Game 2 to win 3-1. The Isles scored two goals in the third period to leave Long Island with a two-game lead over Sidney Crosby and the Pens.

Here are the odds for Games 1 and 2, per the Westgate SuperBook:

  • Game 1: Pittsburgh (-105) at New York (-105)
  • Game 2: Pittsburgh (-120) at New York (+110)

The Penguins were favored (in the -150 range) to win the series and were a popular pick among modelers and pundits, alike, so it’s no wonder that people are having a tough time coming to grips with the reality that Pittsburgh can fall into a 3-0 hole, especially against the New York Islanders.

The Penguins, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17, are certainly the more talented roster, but the Islanders have achieved legitimate success this season by playing a well-structured defensive style. Oddsmakers and statistical models have had a tough time getting a read on the Islanders and Game 3 is no different.

In Game 2, the Penguins had an implied probability of ~53.4%, assuming no vigorish. That line probably flattered them a little bit, but it wasn’t outrageous. On Sunday afternoon, that implied probability jumped to 65.1%. That means the market is giving the Pens nearly a 12% bump from Game 2, despite the only thing that’s changing is the venue.

Home-ice advantage actually is worth more in the postseason, but it isn’t worth nearly as much as the market is suggesting.

Here’s some more context. On Saturday night, the Colorado Avalanche — the worst team in the Stanley Cup Postseason — closed as +180 underdogs against the Calgary Flames, the best team in the Western Conference. The Islanders are better than the Avalanche and the Penguins are worse than the Flames.

You could argue that the Penguins are a little unlucky to not have won at least one game on Long Island, but the Islanders did what they do best in both contests — they turned the game into a coin flip.

The Penguins have had the lion’s share of the 5-on-5 possession, at least in terms of shot attempts, in this series so far but the two teams are basically dead even in terms of scoring chances and high-danger chances.

Chart courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

The way this series has played out actually makes a lot of sense. The Islanders won’t be mistaken for a high-octane team, but they have a real knack for creating more quality chances than their opponents.

Even without the game-breaking talent that Pittsburgh has up-and-down its lineup, the Isles have had success getting on top of the Penguins’ defense, which is clearly a weakness. As long as the Isles keep doing that, they should get good looks while the Penguins get more looks.

In the end, the Penguins are right to be favored in this game and are the more likely winner. The fact that they will get the second change and can match Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin or both against the Islanders’ weakest players will definitely be a big plus for the Penguins. However, this line is out of whack on a number of levels and just shows you the value in looking at the big picture when you’re betting on any sport.

At this point I’ll remind you that the writer of this article is an Islander fan so you can accuse me of being biased, but if you take a step back and go a little deeper than “There’s no way the Pittsburgh Penguins can go down 3-0 to the New York Islanders,” you’ll see that the Isles are the value side.

The bet: New York Islanders +180 (would bet down to +155)

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