Penguins vs. Islanders Series Betting Odds, Preview: Great Offense Meets Terrific Defense

Penguins vs. Islanders Series Betting Odds, Preview: Great Offense Meets Terrific Defense article feature image
Credit:

Brad Penner, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Kris Letang, Scott Mayfield

  • The Pittsburgh Penguins are -145 favorites over the New York Islanders in the first round of the NHL Playoffs.
  • Michael Leboff breaks down the odds and analyzes a matchup between a great offense and a sturdy defense.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders Series Betting Odds

  • Penguins odds: -145
  • Islanders odds: +125

This is an interesting series featuring a clash of styles. The market has been out on the Isles all season, so it’s not surprising that Pittsburgh is one of two road teams (St. Louis is the other) to be favored in Round 1.

The New York Islanders were not expected to be in the postseason. Not only did the Islanders have one of the worst defenses in NHL history, but they lost one of the league’s best players, John Tavares, in the offseason and didn’t replace him.

Expectations were low, but Barry Trotz got this team to buy into his well-structured style and the Islanders allowed the fewest goals against in the NHL in 2018-19.

It was a remarkable achievement and the Islanders, thanks to their dogged style, will not be an easy out in a best-of-7 series.

Neither will the Penguins, who are just two seasons removed from winning back-to-back Stanley Cups and have the one of the greatest players ever. The Pens were a bit helter-skelter this season, but the dips were mostly due to injuries and inconsistent goaltending.

Under the hood, things have looked solid all season for Pittsburgh and the Pens seem to peaking at the right time.

In terms of style, these two teams are very different. The Islanders try and keep games predictable, manageable and succeed in low-event games. The Penguins play at a higher pace and have no issues letting their skill take over in goal-fests.

While the Isles are a defense-first team, they do create scoring chances. Barry Trotz preaches a quality-over-quantity philosophy and the Islanders have made good on that word, ranking in the top 10 in high-danger scoring chances created.

The Penguins generate both quantity and quality in terms of scoring chances, but they give up a good chunk of opportunities at the other end. The Isles are built to absorb and counter, so if the Penguins get caught in the neutral zone they will be punished — especially with their lack of depth on the blueline.

Even though the Islanders don’t have many household names on defense, they have a solid group led by Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews. With such a solid defense and a low-risk style, the Islanders may be able to snuff out Pittsburgh’s offensive firepower.

The goaltending battle will also be intriguing as the Isles have received fantastic seasons from Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss while Matt Murray found his game down the stretch after battling injury issues all season.

Lehner will likely get the Game 1 nod, but Trotz will have no issue going to Greiss if the situation calls for it.

One area of concern for the Isles will be on special teams. Their power play ranks near the bottom of the NHL and their penalty kill is mediocre at best. If this turns into a battle of special teams, the Penguins have a big advantage.

Of all the first-round matchups, this will be the closest to a chess match. Both coaches, Trotz and Mike Sullivan, are familiar with one another from the many times they did battle when Trotz was with the Capitals, so expect some gamesmanship between the two familiar foes.

On paper, this series looks like an easy call. The Penguins are much more talented and have the championship pedigree. However, the Islanders have turned expectations on their head all season and the team’s success isn’t a mirage. Betting markets have had a tough time adjusting to the Islanders’ success, and I think this could be another case of that happening.

I must admit, now that you’ve got this far, that the writer of these NHL previews is an Islander fan, so take the following with a cup of salt:

I think this series is pretty close to a coin flip and believe either team would be worth a wager at +110 or above.

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