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NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski closes the week with three plays for Sunday

New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals

BET: Islanders Team Total Over 2.5 @ -120

The Islanders are on a roll. After making quick work of the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round, the Isles have jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against the Washington Capitals.

It hasn’t been a fluke either. The Isles are absolutely dominating this series at even strength. New York has 54.3% of the shot attempts, 65.8% of the expected goals, and 70.6% of the high danger scoring chances. In this series, the Isles are averaging 12 high danger chances per game.

Washington is allowing the Islanders to establish their forecheck, grinding them down low, and is giving up prime quality chances way too easily. The Islanders are getting to the front of the net and getting great looks. The Islanders are averaging 18 high danger chances per 60 minutes of 5v5 time in this series. The best team in the league this past season only averaged 12.57 high danger chances per hour. Granted, it’s a small sample size but it shows how many opportunities the Islanders are getting.

If your defense is going to be leaking like the Capitals have been, you best have a solid netminder in between the pipes. This season, Braden Holtby has been anything but that.

During the regular season, Holtby basically lost his starting job to youngster Ilya Samsonov. His save percentage was under .900 which is the equivalent of a baseball player batting under .200. It’s really bad. It’s continued into this series with the Islanders as he’s gotten beat eight times on 58 shots which is a .862 save percentage. This is minor-league level. He’s given up some soft goals at bad times as well and it causes his team to unravel. His confidence has to be low.

The cherry on top is the fact that the Islanders become the “home” team in game three. Their coach, Barry Trotz, now controls the matchup. When Washington had control of the matchups, they put out the Ovechkin line against the Isles first line with Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee. Those two lines basically cancelled each other out.

Now that Trotz has the opportunity to get his top players out there against weaker opponents, they should create more scoring chances. The Islanders have gone over 2.5 goals in 4 of their last 5 games, including both games in this series. They have scored nine goals in two games against the Capitals. I expect them to be able to find the net again on Sunday afternoon.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Montreal Canadiens

BET: Flyers Moneyline @ -134

The story of these next two picks is taking good teams who are struggling and having the market overreact to their struggles. If you recall in game two of this series, I took the Montreal Canadiens to win at +140. Yes, +140. Montreal came out and embarrassed Philadelphia by a score of 5-0.

In game three, Montreal is now +115 across the industry. No, Philadelphia’s best player didn’t get hurt. This is just the betting market’s reaction to an underrated underdog putting a beating on an overvalued favorite. They went too far the other way.

Philadelphia was a -250 favorite to win this series before game one. Montreal was +210. Now that the series is tied and we’re heading to a pivotal game three which could swing the momentum, the line becomes -135 and +115? Which is it?

You can’t have a team be that big of a favorite to win the series and then make them such small favorites in the important swing games during the series. It doesn’t make sense and the math doesn’t add up.

Montreal is a very good 8 seed. Their underlying metrics are some of the best in the league. However, they still lack top-end talent and they can’t fully take advantage of it. Philadelphia goalie Carter Hart had an off game on Friday, but expect him to bounce back as he has all year.

Montreal goalie Carey Price has been out of this world during these playoffs, sporting a .954 save percentage. Just to highlight, the league average save percentage is around .915. He’s coming off a 30 save shutout in game two. Carey Price is a tremendous goalie, but no goalie ever in the history of this sport is this good. He’s due for a clunker so regression can set in.

Before game two, Philadelphia had won the first four games they played in the postseason tournament. Before the season was postponed, they had won 9 of their last ten games. This is an awesome team who had an awful game.

The number one rule of finance is to buy low and sell high. That applies to the gambling market as well. Here we have a tremendous opportunity to buy low on a very good team. Montreal is tough, but there’s a reason Philly is the one seed.

St. Louis Blues vs. Vancouver Canucks

BET: Blues Moneyline @ -132

The defending Stanley Cup champions are down 2-0 in a best of seven series in round one. The reason for that is simple: goaltending.

Jacob Markstrom of Vancouver has stopped 92.6% of the shots he’s faced in this series. Jordan Binnington of St. Louis has stopped 80.9% of the shots he’s faced. And no, this isn’t supposed to be a big mismatch in terms of the talent of these goalies. Remember, Binnington won the Stanley Cup as a rookie and helped lead St. Louis to the best record in the West during the regular season.

However, the leash is short on Binnington and the rumor around the Blues is that backup goalie Jake Allen might get the nod in game three. Allen was actually slightly better than Binnington this year in terms of goals saved above expectation. If the Blues got even average goaltending in the first two games of this series, we’re at the very least tied.

Through two games, St. Louis actually has been slightly better than Vancouver in terms of quantity and quality of shots and scoring chances. Like I mentioned, the Canucks find themselves up two games because of goaltending.

Similarly to the Flyers/Canadiens series, the betting market is moving quickly here as well. Less than a week ago, the -200 series price suggested that St. Louis had a 67% chance of advancing to the second round. Here we are a few days later and you’re telling me that the Blues only have a 57% chance of avoiding going down three games? The math doesn’t seem to line up.

Earlier in the week, St. Louis was -150 to win game one. Now they are -132 when their level of desperation should increase tremendously? This is a team that won the Stanley Cup last year. They’ve been through adversity. They aren’t gonna fold.

Give me the defending champs in a must-win to keep their title defense alive.


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