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Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Penguins vs. Islanders Game 3 Betting Preview (May 20)

Thursday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Penguins vs. Islanders Game 3 Betting Preview (May 20) article feature image

Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: The Penguins and Islanders face off in Game 1.

  • After splitting the first two games in Pittsburgh, the series now turns to Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 between the Penguins and Islanders.
  • With the exception of a late-game flurry in Game 1, both games have been defensive battles, setting the total at 5.5 for Game 3.
  • Pete Truszkowski explains why he's expecting a low-scoring game again in front of the Islanders' home crowd.

Penguins vs. Islanders Odds

Penguins Odds -105
Islanders Odds -112
Over/Under 5.5 (+110 / -134)
Time Thursday, 7 pm ET
Odds updated Thursday afternoon and via DraftKings

The New York Islanders come back home to the Nassau Coliseum after splitting the first two games of their series with the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. After entering the postseason with plenty of question marks regarding their current form and their ability to flip the switch, the Isles haven’t done much to alleviate those concerns.

However, Barry Trotz’s teams are always well coached. When playing their game, they have a chance to win every night due to their sound defensive structure and team-based system. With the added incentive of this being the final-ever playoff run at the Coliseum, will the Isles step their games up in front of their home crowd?

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What Have We Learned So Far?

Game 2 of this series encapsulated the pros and cons of backing the New York Islanders. The Islanders did not play particularly well and generated almost nothing offensively. They scored just one goal against a goaltender that looked extremely vulnerable in Game 1. However, despite this, the Islanders were always in the game and had a chance to tie the game in the final minute when they had a 6-on-4 skating advantage. 

Through two games of this series, Pittsburgh has a 56.2% expected goal rate with a 55.2% shot attempt share. While they haven’t been utterly dominant, if they had gotten competent goaltending in the first game of this series, they’d have a 2-0 series lead. 

If goaltending is the difference in this series, the New York Islanders have a steady advantage. Semyon Varlamov returned from injury in Game 2, and despite a soft opening goal, was brilliant between the pipes for the Isles. Varlamov stopped 43 of 45 shots. Tristan Jarry also rebounded nicely for the Penguins in Game 2, stopping 37 of 38 Isles’ bids. However, on the season, Varlamov posted a +2.7 goals saved above expectation while Jarry was poor with a -11.8 mark. 

The Penguins top line featuring Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust has posted a 63.6% expected goal mark through the first two games. Particularly concerning for the Isles is that they’ve matched up Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock against Crosby for 65% of Crosby’s even strength time on ice. With the Isles now at home, Trotz will continue to seek out this matchup. Pelech and Pulock were arguably the best shutdown pairing in hockey during the regular season, but they haven’t been up to the task through the first two games.

On the other side, the Isles’ top line with Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov has played to a paltry expected goal rate of just 25.5%. Mike Sullivan has largely matched Brandon Tanev, Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese against the Isles top trio. The Penguins shutdown line has an expected goal rate of 75%. 

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Penguins vs. Islanders Best Bet

The Islanders haven’t been the same team since mid-March when they lost captain Anders Lee. They haven’t been able to find the right combination of lines, and in turn they’ve struggled to score goals. Outside of the energy fourth line for New York, the other three lines have expected goal rates below 46% in this series. As mentioned above, Mat Barzal, the Isles’ best offensive player, has particularly struggled. 

While the Isles would prefer not to spot the Penguins an early 2-0 lead again, they feel most confident playing in low-scoring games. They thrive on turning games against more talented teams into coin flips by keeping them low scoring. With Trotz being one of the better coaches in the league and now having home-ice advantage, I expect him to find the combination that slows down Crosby and company.  Pelech and Pulock have a long track record of shutting down top lines. 

The Islanders offense doesn’t inspire enough confidence for me to bet them here as a slight home favorite. However, I have great respect for their defensive ability and their goaltending. I expect them to be able to play their game in front of their fans. Their game entails great defensive checking and tenacious play; the opposite of a high-flying game.

Game 1 was tied at two with just over four minutes to go in the game before two quick, late goals. It was an unfortunate break for under bettors. If you had the under in Game 2, you had a relatively relaxed night with no real sweat as the total was never in jeopardy. I think the tight checking continues as this series heads to Long Island.

The Pick: Under 5.5 Goals

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