Islanders vs Lightning – NHL Pick for December 5th
- New York Islanders (+160) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-180)
Some normalcy has begun to set in on the 2017-18 NHL season. We still have 5 different playoff teams from last year occupying postseason positions. In fact, the two teams tied atop the NHL – the Jets and Lightning- failed to make hockey’s second season last year. However, teams who we thought would be playoff contenders are starting to return to form. Just a few weeks ago the Capitals and Canadiens were on the outside looking in. Solid play of late now has them in a playoff spot.
The Rangers too have turned their season around. They were last in the East early on but now are just 3 points back of the final wild-card spot. On the flip side, some teams have come back down to Earth. The Red Wings got off to a great start but have dropped 7-straight. The Blues were tops in the league just 2 weeks ago but a 4-5-1 run has them 3rd in their division.
Since the Overtime/Shootout loss extra-point has been awarded it has been tough not to fall behind with a rough patch of games. Every game, every point has you moving up and down the standings. We have 10-matchups Tuesday so let’s get to it!
Two of the aforementioned new playoff teams square off in Tampa. The Lightning host the Islanders on Tuesday night. What a start it’s been for the Bolts. They have run over opponents early on this year. On the backs of the dynamic duo of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, Tampa is primed for a deep run this year. Last season was a write off for Head Coach Jon Cooper’s group. They were decimated by injury particularly that of Stamkos. This year has been a complete 180 for the club.
After the Islanders took a big step in 2015-16 they were horrendous last year. They were in last place for a long stretch and had to fire their coach. Doug Weight became the bench boss and things changed. Since his hiring, they have been one of the best teams in the league. This season is massive, as they look for a new arena deal and encourage superstar John Tavares to sign long-term. So far, so good.
The Lightning are solid on both sides of the puck. Their league-leading +28 goal-differential will tell you that much. They have the 2nd best offense at 3.6 goals a game. They are led by Kucherov and Stamkos. The Russian-sniper opened the season as a 40/1 Hart Trophy winner in Vegas. So far, he has 19 goals good for second behind just Alex Ovechkin. He leads all scorers with 38 points. After an injury-plagued season last year Stamkos is right behind him with 37 points. Good luck stopping them. On defense, they are 4th in the NHL. Victor Hedman is their stud work-horse. He is an early Norris contender who leads his team in minutes per game with 25+. He has chipped in with 17 points and for you Fantasy Hockey players he has a team-high 20 PIMs.
Whose offense is better than the Lightning? Well, that accolade belongs to the Islanders. They have 99 goals on the season tied with Toronto for the most. They have done it in 2 fewer games than the Leafs and average 3.7 goals a night. John Tavares has 17 goals, 3rd in the NHL. Right behind him is the surprise Anders Lee with 16 tallies good for 4th in the league. Throw in Josh Bailey who has 25 assists -his career high is 30- and you have a solid top-3. The defense has been less than stellar. They are 24th in the league and give almost just as many goals as they score. Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk are their top-2 d-men and neither is close to Hedman’s level.
The Islanders have pretty much a 50/50 split in net. Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss are 1-A, 1-B in goal. Halak got the start Monday so look to Greiss to be in net. He has a woeful 3.61 GAA. For Tampa, Andrei Vasilevskiy is an early Vezina candidate. He has a 17-4-1 record with a 2.22 GAA. He’s been busy this year but he’s also been great.
Hard to go against the best team in the league when their opponent is coming off a back to back. The value won’t be there on Tampa on the money line but they’re playing so well I still recommend grabbing them on the spread.