Today's Free Picks for
Posted on June 13th before Game 1
N.Y. Islanders +240 over TAMPA BAY
3:08 PM EST. What are we going to say about the defending champs that you don’t already know? The Lightning absolutely deserve to be the chalk in this matchup. The Bolts possess a deep roster with starpower up front and the world’s best goalie backing it up. Andrei Vasilevskiy is a big problem but this is hockey, the most luck-driven professional sport on the planet. Don’t get us wrong, as the game itself features highly skilled players that make it one of the most entertaining events one will ever attend but individual outcomes of each game comes mostly down to puck luck, which gives the Islanders a definite puncher's chance.
What you may not know is that while Tampa was able to win its series with Florida and Carolina respectively, the Bolts didn’t dominate at 5-on-5. The Lightning skated to a 51.9% expected goals rate in their first 11 games and actually lost the xGoals battle with the Panthers, 11.12 to 9.76, at 5-on-5. And even though the Lightning outscored the Hurricanes, 14-9 overall, the margin was just 7-6 at even strength. The Isles must stay out of the box more than the Bolts, and that, too, will help their chances.
Now let’s discuss the Islanders a bit. Barry Trotz did wonders in Nashville, Washington and now the Islanders. It’s no coincidence and it therefore becomes near impossible to measure the intangibles like chemistry, strategy and line matching. The market doesn’t like the Islanders and is therefore unwilling to eliminate the aforementioned abstract concepts and just stick to the numbers. For the most part, that is the right way to approach betting on the NHL, that being to drown out the noise and stick to predictive stats, but there is always an exception to the rule and Barry Trotz is it. Dude gets the best out of every player and situation and his teams must be feared.
The Isles were significant dogs to Sidney Crosby and company and subsequently imposed their will and took control of the series to win it in six. Next up, the -225 favored Bruins with its Perfection Line in full force, not to mention the key additions at the trade deadline. All the Islanders did to the Bruins is impose their will and take full control of the series just like they did against the Pens. Furthermore, whoever the Bolts send out, the Isles can counter with two very good lines that can forecheck all game long. Tampa has the puck-movers to answer that pressure, but absorbing hits from Matt Martin, Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, or dealing with pressure from Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Kyle Palmieri, will take its toll on any defense over the course of a series. Furthermore, the Isles have their own magic with the Matt Barzal line and Brock Nelson’s line is also fantastic in both creating and in transition and is coming off a fabulous performance in Game 6 against the Bruins.
Tampa Bay is scary, we get it, but let’s also not forget a team named the Columbus Blue Jackets who did away with the Bolts in four games just two seasons ago because the Jackets imposed their will. Not to take anything away from the Bolts but they ran into beer-league goaltenders in Round 1 otherwise they likely would have lost to Florida. In Round two, they were not the better team but Carolina was forced to play musical chairs with their goaltenders because neither could be trusted. We have to at least consider that if Columbus was able to take the Bolts off their game and impose their will, Barry Trotz will find a way too. The biggest hurdle the Islanders will have here is not the Bolts skaters but their goaltender.
Most significant is that almost everything in betting comes down to the price and in this case, the market is not giving the Isles much of a chance. However, the NYI have proven the market and media wrong at every turn and frankly, we would not be a bit surprised to see them take Game 1 and also the Series. That indeed where all the value lies.
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N.Y. Islanders +240 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 4.80)