Sunday NHL Odds & Picks: Totals And Player Prop Bets for Islanders vs. Lightning Game 4 (Sept. 13)
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Mikhail Sergachev, Nikita Kucherov, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Cal Clutterbuck.
- The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders battle on Sunday in Game 6 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series.
- Sam Hitchcock breaks down bets for Sunday, including two totals and a player prop.
- Check out Hitchcock's full preview and analysis with updated odds below.
Lightning vs. Islanders Odds
|Lightning Odds||-148 [BET NOW]|
|Islanders Odds||+128 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||5.5 (+112/-136) [BET NOW]|
|Time||3 p.m. ET|
Just like that, we have a series. With the New York Islanders coming out victorious in Game 3, Sunday afternoon promises to be an important chapter in each team’s story. Is it the contest that moves the Tampa Bay Lightning to a game away from advancing to the Stanley Cup? Or is it a redoubled effort from the underdog that deadlocks the series at two games apiece?
Playing more games means more hockey, and that means more gambling! In Game 4, I think bettors would be wise to fade the Islanders.
Away team total goals over 3.5 for the Lightning (+150)
The great philosopher Jack Handy once said, “If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that’s another weakness.” The Islanders are worthy of praise for their success choking off the Lightning’s rush game in Game 3. But they still allowed a slew of opportunities on the forecheck as Tampa Bay earned 15 high-danger chances, a half-dozen more than they garnered in Games 1 and 2.
The problem lies with the Islanders’ breakout. My strong urge to grab the Lightning for four goals or more is because I don’t think the Islanders can easily turn this weakness into a strength.
The Lightning wedge their forwards and defensemen into spaces that encumber their opponent’s attempts to exit the zone. The Islanders’ defensemen’s first instinct is to try to fling the puck toward the boards when they are below the goal line. Unfortunately for the Islanders, the Tampa Bay defensemen have been consistently pinching in order to front the puck before it reaches the outlet, which results in a New York turnover.
If the Islanders had a more mobile defensive group, they might be able to escape the forecheckers and skate their way into space, opening up their options. But that isn’t this group. Instead, in this series and against this opponent, they need their wings to sink low in support and go under the Lightning defensemen. This isn’t speculative; when it happened, the result was positive.
Early in the first period, Brock Nelson earned a rush chance thanks to Anthony Beauvillier sliding down to aid the breakout. Beauvillier slipped the puck to Nelson before he was erased by the pinch, and it sprang the transition as Nelson bounded down the wing.
But this frictionless journey out of their end was an exception. On the Mikhail Sergachev goal, Nick Leddy had the puck below the goal line, and despite having support through the middle, opted to push the puck up the boards. The intended recipient, Matt Martin, got jammed by the pinching Erik Cernak, and the puck was snagged by Tampa Bay to continue its offensive zone pressure.
Leddy is a person worth highlighting, but not for a positive reason. Despite the Islanders having the last change in Game 3, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper greedily exploited Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat against the Leddy and Andy Greene defensive pairing.
Against the Bolts’ first line duo, Leddy and Greene have a 1.34% expected goals. New York has allowed nine shots on goal while generating one. Shot attempts are 14 for the Lightning and two for the Islanders. Leddy and Greene have the worst expected goals against of any Islanders players in the series. In short, New York coach Barry Trotz needs to do everything possible to avoid those four players ever being on the ice at the same time.
Home team total goals under 2.5 for the Islanders (-137)
The Nelson and Mathew Barzal lines are allowing more chances than they are producing. In Game 3, both lines finished under 49% in expected goals and conceded more 5-on-5 shots than they created. In the series, the Nelson line has a 39.10% expected goals. Sadly, that is better than the Barzal line, which has a 29.07% expected goals in the series. What gives?
The Islanders’ best moments in Game 3 came when they forced the Lightning defensive coverage into difficult, split-second decisions. On the Adam Pelech goal, the Islanders attacked in numbers from above the circles. On the four-on-four goal, Nelson and Beauviller gnawed at the Bolts’ difficulty switching.
But then there was the game-winner by Nelson, which encouraged the worst impulses of New York. The sequence saw three Islander forwards pressuring when Ryan McDonagh made a stupid pass that led to a turnover and eventual goal. It falsely gave hope to the quixotic idea that the Islanders can score and keep their defensemen moored at the blue line.
The Islanders need their defensemen to be more than just statues at the point sporadically whacking shots on net. Because New York’s defensemen are far less aggressive with pinching when the Lightning are trying to exit their zone, the Bolts have a surfeit of options as they crowd around the puck-carrier after his retrieval.
The Islanders’ forecheck demands the involvement of the defensemen undergirding the forwards. The same goes for the cycle. If the Islanders choose more skater fluidity in terms of forward and defensemen interchanges, this forces the Lightning into quick reads as their defensive assignments rapidly shift. But that hasn’t been the norm; rather, the Islanders’ cautious posture has hamstrung their top-six forwards and resulted in less offensive zone time.
Nikita Kucherov to score a goal (+195)
In the series, Kucherov already has 22 shot attempts. Mind you, that’s in three games. That total is seven more than any of his teammates. As of writing, it’s unclear whether Brayden Point will play in Game 4, but in Game 3, Kucherov still feasted on the Islanders.
In Game 3, Kucherov’s line finished with 12 shots at 5-on-5 and an 87.90% expected goals. He saw a heavy dose of the Islanders’ top-six forwards, and both New York trios got pulverized.
Trotz wants to use Pelech and Ryan Pulock against the Lightning’s first line. But New York’s shutdown defensive pairing has been unable to slow them down. If Kucherov is without Point, he can still jam with his linemates from Game 3.
Ondrej Palat and Anthony Cirelli both have the speed to win races to the perimeter to track down pucks and the strength to play around the crease. While those two are battling along the boards and in front of the net, Kucherov can roam around the offensive zone and try to facilitate from a quiet area.
Kucherov is the sun around whom the others orbit. At +195 on DraftKings, I’ll take the best player on the board, one who is whipping shots on net at every opportunity.