NHL Picks, Predictions & Odds: New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Thursday’s NHL slate gives us nine options to get our beak wet on. Below are my three favorite plays for the night:
This is becoming eerily reminiscent of last season. The New York Islanders struggle their first few games out of the gate and then proceed to reel off an insane point streak. Last year, the streak reached 17 games. This year, the streak is currently at 8.
The Islanders had a six day break from January 31st through February 6th due to Covid-related cancellations for their opponents. Since then, they’ve gone 5-0-1 while being a top ten team in terms of expected goals.
On the flipside, the Pittsburgh Penguins have been maddeningly inconsistent to begin the season. They’ve won seven of their first 14 games, but have just two regulation wins on the season. Since February 1st, the Penguins are a bottom-ten team in terms of expected goals and high danger chances.
While the season is still young and things can change, the duo of legendary Penguins has been underwhelming. Sidney Crosby is averaging less than a point per game, something he has never done in his career, which started in 2005. Evgeni Malkin has just seven points in 14 games. He has averaged over a point per game in 13 of his 14 NHL seasons.
While they may just be off to slow starts and we look back at this stretch and laugh, both players are getting older so it’s something to monitor.
On the flipside, some key Islanders are getting hot. Jordan Eberle, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Anders Lee have all had multi-goal games in the last 10 days. Mat Barzal is averaging a point per game.
However, with that being said, the Islanders focus is their defense. They are giving up just 2.20 goals per night, the 4th best mark in the league. When you consider Pittsburgh has given up at least three goals in every game this season but one, you gotta like the Isles’ chances.
You’ll like the Islanders chances even more when you consider the goaltending matchup. Both Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have struggled for Pittsburgh, posting a combined -8.2 goals saved above expectation (GSAx). On the flipside, Semyon Varlamov has been one of the better goalies in the league, posting a +7.18 goals saved above average (GSAA), the third best mark in the league.
Pittsburgh has not beaten the Islanders in regulation since 2018. At this point, I’ll take the hotter team with the better goalie at plus-money.
Bet: NY Islanders @ +110
I doubted the Devils on Tuesday night, but they had a solid performance in a 5-2 win over the listless Rangers. The Devils are nearly +200 underdogs in this contest, but I won’t be picking a winner in this one.
Despite their five goal outburst on Tuesday, the Devils offense is amongst the worst in the league. Jack Hughes is an exciting young player and Kyle Palmieri is a solid goal-scorer, but beyond that, pickings are slim.
Here’s a list of some forwards that played for New Jersey on Tuesday: Nathan Bastian, Janne Kuokkanen, Yegor Sharangovich, Mikhail Maltsev, Nick Merkley and Michael McLeod.
If you asked even the most diehard hockey fans, I expect you’d get a bunch of blank looks on most of these names. Some of these players might come out of the lineup if players get activated off the Covid-list, but the point stands. New Jersey has no-names playing key roles.
They might be able to get away with this against the Rangers, but the Boston Bruins are a different animal.
Boston is currently 2nd in the league in both goals against per game and expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5. They have the 2nd best penalty kill in hockey.
Boston has developed a reputation as an elite team over the past 15 or so seasons. It’s a team that’s built around their defense and goaltending. Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are one of the best tandems in hockey.
While they are one of the best teams in hockey, their offense isn’t anything to write home about. They rank in the bottom half of the league in both goals per game and expected-goals per hour at even strength. Outside of the top line featuring Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, Boston struggles to generate much.
Boston’s ability to score will be hampered even further by Devils netminder MacKenzie Blackwood. Blackwood has played just four games due to Covid, but he’s posted an incredible .948 save percentage and under a two goals against average.
I think we’ll see a typical low scoring Bruins game here. Boston should win, but a 3-1 scoreline sounds about right. I don’t expect a crooked number.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -110
The Anaheim Ducks have been surprisingly competitive to begin the season, posting a 6-7-3 record through their first 16 games. Many expected the Ducks to finish in the basement, but they’ve done a good job of keeping games low scoring and attempting to turn them into tossups.
The Ducks rank last in the league, scoring just 1.94 goals per game on average. However, they’ve stayed alive due to the fact that they’re conceding just 2.56 goals a night, the 7th best mark in the league.
Anaheim does not have the talent offensively to score at a high rate. Max Comtois has been impressive, scoring seven goals in 16 games to begin the season. However, he’s the only Ducks player to average more than a half point per game to begin the season.
Ryan Getzlaf, Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg look to be past their prime. Young players like Sam Steel, Troy Terry and Isac Lundestrom have potential in the future, but they’re not yet producing at a high level.
The Ducks best player is their goaltender, John Gibson. Gibson has struggled at times over the past few weeks, but he’s already posted three shutouts on the young season. He’s only given up more than three goals twice since opening night. His .921 save percentage is well over league average, which is .906.
While Tuesday’s game against the Kings was ugly, Minnesota has actually played very well to begin the season. We can dismiss Tuesday’s effort as a team playing their first game in two weeks. The Wild lead the league in terms of high-danger chances while currently ranking third in expected-goal rate.
The Wild’s strength is their defense. They allow plenty of shot attempts, but they limit the quality of these chances. They rank in the top five in xG-against while ranking first in high danger chances against. Minnesota is giving up just 6.72 high danger chances per hour.
Like Anaheim, Minnesota doesn’t have much in the way of game-changing talent. Rookie Kirill Kaprizov has had a solid start to his career, but outside of him, there’s been some disappointments. Kevin Fiala was expected to lead this offense, but he has just three points on the year. Zach Parise has just five points. The Wild’s group of centers is bad.
Anaheim games this season are averaging just 4.5 goals. It’s not a surprise when you combine a bad offensive team with a top-end goalie. With that being said, it’s not shocking to see just four of Anaheim’s first 16 games have gone over the total.
The Wild are similar to the Ducks as they also don’t have much explosive talent. They rank 24th in goals-per-game.
I think we see a low scoring game here.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -125
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Expert NHL Picks
Devils at Bruins - Under 5.5 Goals @ -110 (Click To Bet)
Islanders at Penguins - NY Islanders @ +110 (Click To Bet)
Wild at Ducks - Under 5.5 Goals @ -125 (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.