NHL Picks, Predictions & Odds: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Islanders
Covid-19 has postponed four games from Thursday’s slate, but we still have ten games to get some action down. Thursday is a good night for hockey.
These two teams will play for the second time in five days as the Isles beat Pittsburgh 4-3 on Saturday night. The Penguins have not played since that game, while the Islanders defeated the Rangers on Monday night.
New York has quickly turned a five game winless streak into a four game point streak as they look to steady themselves to begin this NHL season.
The Penguins have been extremely inconsistent to open the season as well, posting a 5-5-1 record through their first 11 games.
Pittsburgh’s big issue to begin the season has been keeping the puck out of their net. The Penguins have given up at least three goals in all but one of their first 11 games.
The main reason for the Penguins’ issues has been their goaltending. Tristan Jarry currently has the second worst goals saved above expectation (GSAx) in the league, posting a -7.63 mark through eight games. He is costing his team almost a goal per game.
His backup, Casey DeSmith, has been better, but still poor. His -2.47 (GSAx) mark through five games is not good enough.
Thankfully, Pittsburgh has the offensive capability to outscore their goaltending. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust help form a very dangerous top six.
The Penguins are also the better team when it comes to puck possession and generating quality chances. It’ll be a struggle against the Isles stingy defense, but they scored three times against them on Saturday.
At this point, Pittsburgh games are going over the total nearly 65% of the time, and it’s not hard to see why. Despite the Islanders strong defensive play and questionable offense, I think we see some goals in this game.
Bet: Over 5.5 Goals @ -110
These two teams played on Tuesday night, with San Jose getting a 4-3 shootout win.
When you look at the advanced analytics, Los Angeles might be the worst team in hockey. According to the standings, they are the third worst team thus far.
LA’s expected goal rate is 40.28%, which is over 2.5% lower than the league’s 30th best team. Only the Vancouver Canucks are giving up more expected goals per hour at 5-on-5 than Los Angeles. The Kings are giving up 3.5 goals a game on average, despite great goaltending from Cal Petersen. Petersen is the 5th best goaltender in terms of GSAx, and the Kings are still giving up plenty of goals.
San Jose is not much better than LA. They have the 4th worst expected goals against rate in the league. They are giving up 3.63 goals per game. The difference between the Sharks and the Kings is the goaltending.
The Sharks needed to improve between the pipes in the off-season, so they bought in Devan Dubnyk, who was coming off one of the worst seasons of his career. It hasn’t worked out.
Dubnyk has actually been the better of the two San Jose netminders, but he’s posted a -1.1 GSAx through six games. Martin Jones has been dreadful, posting a -4.22 mark through seven games.
Both of these teams give up scoring chances and puck possession at extremely high rates. Los Angeles in particular spends almost all night defending. San Jose’s goaltending leaves a lot to be desired.
These two teams have combined for a 16-7 record in favor of the over in their two games. I think we’ll see more offense on Thursday night.
Bet: Over 5.5 Goals @ -125
It’s been a wild ride in Columbus. It started with the news that Pierre-Luc Dubois wanted out of town. He showed up at camp and spent the first few games of the season loafing before being benched. Then he was traded for Patrik Laine. Now, Laine is the one getting benched by head coach John Tortorella. In addition, there’s rumors about Tortorella and how long he’ll have this job. Mikko Koivu just retired out of the blue earlier in the week.
And the season is less than a month old.
Columbus enters Thursday with the league’s second-worst mark in terms of expected goals, playing at a 42.9% rate. In fact, the Blue Jackets are the second-worst team in shot attempt rate, high danger chances and scoring chances as well.
Coming into the year, nobody expected much from the Blue Jackets’ offense. Even though they’ve made the playoffs for four straight years, their offense has never been the reason. However, nobody expected it to be this bad.
Columbus enters the game last in terms of expected goals scored per hour at 5-on-5. In addition, they are averaging just 6.36 high danger chances per hour, which is the worst in the league as well. Their power play is not helping matters as they find themselves towards the bottom of the league, converting just 13.2% of opportunities.
On the other side, the Chicago Blackhawks opened the season by losing their first four games while giving up 20 goals in the process. Since then, the Blackhawks have points in 9 of their last 10 games while giving up just 21 goals over that stretch.
Kevin Lankinen started the season as the Blackhawks’ third-string goalie, but at this moment he might be the leader in the clubhouse for Rookie of the Year. Lankinen has posted a 5-1-3 record with a 2.17 goals against average and .933 save percentage. His +5.41 GSAx is the second-best mark in the league.
With Columbus having one of the worst offenses in the league and Lankinen’s hot start to his NHL career, my favorite betting angle is the total. Just two of the last eight Blackhawks games have gone over the total, and Columbus isn’t the team I’d expect to flip that trend.
Hey, maybe Tortorella will help us under bettors out by benching the team’s most talented offensive player again.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -115
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Expert NHL Picks
Penguins at Islanders - Over 5.5 Goals @ -110 (Click to bet)
Blue Jackets at Blackhawks - Over 5.5 Goals @ -125 (Click to bet)
Sharks at Kings - Under 5.5 Goals @ -115 (Click to bet)
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Our expert handicapper Pete Truszkowski is a die-hard Islanders fan but doesn't let it bias him. He was born and raised on Long Island and he's been betting on hockey for a decade. Don't miss out on his picks.