With the amount of parity in the NHL these days and the increased number of three-point games resulting from shootouts and overtime, it is around now that we start to see lo9gjams in the standings. The league thinks this is great because it gives more teams a longer chance to make the playoffs, which in turn should make games more interesting.
Tonight, a big Metropolitan Division matchup is taking place between the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The rivalry between these teams goes back decades (who can forget David Volek’s overtime goal in Game 7 of the quarterfinals against the Penguins to knock out the two-time defending champions).
Even though Pittsburgh has had by far the better team success over the last 30 years, they always find a tough opponent in the Islanders. This year, bettors have had their hands full trying to bet on either team, and this can be seen in the standings, with the Islanders (13-10-3) barely ahead of the Penguins (11-9-5) in the standings.
The following odds are courtesy of Live Odds feed:
Why the Islanders Will Win
If you can imagine this, it is the Islanders that have the better goaltending right now. Thomas Griess and Robin Lehner have been more than serviceable, with Griess showing himself to be the frontrunner for the regular starting role. With 9 wins and a 2.39 Goals Against Average, he looks to have the best odds of starting this divisional matchup.
Most sports bettors and industry experts were writing off the Islanders after they lost the face of their franchise, John Tavares, to the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency this past summer. However, the team does have a nice array of young talent, and in this NHL, balanced scoring and great team speed can put any time in the hunt.
The Islanders don’t have a great power play this year, but if they can find lightning in a bottle against the worn-down Penguins and ride a hot Thomas Greiss, they could win this game.
Why Pittsburgh Will Win
To say the Penguins are starting to panic is a bit of an overstatement. However, the perennial Stanley Cup favorites are in a tough stretch, and a lot of that has to do with goaltending.
Matt Murray continues to battle with nagging injuries, which leaves the net to be protected by Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith. Neither has been consistent although they have shown flashes of brilliance in their time between the pipes.
The Penguins’ special teams continue to be near the top of the league, but the knock against the team has been finding consistent secondary scoring to complement the top lines. GM Jim Rutherford has been known to work the phones looking for trades, and already this year the team has tinkered with the lineup by trading Darren Sprong and Carl Hagelin.
However, the rumor that he was also shopping star Phil Kessel should light a fire under the Penguins team, as you just never know how far Rutherford will go to keep the Penguins in the hunt.
The Penguins can win this game if they can get continued production from guys like Kessel and Patric Hornqvist, who tallied a natural hat trick in the Pens’ most recent win over Colorado.
What to Bet on in This Matchup
Looking at the betting lines, we can see how the goaltending could come into question. Typically, we don’t like betting totals that are 6.5 goals, but in this case, we think the Pens will find some scoring on the Power Play to pad their team stats. When it comes to the outcome of the game, however, we think you should stay away from the money line and take the Islanders +1.5 goals.
This is likely to be an overtime game when all is said and done, and once they bring out the Zamboni at the end of the third period, you’ll know you have a winner.
Our Picks: New York Islanders +1.5, over 6.5 goals.
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