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Picks and analysis for the two NHL matchups on Thursday

New York Islanders vs Philadelphia Flyers Predictions

The last two games for the New York Islanders might have been a little bit of a return to reality. Sure, they won Game Four and lost Game Five in overtime, but their quality of play wasn’t near the level that people have been accustomed to in the bubble.

Thankfully for the Islanders, they’ve already been a part of this movie, twice. In the qualifying round against the Panthers, the Islanders had the chance to eliminate Florida in Game Three. The Isles faltered, lost the game, came back out in Game Four and blew the Panthers out by a score of 5-1.

In the first round series against the Washington Capitals, the Islanders had a series lead with the opportunity to kick the Capitals out of the bubble in game four. The Islanders blew a 2-0 lead in that game, lost the game, and then came back in Game Five and sent the Capitals packing with a 4-0 scoreline.

So the Islanders already missed their first chance to eliminate Philadelphia in Game Five of this series. Will the trend continue for New York and should the Flyers start to pack their bags?

Coach Barry Trotz of the Islanders is the best coach in the league. The thing with elimination games is that the team facing elimination has to put all their cards on the table. They aren’t holding anything back. There might be no tomorrow for them. Now that the Flyers have shown their hand during Game Five, the smartest coach in hockey has had a day and a half to look over the tape, evaluate what happened, and come up with a gameplan to stop it and put his team in position to succeed.

Even Philadelphia’s two wins in this series come with tremendous question marks. Philadelphia had a 3-0 lead in game two of this series. New York came back to force overtime before falling due to the deflection of a long range point shot. In game five, Philadelphia was up two goals with under five minutes to go in the game. The Isles scored twice quickly to force overtime before once again, a deflected puck won it for the Flyers.

Despite Carter Hart’s brilliance at times in this series, the Islanders have actually had no real issues with scoring goals. New York has scored at least three goals in every game of this series, despite the line for the total consistently being a flat five.

Injuries became an issue for both teams in Game Five. Sean Couturier banged knees with Islanders forward Mat Barzal late in the second period. Couturier left the game and did not return. However, in the third period, it was Barzal himself who left the game after taking a stick to the eye.

Neither coach commented on their team’s respective injury with any certainty, but there seems to be optimism around Barzal’s status while Couturier’s status seems more murky. If either of these two centers miss the game, it’d be a huge loss. Both are their team’s best center.

Expect Barzal to play, and expect the Islanders to continue their trend of eliminating teams on their second opportunity. I’m not going to bet the Islanders to win the game, but I feel safe taking them to score over 2.5 goals in the game.

PICK: NY Islanders Team Total over 2.5 goals (-113)

Vegas Golden Knights vs Vancouver Canucks Predictions

If you bet on Vancouver to win in Game Five as a +200 underdog, congratulations. You stole the bookmakers’ money. You committed robbery and got away with it. You are one of the luckiest people on this planet.

In a series that hasn’t been particularly close, Game Five was the most lopsided game of them all. The shot attempts at 5on5 were 60 to 32 in favor of the Golden Knights. Vancouver only had four high danger chances all night and only 28% of the expected goals. Vegas had the puck in Vancouver’s zone all night.

But at least Vancouver has a great goalie in Jacob Markstrom, right? He could keep this a close game.

Markstrom isn’t available to play due to a groin injury! Vancouver has to turn to 24 year old Thatcher Demko. Demko hasn’t started a game in six months. He has never made a playoff start in his career. This is his first full season in the NHL as a backup goalie. When he did play during the regular season, he struggled. He only stopped 90.6% of the shots he faced and gave up on average over three goals a game.

How did he fare against the most dominant puck possession team in hockey as a +200 underdog in an elimination game? He stopped 42 of the 43 shots he faced to keep his team’s season alive. Because of course he did.

If you read my write-ups in these games with huge underdogs and large favorites, you’ll notice that I’ll always say if you’re trying to grind out a profit, the smart play is to take the underdog. A +200 underdog implies they only have a 32.1% chance of winning the game.

In hockey, a sport with a lot of variance and luck involved, that’s too low. Most games are coin flips and even the worst teams in the league can compete on any given night.

However, with what we’ve seen in this series and what we saw in Game Five, the thought has to be that there’s no way Vancouver can get lucky twice in a row. I would tend to agree. Demko is not going to steal another game for Vancouver.

If Vegas gets over 40 shots again (which they might), they’ll score more than once. I think the Golden Knights will do anything to prevent this series from getting to a game seven.

We obviously aren’t going to lay -240 juice on the moneyline, so look towards the first 60 minute regulation time market. You can bet on Vegas to win during regulation time. I think the Golden Knights can get this done without the need for the game going to overtime.

PICK: Vegas to Win in Regulation Time (-139)


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