NHL Playoff Predictions - Wednesday, May 26
Thirteen teams are still alive in the quest for the Stanley Cup, but that could be down to ten on Wednesday night. The Pittsburgh Penguins will face elimination at the Nassau Coliseum against the New York Islanders. Meanwhile, the Florida Panthers and Minnesota Wild have already staved off elimination once and will look to do it again.
Islanders Lead 3-2
Ilya Sorokin is a wanted man in Pittsburgh after he completed the crime of robbery in game five.
The rookie Isles goaltender stopped 48 of 50 shots from the Penguins in game 5 to give his team a chance to escape with a win that they in no way deserved. Josh Bailey took advantage of a mistake by Pens goaltender Tristan Jarry early in double overtime to put the Penguins on the brink of elimination..
Entering this series, it was expected the Isles would have the edge in between the pipes. While that has come to be the case, it wasn’t what most were expecting.
Semyon Varlamov started 35 of the Isles’ 56 games this season while having a tremendous season that might earn him consideration for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie. He had a save percentage of 92.9% with seven shutouts. With that being said, Varlamov was not ready for game one due to injury. Sorokin stepped in and was very solid in the Isles opening victory.
However, Varlamov was healthy enough to play in game two and coach Barry Trotz went with his veteran number one goalie. Varlamov gave up a weak goal early in game two to cause the Isles to chase the game. He was then beaten five times in game three. The Isles lost both games.
Trotz turned back to Sorokin for game four and the rookie has stepped in and been sensational. Sorokin has stopped 77 of 80 shots over the past two games, both wins for his team. In the series, Sorokin has posted a goals saved above expectation (GSAx) of +2.1. He was particularly heroic in game five, where the Penguins posted 50 shots, 14 high danger chances and a 65% expected goal rate.
In the other crease, Tristan Jarry has given up at least three goals in four of the five games in this series. He looked shaky through most of the first four games, and he currently has the worst GSAx mark amongst all goalies to appear in the postseason. However, the ending of game five is what’s most fresh on the mind. Jarry basically handed the Isles the win after his puck handling turnover sprung Bailey alone in the slot which he deposited past a scrambling Jarry.
The Isles have won back-to-back games to turn a 2-1 series deficit into a 3-2 series lead. They just went on the road and stole a pivotal game five. They’re going up against a young goaltender who has been visibly shaky all series long and now he has to deal with the fact he just single-handedly cost his team a chance to win in the last game. Additionally, the Isles now head home to play in front of a crowd that was again recently increased in terms of capacity. It’s already one of the loudest and more intimidating buildings in the league, and it now has the added juice of being the final postseason at the historic Nassau Coliseum.
At this pick’em price, I’d back the Isles to close it out in front of their fans.
Bet: NY Islanders @ -108
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Tampa Bay Leads 3-2
It looks like the prize might have been behind door number three for the Florida Panthers.
Sergei Bobrovsky and his $70 million contract? No. Chris Driedger and his extremely impressive regular season? Nope. Spencer Knight, two months removed from college and just barely 20 years old? Ding ding ding.
Coach Joel Quenneville put his chips on the table when he tapped Spencer Knight as the starter for game five in a spot where the Panthers were facing elimination. It looked potentially disastrous when the Lightning scored in the first minute of the game. However, that’s all Tampa Bay would get as Knight stopped the next 36 shots he faced in Florida’s 4-1 win.
This series was beginning to get extremely frustrating. Florida clearly was the side with the value through the first four games, but they simply couldn’t get a save. If Knight continues to play well, Florida can very easily make life hell for the Lightning.
At five-on-five, it has been Florida dominating play. Through five games, the Panthers lead in shots 198 - 163, shot attempts 238 - 196, scoring chances 124 - 90, high danger chances 43 - 35, and have controlled the expected goals battle at 55%. They definitely didn’t deserve to be down three games to one, but that’s hockey for you.
If you’re wondering who this Knight kid is and whether his performance was a fluke, it’s understandable. However, Knight is a former first round pick who was the highest goalie drafted in a decade. He led Team USA to gold at the World Junior Championships and he played at a blue-blood college program. He’s been in big spots before and has succeeded. He has the pedigree.
Based on the line, it seems like the oddsmakers expect Tampa Bay to take care of business on home ice and put the Panthers to sleep. However, at this price, I’d lean towards the Panthers. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is nothing between these teams in terms of skaters. If the Panthers can get a save, they can very easily win this series. In Knight we trust.
Bet: Florida Panthers @ +135
Vegas Leads 3-2
One important part of life is knowing when to let go. Minnesota came through for us as a substantial underdog in game five to keep their season alive. However, they were extremely fortunate to get that result.
For the second time in this series, Minnesota came out to a big early lead and then tried sitting on it for multiple periods while Vegas bulldozed into their zone. In game three, Vegas completed the comeback. In game five, Cam Talbot stood strong, stopping 38 of 40 shots. However, Vegas had 64% of the expected goals and 71% of the high danger chances.
Marc-Andre Fleury had a very rare off game as he was beaten three times on just 13 shots. Yes, the shots were 40 to 13 in favor of Vegas. Fleury has been spectacular all season and series long, so betting on him to bounce back seems obvious. Fleury has been better than Talbot in this series, which is the main reason Vegas has an advantage.
In the first four games of this series, Minnesota could claim they were unlucky to be down three games to one. However, after game five, they were lucky to still be alive in these playoffs.
While Minnesota has been a great team to bettors all season long and has been a pesky underdog in a lot of spots, they don’t have quite near the elite talent that Vegas does. Vegas is the better team between these two, but the gap isn’t as wide as some people think.
We bought low on Minnesota prior to game five, but in game six, I think it’s time to sell high. Vegas is only a slight underdog on the road. Minnesota didn’t give me much to be confident in after their last game, so it’s hard to imagine them getting lucky twice in a row.
Bet: Vegas Golden Knights @ -130