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With just two games on Thursday's schedule, NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski gives us his pick for both

There’s only two games on Thursday’s NHL slate, so it’s imperative that we bet both.

Washington Capitals vs. New York Islanders

BET: Islanders Moneyline @ -105

The New York Islanders absolutely wasted a great chance to send the Washington Capitals out of the bubble in game four on Tuesday. The Isles came out flying and took a 2-0 lead midway through the first period, thanks to goals from JG Pageau and Mat Barzal.

Then, for the first time in the whole series, Washington woke up. They dominated the remainder of the game and it was a warning sign to the Isles what this team is capable of. They scored three unanswered goals to beat the Isles, 3-2.

Despite the Capitals dominating in shot attempts and shot quality, they still only managed to score one goal against the Isles at 5v5 play.

We’ve talked about it plenty, if the Islanders can play their games mostly at even strength, they are a dark horse candidate in this tournament. The Isles scored two goals early in the game, both at full strength. Then, with both teams having players in the penalty box, Washington cut the lead in half with a 4v4 goal. They tied the game with a powerplay goal from Alex Ovechkin. Two goals scored not at full strength.

Ovechkin won it in the third period after a defensive miscue by the Islanders, but that’s all Washington got at 5v5. The Islanders also aren’t a team that usually commits the defensive errors that allow the best goal scorer of our generation to walk in on a 2on1 and pick a spot on their goalie.

The thing is; we have to look at the whole sample size here. New York was the better team by a wide margin in the first 10 periods of this series. Does two periods from Washington change the narrative or the general feeling around the series? Like I said earlier, it’s a stern warning of what Washington can do when they feel it. But the Isles are a veteran team, well coached and have experience closing teams out in the playoffs. They swept the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and they closed out Florida in the qualifying round in four games.

If you look back at the Florida series, which was a best of 5, the Isles came out to a 2-0 series lead. They had the opportunity to sweep the Panthers in game three but they played their worst game of that series, losing the game. In game four, New York regrouped and trounced the Panthers by a score of 5-1 to eliminate them. New York has proven in these playoffs they will not panic when they drop a game.

You can believe that Washington needed three and a half games to wake up and now they’re fully awake and the higher seeded and originally favorited team is going to come-back and make this a competitive series. Trust me, the pessimistic side of me as an Islanders fan feels that too.

The optimistic and realistic side of me is going to believe what I saw in the first three and a half games was the truth. The Isles are a deeper team up and down the lineup who dominated play at even strength. Washington looked like a team without life.

The Islanders now know it won’t be easy to get this fourth win, but coach Barry Trotz will have his players ready to go. I think the Isles end this series on Thursday night.

Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames

BET: Stars Moneyline @ -124

Taking a quick look at this series would make you believe that we have a back-and-forth series that is very evenly matched and that there is little separating these two teams.

I would disagree with that assessment.

Sure, the series is 3 games to 2 in favor of Dallas. All but one of the games had a one goal margin of victory. We had a game go to overtime and another game decided in the final 40 seconds. But if you look at what’s actually happening on the ice, you’ll see a Dallas team that is absolutely taking the play to Calgary.

Through five games, Dallas has 274 shot attempts at 5v5 compared to 210 from Calgary. The expected goals in the series favor Dallas, 9.76 to 6.35. The high danger scoring chances are 46 to 25 in favor of the Stars.

As the series goes on, the disparity grows. It seems like Dallas is getting more and more comfortable playing August hockey and their superiority is finally shining through. The games were more evenly played earlier in the series which to me points to the fact that the Stars weren’t playing their best hockey early on.

Calgary is staying afloat thanks to the performance of Cam Talbot, who is the 4th best goalie in these playoffs in terms of goals saved above expectation. Anton Khudobin for the Stars has struggled at times in this series in between the pipes. Khudobin put forth a solid performance in game four which the Stars hope is a sign of things to come.

The second line for Dallas consisting of Joe Pavelski, Mattias Janmark and Denis Gurianov is the x-factor in the series. Both top lines in this series are struggling to get much going. Calgary’s lack of depth after the injury to Matthew Tkachuk has been exposed. The contributions the Stars are getting from Pavelski and company right now might be the difference.

I think Dallas is a borderline elite team while the Flames are a middling team. No disrespect, there’s a lot of middling teams in this league. However, I expect Dallas to continue to assert their dominance over the Flames and win this game and the series on Thursday.


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