NHL Playoffs Betting Odds, Picks, Preview: Saturday’s Best Bets for Penguins vs. Islanders, Canadiens vs. Maple Leafs, More (May 22)
Emilee Chinn/Getty Images. Pictured: New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin.
- Four NHL playoff games. Four different picks from Our Action Network hockey analysts.
- Check out below who they're backing in Saturday's showdowns across North American ice.
Things should continue to heat up Saturday in the NHL playoffs, with four games taking place on North American ice.
The day’s first puck drops at 12:30 p.m. ET, with the Tampa Bay Lightning looking to go up 3-1 on the Florida Panthers in their series. We close out the quartet of contests with the Minnesota Wild hoping to even things in their matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights.
Here’s the complete schedule of games on the docket, with current odds:
- Florida Panthers (+123) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-143), 12:30 p.m. ET
- Pittsburgh Penguins (-108) at New York Islanders (-108), 3 p.m. ET
- Montreal Canadiens (+145) at Toronto Maple Leafs (-175), 7 p.m. ET
- Vegas Golden Knights (-120) at Minnesota Wild (+103), 8 p.m. ET
Now, let’s check out our favorite bets on the card below:
Nicholas Martin: Florida Panthers ML (+123) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Puck Drop: 12:30 p.m. ET
Florida managed to pull off the crucial win in highly dramatic fashion in Game 3, avoiding an 0-3 hole and all but inevitable elimination from the playoffs.
The Panthers stormed out of the gate to a 2-0 lead before a second period that saw Tampa Bay score five times, en route to chasing Panthers’ goaltender Chris Driedger from the game.
Down 5-3 after two periods and essentially playing for its season, Florida answered emphatically, forcing overtime behind a very gutty third period effort and ultimately winning it on Ryan Lomberg’s tally 5:56 into the frame.
Our friends at moneypuck.com had Florida at a 9.9% chance to win the game at the end of the second period, and to pull off such a comeback in a do-or-die spot could come as a massive boost to a less-experienced group.
Stopping nine of nine shots in relief should also come as a boost to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky’s confidence and maybe we see him find some better form as a result.
Over the entirety of the series, Florida has won the expected goals battle by 11.30-9.01 margin.
That number doesn’t mean everything, specifically when we discuss a team with an all-world goaltender in Andrei Vasilevskiy and some elite scoring talent like Tampa Bay. However, it shows just how close this series has been and gives a realistic notion Florida certainly could be sitting up 2-1 in the series.
Pete Truszkowski: New York Islanders ML (-108) vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Puck Drop: 3 p.m. ET
The Islanders had their best performance of the playoffs in Game 3 against the Penguins. They posted a 57.5% expected-goal rate, while generating more High Danger Chances than their opponents. Unfortunately for the Islanders, for one of the rare times this season, they lost the goaltending battle.
Entering this series, we outlined how New York should have a substantial goaltending advantage over the Penguins. It’s not totally shocking that Tristan Jarry has been shaky at best in two of the three games thus far. During the regular season, he had a -11.8 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) overall.
On the other hand, Semyon Varlamov chalked up a +2.7 GSAx mark with a .929 save percentage, which was the best mark in the league among goaltenders that started at least 30 games.
After missing the opener due to injury, Varlamov has started the last two games by allowing soft goals within the first four minutes. He rebounded in the second outing, but wasn’t able to do the same in the third meeting. After allowing five goals on just 27 shots, the feeling in New York is that Barry Trotz will turn the crease back over to Ilya Sorokin.
Sorokin was very solid in his rookie season, posting a +2.5 GSAx with a .918 save percentage. He stopped 39 of 42 Penguins attempts in the opener of this series, which is the Isles’ lone win to this point.
This series has been relatively even as all three games have been one goal games. Pittsburgh has the slight advantage in terms of puck possession and shot quality, but it’s negligible. Once New York increased its physical play in game three, it was able to take over the flow of the game.
