One of the more interesting games on Tuesday’s 12-game National Hockey League slate involves the Boston Bruins visiting the New York Islanders at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn.
I know the calendar just flipped to January and there are nearly four full months left in the NHL regular season, but this game could end up looming large when it comes to deciding who makes the playoffs in the tight Eastern Conference. The Bruins may look pretty comfortable sitting in fourth in the East right now with a 21-10-6 record, but the Islanders (who are currently eighth in the conference, one point ahead of the Hurricanes and three ahead of Pittsburgh) are just four points back of Boston.
It’s also a matchup of two teams headed in opposite directions. After being hammered with a deluge of early-season injuries, the Bruins have found their form of late, going undefeated in regulation time in their last eight outings (6-0-2). The Islanders, meanwhile, started the season hot before hitting the skids in recent action, managing just one regulation time victory in their last nine games.
Who’s got the edge tonight in this clash of playoff hopefuls? And more importantly for us, where can we find a betting edge to make a few bucks while we enjoy what should be a competitive and spirited game in Brooklyn? Let’s break down the matchup.
Oddsmakers made the Bruins a slight road favorite here, with 5Dimes opening the Bruins at -115 while listing the Islanders at -105. Early money has been on Boston, bumping the Bruins up to -125 this morning, while the Over/Under of 6 was slightly juiced to the Under (-110).
It’s not hard to understand why the early money has come in on the Bruins. Not only have they been hot of late, they’ve also toyed with the Islanders over the years. Boston’s 3-1 win over New York last month in Boston was the Bruins’ seventh in the last nine meetings, and they’ve also claimed 13 of their last 16 visits to Long Island/Brooklyn. I’m not always a big fan of these types of trends, but when a team enjoys sustained success against another franchise (such as the Ducks winning 30 of their last 31 home games against the Flames), I do believe it can play a psychological factor.
However, the Isles should have more on their mind right now than just dwelling on how the Big Bad Bruins have pushed them around in their own building of late. New Year’s Eve in Colorado was a debacle for the Islanders, when New York was outshot 35-15 in the first two periods on its way to a 6-1 loss to the mediocre Avalanche. Things got so bad that Islanders coach Doug Weight got tossed late in the second period. In case you don’t follow hockey that closely, head coaches have to say some pretty choice words to the officials to be given the heave-ho.
The last time the Islanders looked this bad in a game was a 5-0 loss November 10 in Dallas, when New York trailed 3-0 after one period and was outshot 29-14 on the night. The very next evening, the Isles bounced back with an impressive 5-2 road win over the St. Louis Blues, roaring out to a 3-0 first-period lead of their own. So we know the Islanders are capable of rebounding from a poor performance (they’ve actually won 10 of their last 13 games when coming off a loss by 3 or more goals), and I’m expecting them to bring a strong effort again tonight. Does that make New York a strong moneyline play as the home underdog?
I’m not so sure about that. Even if the Islanders are bringing everything they’ve got, their goaltending and defense are both horrendous. Five times in their last nine games, they’ve allowed at least five goals. On the season, they’re allowing 3.54 goals per outing, and that average drops only slightly to 3.28 when they’re playing at home. And even though the Bruins are built around defense, they’ve got an attack that can take advantage of New York’s poor play in its own zone. In fact, the Bruins are averaging 4.0 goals per game in their last seven.
The Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings between these two teams, but I’m expecting a different style of game here tonight. If New York is going to challenge a Bruins team that has had their number in recent years, they’re going to have to do it with offense, and playing at home seems to bring out the best in the Islanders forwards (4.17 goals per game at home this year). But Boston’s not going to roll over, either, playing with a lot of confidence against a team they know they have enjoyed a lot of success against.
Simply put, there are reasons the Islanders have gone Under just six times in their last 33 games. I expect those reasons to come to the fore again here tonight, and won’t be surprised to see both teams pot at least 3 goals in this matchup.