Bruins vs. Islanders Odds
|Time||Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Tuesday night and via BetMGM|
The New York Islanders entered their second-round series against the Boston Bruins as significant underdogs. The pre-series line had the Bruins as -235 favorites to advance to the NHL’s version of the Final Four.
Despite this, it’s the Islanders who have a 3-2 series lead as the series heads back to Long Island for Game 6.
Through five games, we’ve seen a bit of everything. We’ve seen back-and-forth games with 5-4 scores and grinding games that went to overtime tied at 1. Games 2-4 were dead even and suggested there wasn’t much between the teams. Boston was clearly the better team in Games 1-5, but it was New York that managed to steal the most recent game on the road.
Now, the Isles head back to the raucous Nassau Coliseum with a chance to punch their ticket to the semifinals. New York is an underdog for the sixth straight game, but it seems oddsmakers have started to give them respect. This is the smallest underdog the Isles have been in this series.
Will the Isles get the job done in front of their home crowd?
How Did the Isles Win Game 5?
The Islanders’ Game 5 win was hardly a banner performance. Boston’s 70.3% expected goal rate at 5-on-5 and 44-19 advantage in shots was reminiscent of its performance in Game 1 of this series. When the Bruins are on top of their game, there’s little doubt they’re one of the very best teams in this league.
However, despite Boston consistently playing in the Isles’ zone on Monday night, the Isles held the Bruins to just six high-danger chances at even strength. The Isles are willing to check and defend all night as long as they do a good job of limiting the quality of their opponent’s chances.
One of the main reasons the Isles were able to escape Boston with a win was their power play. Mat Barzal, Kyle Palmieri and Jordan Eberle all scored power-play goals for the Isles, who went 3-for-4 on the man-advantage. This prompted Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy to go on a peculiar rant postgame where he went on to call the Isles the “New York Saints.” We’ll chalk it up to gamesmanship from a coach who might be looking for any advantage he can get as his team faces elimination.
Another storyline coming out of Game 4 is the Islanders’ goaltending situation. Semyon Varlamov was solid for the Isles, making 40 saves in the victory. He’ll almost certainly be in net for the Isles after winning three of four games in this series. However, the intrigue comes in Boston’s crease.
Tuukka Rask was beaten four times on 16 shots through two periods in Game 4. While it was hard to blame Rask on any of the goals individually, it was obvious he wasn’t his usual sharp self. In a shocking move, Cassidy went with rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman in the third period and put his veteran on the bench.
After the game, Cassidy admitted that Rask wasn’t nearly 100% and he needed some time for maintenance. He also said he assumed Rask would be ready for Game 6 but did not outright commit to starting him if healthy. Will the Bruins decide to go with a rookie netminder with their season on the line?
What To Look For on Long Island
With the series heading back to Long Island, it’s a good opportunity to examine some home/road splits in this series.
It’s been a tale of two different series for Boston’s “Perfection Line” featuring Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. In the three games in Boston, they’ve played to a 70% expected goal (xG) rate. In the two games on Long Island, they’ve been held in check to the tune of a 36% xG rate.
When in Boston, Cassidy has decided to match Bergeron’s line against Brock Nelson and his linemates. Bergeron has dominated the Isles’ second line center throughout the series.
However, on Long Island where Barry Trotz has the last change, Bergeron has seen a lot of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who has fared much better. In fact, mid-way through Game 5, Trotz swapped Nelson and Pageau’s in his lineup and the difference was noticeable. With Trotz getting the last change on Wednesday, he’ll be able to get his choice of matchup. Slowing down the Perfection Line is a huge piece of the puzzle in terms of beating the Bruins.
After a slow start to the playoffs, Mat Barzal has really gotten going for the Isles. Barzal has scored in three straight games. He forced overtime in Game 4, scored the winning goal late in that one and then he scored a key early goal to help stabilize the Isles in game five. More importantly, he has looked dangerous and put pressure on a depleted Bruins defensive unit who will once again be without Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller in Game 6.
Also noteworthy has been the difference in style we’ve seen in this series depending on where the game is played. In Boston, the three games have seen the teams combine for 23 goals. However, on Long Island, Game 3 went to overtime tied at one goal a piece. In Game 4, the game was tied at one until late in the third period. Two empty-net goals in the final minute by the Isles inflated the final score, but for all intents and purposes it was another 2-1 game. Trotz is one of the league’s best defensive coaches, so I don’t think it’s a coincidence the games are lower scoring when he has more control.
Bruins vs. Islanders Best Bet
Throughout this series, I’ve been of the mindset the Islanders have been undervalued in every game.
However, I think the line for this game is much more fair and representative of these two teams. The Isles’ closed between +124 and +130 on the moneyline in their first two home games of this series. At +105, I think the oddsmakers have adjusted to a fair spot. Boston is likely a slightly better team, but the Nassau Coliseum provides one of the league’s better home-ice advantages.
In the first two games on Long Island, we saw two low-scoring and evenly played games. The Isles posted a 4.46-4.00 advantage in terms of expected goals and had 20 high-danger chances compared to 18 for Boston. The teams combined for just eight goals in the two games, with two of those being empty netters.
I do think there’s a correlation between the location of these games and the type of game we’ve seen. Boston has not gotten much production at 5-on-5 from their players outside of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak. As mentioned earlier, the Isles have done a great job slowing them down when Trotz can send out Pageau and his linemates against them.
I don’t see much value in the moneyline, but I think there’s value in the total. Throughout this series, the total has mostly sat at a flat five goals. However, a high scoring Game 5 has seen the total rise to 5.5 goals. I’d lean towards backing this game to stay under the total as the Isles try to impose their defensive style on Boston and end their season.
Pick: Under 5.5 Goals