Islanders vs. Bruins Odds
|Time||Monday, 6:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Sunday and via DraftKings|
There is only one series in Round 2 in which neither team has had more than a one-game lead. That contest is the East Division Final between the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins.
Prior to Game 1 the general consensus was that the Bruins and Islanders were sort of like twins. Both teams are built from the back to the front and rely on intelligent defense, good goaltending and timely offense to get their results. Neutral observers may be quick to label the Bruins and Isles as boring because they typically thrive in low-event games but with both teams operating at, or near, the height of their powers this series has been anything but dull.
In fact, if you wanted a near-perfect example of what Playoff Hockey is supposed to look, sound and feel like, I’d offer the Bruins-Islanders the series for you.
While these two teams both do similar things well, most folks in the Hockey World seemed to arrive at a similar conclusion for how this series would play out. The Isles would be pests, but the B’s are just a better version of the Islanders and in the end would be able to wrap this thing up and advance. The betting market was inline with that notion as the Bruins were a -230 favorite to win the best-of-7. What’s more is that Boston’s price opened at -215 for the series, meaning that money came in on the B’s even at that price.
To be fair, there were a lot of signs pointing to a series win for the Bruins. Not only were the B’s white hot down the stretch of the regular season, but they followed that up by making relatively light work of the Capitals in Round 1. On the other hand, the Islanders were basically handed a ticket to Round 2 by Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry. If you put all of those factors into a blender and sprinkle in the fact that bettors and narrative-makers generally have no problem counting out the Isles and you have a recipe for a consensus.
After Game 1 it looked like everybody was on the right track. The Bruins dominated play en route to a 5-2 win, sending a message that the Islanders would need to raise their game a few notches if this series was going to last more than a week. The Islanders did just that with an impressive overtime victory in Game 2 and then they followed that up with a hard-luck overtime loss in Game 3. Down 2-1, the Islanders were basically in must-win mode on Saturday night and came through, winning Game 4 as +124 home underdogs.
The series being knotted, 2-2, is not a huge surprise as we are dealing with two solid teams, but what is a bit unexpected perhaps is how the Islanders have responded since their loss in Game 1.
|Islanders Stat (5-on-5)||Game 1||Games 2-4|
|Expected Goal Rate||19.9%||53.9%|
|High-Danger Chance Rate||14.3%||51.9%|
Of course the Islanders were very unlikely to play as poorly as they did in Game 1 again in Games 2, 3 and 4, but I would be lying if I said that the Isles would be the better 5-on-5 team in the next three contests. While it must be noted that two of those contests were at home, meaning Barry Trotz could get the matchups he wanted, it is still a very encouraging sign for Islanders backers that this team is not only skating with one of the league’s strongest 5-on-5 teams, but at times outplaying them.
Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.
Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.
Islanders vs. Bruins Game 5 Best Bet
The odds for Game 5 are not too far off where they closed for Games 1 and 2, which were the last two contests played in Boston. The Isles closed at +160 and +163, respectively, in those contests so +157 seems like a sensible price on the surface. And while the Bruins are deserving to be clear home favorites, I do think that the price on the Islanders is pretty attractive, especially since Boston is likely to be without Brandon Carlo on Monday night.
Carlo and deadline-acquisition Mike Reilly had combined to form a terrific second pairing for the Bruins, giving Bruce Cassidy some peace of mind behind his stellar top duo featuring Long Island native Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk. Without Carlo, Cassidy was forced to dress Jarred Tinordi for Game 4, and while Tinordi was decent in that showing, he’s not a great puck-mover which is vital against the Islanders’ ferocious forecheck.
The thought of Bruce Cassidy getting The Perfection Line (David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) on against Andy Greene and Noah Dobson is a frightening thought, but the B’s had last change in Game 2 and the Isles not only survived that tilt but played well and won. With four defensively responsible forward groups, the Islanders are built to be able to weather storms and strike back on the counter.
While I don’t expect that the Isles will be able to completely bottle Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand, I’d also suggest it’s unlikely we see a repeat performance from Game 1 when Boston’s talismanic trio was able to walk all over the Islanders.
Another potential antidote to The Perfection Line is the form of goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Since drawing into the lineup in Game 2, the Russian netminder has a .946 save percentage and a +2.58 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx). If Varlamov carries that form into Game 5 it immediately levels the playing field.
As the numbers in this series have shown, the Islanders and Bruins have been neck-and-neck over the past three contests. The Bruins are the better team and home-ice advantage certainly boosts their edge, but the Islanders have, time and again, proven to be one of the best teams in the NHL at turning games against better opposition into coin flips.
It’s a tall task, but I think the Isles’ current odds, which imply they win Game 5 only 38.9% of the time, are worth a bet. In fact, I’d play the Isles all the way down to +140, though it would be quite a surprise if the price dips that much.
Pick: Islanders +157 (play down to +140)