The New York Islanders are on the brink of elimination from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they'll have a chance to survive at home in Game 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight.
Let's get to it.
Talk about a statement victory.
While it seemed like the entire betting sharp community was touting the efforts of the Islanders as underdogs during these playoffs, the heavily favored Lightning went about their business and then some in Game 5, completely crushing New York en route to an 8-0 ... uh, victory.
That's obviously a devastating, hard-to-replicate loss, so let's get the obvious out of the way: the Islanders aren't going to lose Game 6 in similar fashion.
But I do think New York's spirited season and impressive playoff run ends here, tonight, in Game 6.
Game 5 showed just how hard it is to beat Tampa Bay when it hits its stride. Its potent top lines are nearly impossible to stop — Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Nikita Kucherov (more on him later) have been masterful — and once it became clear that Islander pucks would rather hit posts instead of the net, the game was over.
New York will undoubtedly be looking to play a tighter, cleaner form of hockey in Game 6 and avoid another game getting out of hand, but that could play right into Tampa Bay's gloves. All the pressure is on the Islanders this game, while the reigning champs are one win away from returning to the promised land.
Who do you think will be looking to play carefully — perhaps even too carefully?
If there's one thing going for the Isles (not much is — most advanced stats have the Lightning well ahead of New York in terms of puck control and offensive hockey) — it's that they'll be able to fight one last time at the uber-friendly confines of the Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders are 5-0 against the spread in their last 10 games at home.
So, why would I take the Lightning in this elimination game?
I forgot the last time a Lightning bet was available at such low odds (low for them, of course). -155 on the money line seems right coming off that monstrous victory, but still having to play a desperate Islanders team at home. I'd bet this up to -160, but anything past that and I wouldn't look at a Lightning bet.
The Islanders, on the other hand, have been a solid underdog bet all playoffs, but home-ice advantage and game-narrative might be getting a bit overblown in this spot. The Islanders just got obliterated 8-0, are on the brink of going home for good, yet are only getting +125 juice?
That tells me this game will be decided by one or two goals, and in that scenario, I'll take the better team that's motivated to return to the Stanley Cup finals and become just the second champion to repeat since 1999.
One last note: Nikita Kucherov has been unknowingly paying my unborn child's college fund with his ridiculous point streak (that's obviously a joke but depending on how long he keeps this up, it also might not be), so I see no reason to stop drinking from that well now. Even if this turns out to be a low-scoring game (at least, in comparison to Game 5), the Islanders have had no luck in stopping Kucherov. +140 for him to keep his point streak alive seems like a gift to me.
Pick(s): Tampa Bay Lightning ML (-155) / Nikita Kucherov OVER 1.5 points (+140)