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Expert 'capper Pete Truszkowski previous today's huge Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals

New York Islanders vs Tampa Bay Lightning Predictions

It took double overtime, but the New York Islanders kept their season alive in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It sets up a compelling game six on Thursday night, where the Isles hope to keep the magic going.

Jordan Eberle scored the winner for the Isles on their 24th shot through almost five periods of hockey. That number right there tells you everything you need to know about what happened in Game 5 and the Isles’ strategy moving forward in this series.

The NHL average for shots in a regulation, sixty minute game was 63 during the 2019-20 regular season. The Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 61 shots through over 92 minutes in Game Five. The game was 1.5 times longer than most games and it still registered less shots than an average game.

In this space, I’ve long preached the Islanders commitment to defense. The underlying metrics for New York were not pretty in Game 5. Tampa had over 56% of the shot attempts and 66% of the high danger chances. Despite this, the Islanders still grinded the game to a snail’s pace and prevented the Lightning from playing their preferred style of hockey.

New York cannot compete against the Tampa Bay Lightning if they were to get into a track meet and decided to exchange chances. Tampa Bay has more skill, better puck moving defensemen and the better goaltender. New York absolutely needs to frustrate Tampa, slow them down, and grind away hoping they can break through.

New York will be patient and they will attempt to pounce on your mistakes when you make them. Eberle’s goal was the result of a misplay by Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the offensive blueline. Islanders captain Anders Lee broke up the play, sprung himself on a 2on1 counter attack and fed Jordan Eberle who deposited the puck into a gaping net. Tampa had the puck in the offensive zone and ten seconds later the Isles were celebrating a win.

One key factor that reared its head in Game 5 was the availability of star Lightning forward Brayden Point. Speaking as a fan of the Islanders, Point’s impact is tremendous. The fan in me had accepted defeat after Point returned in Game 4 and led the Lightning to a win and 3-1 series lead. However, half an hour prior to puck drop, it was announced that Point would miss Game 5. Immediately, hope returned.

The oddsmakers agree with the value and impact Point makes on this series. In games that Point has played since Game One, the Lightning have closed near -175 favorites. In games that Point has missed, the Lightning are closing closer to -150 favorites. The bookmakers are telling you that Point is worth about 25 cents of juice. Translating the odds to probability, with Point the Lightning have near a 65% chance to win the game. Without Point, their odds drop below 60%.

The unfortunate thing about the NHL is that this isn’t the NFL. Teams and coaches don’t have to tell you anything. You won’t know who is playing in the game until pre-game warmups half an hour before gametime. And even then, some coaches play games in those warmups and dress more players than are actually playing. These coaches think they’re getting a competitive advantage by doing this, but it’s just messing with our wagers and fantasy teams. Selfish.

Nonetheless, we won’t know the status of Brayden Point until likely around 7:30 PM EST.

I will say that I think the Islanders still do believe in their ability to come back in this series. They proved that with their gritty effort in Game 5. As long as the team believes and remains committed, I think we will see them try and replicate what we saw in the previous game. They will defend, they will block shots, they will take away space, and you might even be bored watching them.

Either way, I think the Islanders defensive mindset sends us to another game that goes under the total. This is a team with their backs against the wall, and they know the way they need to play to survive. It’ll be harder to do this if Brayden Point is back for the Lightning.

You might want to wait until right before gametime to bet this game. The Point factor cannot be overlooked. If Point misses the game, I think the Islanders are a worthy gamble at +140. If Point plays, I’d stay clear of betting the Isles.

The pick: Under 5.5 goals (-145)

The lean: NY Islanders ML (+140) **ONLY IF BRAYDEN POINT DOESN’T PLAY**


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