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NHL Odds, Picks & Prediction for Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders: Betting Preview for Game 4 (Saturday, May 22)

NHL Odds, Picks & Prediction for Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders: Betting Preview for Game 4 (Saturday, May 22) article feature image

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.

  • After dropping a high-scoring Game 3, the Islanders look to even their first-round series against the Penguins.
  • The first three games in this series have been decided by one goal, and New York could make a change between the pipes on Saturday.
  • Michael Leboff breaks down the betting value for Game 4 below, as well as for the rest of the series.

Penguins vs. Islanders Odds

Penguins Odds -110
Islanders Odds -110
Over/Under 5.5
Time Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings

Game 3 between the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins did not look like how many people envisioned this matchup to play out.

The Penguins would end up winning a bizarre, back-and-forth contest, 5-4, to take a 2-1 series lead and win back home-ice advantage after the Isles took Game 1 in Pittsburgh. All three games of the set have been decided by one goal and you could argue that either team could be up or down depending on a bounce here or there.

That said, the Islanders have yet to really put together a full 60-minute effort in any of the games this postseason. The Islanders were dominated in the second period of Game 1, the first period-plus in Game 2 and also struggled out of the gates in Game 3. As they want to do, the Isles have hung around in each tilt and have given themselves a chance to win, or at the very least get to overtime.

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Interestingly, what has really let the Isles down is their defense and goaltending. The common theme in previewing this series was that this would be a strength vs. strength matchup. The Islanders are a team built on a sturdy defense and remarkable goaltending while the Penguins are a clinical offense that doesn’t really dominate the puck. Through three games that script has been flipped.

Semyon Varlamov, the Isles’ No. 1 starter and a potential Vezina candidate, didn’t play in Game 1, allowed a soft goal right away in Game 2 and then repeated that feat in Game 3. While Varlamov was able to rebound in the second contest, he was a bit off in Game 3, allowing five goals total and four on the last 15 shots of the game.

Barry Trotz admitted that the Isles may go back to rookie Ilya Sorokin for Game 4. Sorokin, a 25-year-old rookie who dominated in Russia before finally coming over to the States, was terrific in Game 1 and posted a +2.78 Goals Saved Above Expectation and a .918 save percentage in 22 games over the regular season. The betting market perceives that Varlamov is the better option for the Isles, and that may not be wrong, but underestimate Sorokin at your own risk.

No matter who is in goal, the Islanders will need to step up their defensive effort if they want to avoid a 3-1 deficit. New York has allowed 3.3 goals and 2.38 expected goals per hour at 5-on-5 in this series. Over the regular season those numbers stood at 1.92 and 2.03, respectively.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

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Islanders vs. Penguins Best Bet

While the Penguins have won two of three, the margins in this series have been razor thin. The Pens boast a slight edge with a 50.8% expected goals rate and a 52.9% goal share at 5-on-5, but the Islanders have created three more high-danger scoring chances.

Pittsburgh won Game 2 on the strength of a great performance from goaltender Tristan Jarry and Game 3 due to a pedestrian effort from Varlamov, but it’s hard to project that that trend will continue based on regular season numbers. Jarry, who has a -1.17 GSAx in this series, skated to a -9.13 GSAx in the regular season.

I can see an argument to be made for either side on Saturday, but if you’re looking at the long-term picture you’d imagine that the Islanders will be able to sort out the defense and goaltending to give themselves a chance to win.

I think -110 is a good price on the Islanders to win Game 4, but I also think getting +235 on the Isles to win the series is worth considering, too. In a series this tight, taking a shot on a big number is never a bad idea.

Pick: Islanders -110

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