Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:00 PM EST.
7:05 PM EST. All of us that follow this great game know precisely where these two sit in the standings and what their expectations are. In that regard, the Lightning are supposed to roll into Brooklyn and beat the Islanders on their worst day. While that may indeed happen, we’re in the business of playing value and letting the chips fall where they may, which has the arrow pointing heavily to the Islanders as long as rookie Christopher Gibson is between the pipes. If Jaroslav Halak starts, we’ll put this one aside, as we reiterate that goaltending is the number one deciding factor in NHL games. Gibson is coming off another brilliant performance against the Penguins (a 4-1 Islanders win) and is now sporting a .936 save % after five starts. Indeed it’s a small sample size but regardless, it gives every player on that Islanders bench a boost. Soft goals are deflating while great saves are uplifting and the contrast makes a huge difference.
The Lightning are coming of a fortunate 4-3 win over the Maple Leafs in a game that saw the Bolts muster a mere 25 shots on net and an even weaker 36 shots (CF) directed to the net during 5v5 play. Tampa trailed 3-0 in what was being tabbed as a big game and they played like it was anything but. In another “big game” last Saturday night also in Tampa, the Bolts lost 3-0 to the depleted Bruins and mustered a mere 23 shots on net. In a recent 5-4 win over the Panthers, also in Tampa, the Bolts were outshot 49-33 and out-Corsied 66-52! In between all that, the Bolts have been playing nothing but weak teams and barely getting by with four extra time wins in their past 10 games and losses to Ottawa (7-4) and Buffalo (2-1). The Lightning have been winning lately but this is absolutely a flawed team, especially on defense, where the Bolts rank 26th out of 31 teams in High Danger Scoring Chances Against since February 1. The addition of Ryan McDonagh, that the NHL media was going ape-shit over with praise, only makes the Bolts slower back there than they were before, as you would be hard pressed to find one single player in the NHL that would lose a race to the puck to McDonagh. You can believe what the media is selling about McDonagh, that he is a great addition and puts the Bolts over the top but we’re not buying that position one bit. Instead we see him as an irrelevant addition to a weak defense. Why this dude is getting so much praise is beyond us. The Rangers couldn’t get out of their own end when he played for them and he’s not this great puck moving defenseman either. He’s a tough, stay at home defenseman but guys of McDonagh’s caliber are a dime a dozen. Last season with practically the exact same team, Tampa missed the playoffs.. This season the Bolts received great goaltending and they’re a virtual lock for a first or second overall in the East and will finish with well over 100 points. That’s why they’re killing it this year but Andrei Vasilevskiy is showing cracks in his game lately and maybe he doesn’t even start here.
Now let’s go back to value. Remember early in the year when the Islanders were winning games at a high percentage? Their weak goaltending was being overlooked because they were winning. As the Isles shooting percentage normalized, the losses started to pile up because you cannot win 6-5 games every night, like they were early in the year. With weak goaltending, the breakdown was inevitable. However, the Islander went into Tampa on November 17 and was just a +150 pooch. Today at home, they are priced higher. Incidentally, the Islanders won that game, 5-3. Last year, the Bolts played in Brooklyn twice and they were a -107 favorite and a -117 favorite respectively. The year before, the Lightning played in Brooklyn twice and was -105 and +102 respectively. The Bolts have not been close to being this price on the road to the Isles and they shouldn’t be priced in this range today in a game they may be disinterested in.
The Lightning cancelled a scheduled morning practice on Wednesday. A short time later, practice was back on again because the team’s charter flight to New York was cancelled. It was that sort of a day for Tampa Bay, which now will be forced to travel to New York on today before facing the Islanders later. It will be a tough situation to deal with and it was made a bit worse when the Lightning found out that Ryan Callahan will be out indefinitely.
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Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports and take advantage of their -104 style pricing on sides and totals, which is 60% better than other sportsbooks.
N.Y. ISLANDERS +165 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 3.30)