With players like Matt Martin, Scott Mayfield and Cal Clutterbuck, New York is definitely the more physical team. Pittsburgh has at times struggled with this style of hockey over the past decade, as it prefers to let games be quick and fast so its skill can shine through.
With New York likely making a goaltending change, and playing a huge game in front of its home crowd, I like it here in this Pick’em spot. This series has been evenly matched and it’s only fitting it goes back to Pittsburgh tied.
Jeremy Pond: Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs — Total Under 5.5 Goals (-117)
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
My wife and I were heading back from some late-evening errands Wednesday here in Toronto when I popped the Canadiens-Maple Leafs game on my phone. And not five minutes after tuning in, John Tavares went down with a terrible injury that saw him leave the Scotiabank Arena ice on a stretcher.
I said to Fiona, “If I was going to play this game live, now is the time to get down on Montreal.” Was it a prophetic moment? Probably not. Anything can happen in hockey, more so than any other sport in my opinion. Yet, you see time and time again when a team loses its leader or star, it mentally goes in the tank and will struggle the rest of the way.
Take nothing away from Montreal in its surprising 2-1 victory over Toronto in the series opener. The Canadiens deserved the win, getting a first-period goal from Josh Anderson midway through the first period and Paul Byron’s shorthand tally in the third to take away home-ice advantage out of the gate.
Veteran goaltender Carey Price was stellar in the triumph, making 35 saves in the win. His stop of Mitch Marner in the third period was something of pure brilliance that any hockey fan, regardless of allegiance, should have applauded.
UNREAL SAVE BY CAREY PRICE 🤯
— theScore (@theScore) May 21, 2021
Now, the Maple Leafs are in a tough spot and face a must-win situation. And they’re going to have to do it without their captain, who is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion after that unfortunate collision with Corey Perry.
It’s not like Toronto didn’t have opportunities throughout the contest. The North Division power simply didn’t finish its chances. Marner and Auston Matthews combined for 13 shots, with defenseman Morgan Reilly getting off five of his own. William Nylander had four, en route to scoring the lone goal.
And as much as Price was fantastic, counterpart Jack Campbell was up for the challenge between the Toronto pipes. Campbell made 30 saves in the loss, but played more than well enough to have earned the win had his teammates been able to crack Montreal’s up-to-the-task defense.
For me, I expect another tight affair and Toronto struggling to solve Price again. Losing Tavares means there are significant line changes, which isn’t something you want to be dealing with in the postseason. Cohesion is key and I think the Maple Leafs are going to have issues with that aspect of their game.
That said, I find plenty of value on the total staying under 5.5 goals in this spot and will make it my top selection. Price and Campbell will be on point again, which should keep keep this an ultra-tight heading into the third period.
Matt Russell: Minnesota Wild ML (+103) vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
I want to vigorously co-sign Pete’s pick of the Islanders, but he covered things nicely there, so I’ll make the Wild my top play instead.
Minnesota might have believed it had Vegas beaten, thanks to an early 2-0 lead in their most recent game that was very close to being 3-0, only to have it called back after a review determined the linesman missed an offside call when the Wild entered the zone.
After all, given the first two games where scoring was nearly impossible to come by in the opening two periods, a pair of goals in the first frame might have felt like 10 to be honest.
Vegas showed some heart by burying Minnesota in the second period with three goals to take the lead, thus taking the bite out of its counterpart and its raucous crowd. While that was enough to give the Golden Knights the edge in the series, there’s no doubt that the first three games have shown us that these teams are evenly matched.
The Wild’s issue has been their conversion rates. Between a 2-for-28 effort on even-strength High-Danger Chances and 0 for 5 on the power play, theyhave left a lot of offense on the table.
Down just 2-1 in the series, there’s more than enough time for them to catch back up to their regular-season efficiency in both categories. It goes without saying literally any power-play goal would help.
I think Minnesota gets one on the man-advantage, plus convert one or two more goals, and notch the win as the even-money underdog to tie the series at 2-2 on its way back to Sin City.