Wednesday NHL Playoff Betting Odds, Preview for Penguins vs. Islanders: Can New York Finish Off Pittsburgh? (May 26)

Wednesday NHL Playoff Betting Odds, Preview for Penguins vs. Islanders: Can New York Finish Off Pittsburgh? (May 26) article feature image

Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Ilya Sorokin.

  • The Islanders return to Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday looking to close out the series against Pittsburgh.
  • New York needed a heroic goaltender performance for Ilya Sorokin and a gaffe by the Penguins goaltender in Game 5 to escape with a win.
  • Pete Truszkowski explains why he's backing the Islanders to end the Penguins' season.

Penguins vs. Islanders Odds

Penguins Odds-108
Islanders Odds-108
TimeWednesday, 6:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel.

Ilya Sorokin is wanted by the Pittsburgh police department for the grand larceny that occurred there on Monday night.

The rookie goaltender stopped 48 of 50 shots from the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 to give his New York Islanders a chance to escape with a win that they in no way, shape or form deserved. Josh Bailey took advantage of a blatant gaffe by Pens goaltender Tristan Jarry early in double overtime, and now New York can close out Pittsburgh at the Nassau Coliseum in Game 6.

Pittsburgh deserved a better fate in Game 5, but will they be able to overcome the goaltending of Sorokin and a raucous Coliseum atmosphere to force a Game 7?

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Goaltending Mismatch Evident

Entering this series, we all figured the New York Islanders would have the edge in between the pipes. While that has come to be the case, it isn’t featuring the actor many expected.

Semyon Varlamov started 35 of the Isles’ 56 games this season while having a borderline Vezina-worthy season. He had a save percentage of 92.9% with seven shutouts. However, Varlamov was not ready for Game 1 due to injury. Sorokin stepped in and was very solid in the Isles' opening victory.

However, Varlamov was healthy enough to play in Game 2, and coach Barry Trotz went with his veteran number one goalie. Varlamov gave up a weak goal early in Game 2 to put the Isles behind from the get-go, and then was beaten five times in Game 3. The Isles lost both games.

Trotz turned back to Sorokin for Game 4, and the rookie has stepped in and been tremendous. Sorokin has stopped 77 of 80 shots over the past two games, both wins for his team. In the series, Sorokin has posted a goals saved above expectation (GSAx) of +2.1. He was particularly heroic in Game 5, where the Penguins posted 50 shots, 14 high danger chances and a 65% expected goal rate.

In the other crease, Tristan Jarry has given up at least three goals in four of the five games in this series. He looked shaky through most of the first four games, and he currently has the worst GSAx mark amongst all goalies to appear in the postseason. However, the ending of Game 5 is what’s most fresh on the mind. Jarry basically handed the Isles the win after his puck handling turnover sprung Bailey alone in the slot.

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Isles Bending But Not Breaking

Game 5 is definitely not the type of game the Islanders want to play. If not for a heroic goaltending performance, they’d be the team facing elimination tonight. However, even at their worst, you could see why the Isles will be a hard out.

New York gave up 50 shots, 14 high danger chances and looked uncompetitive for most of the night, but at no point were they out of the game. In fact, the worst position they found themselves in all night was one shot away. This is a team that will grind and defend, and eventually that will wear on a team throughout the duration of a game and especially a series.

The Islanders have given the potent Pittsburgh powerplay just 10 opportunities through the first five games of this series. This plays a huge part in the Isles’ ability to hold Sidney Crosby to just one goal and two points thus far. His linemate Jake Guentzel has also been a complete non factor. It’s actually Jeff Carter, Pittsburgh’s third line center, who has done the most damage for the Pens in this series.

The Isles’ third line with Jean Gabriel Pageau, Kyle Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom has been their best line in terms of driving play and playing with the puck. Unfortunately, Wahlstrom was injured in Game 5. and his status for Game 6 is uncertain. If Wahlstrom is out, look for veteran Travis Zajac to slot into the lineup.

Penguins vs. Islanders Best Bet

One of the hardest parts of betting playoff hockey is the ability to quantify the intangibles. While those with analytical minds would like to pretend things such as confidence, momentum and motivation have minimal impacts, I believe that’s naive. In this series, all these intangibles favor New York.

The Isles have won back-to-back games to turn a 2-1 series deficit into a 3-2 series lead. They just went on the road and stole a pivotal Game 5. They’re going up against a young goaltender who has been visibly shaky all series long, and now he has to deal with the fact he just single-handedly cost his team a chance to win in the last game.

Additionally, the Isles now head home to play in front of a crowd that was again recently increased in terms of capacity. It’s already one of the loudest and more intimidating buildings in the league, and it now has the added juice of being the final postseason at the historic Nassau Coliseum.

You can argue the Penguins have been the better team in this series and that they are more deserving of having the series lead than the Isles. By saying that, you’re neglecting the importance of goaltending, which is a dangerous game to play. Pittsburgh has been better in terms of generating offense and playing with the puck, but the goaltending mismatch easily makes up that gap.

The Isles’ two best games in this series have been their two games at the Coliseum. With the arena expanding its capacity again up to over 65%, it won’t be an easy night for Jarry and the Penguins. I’d look for the Isles to take advantage of this opportunity and close out Pittsburgh on home ice at this pick’em price. However, I’d be leery of laying too much juice in what should be another tight game.

Pick: NY Islanders -108 (bet up to -115)

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