Can the New York Islanders finish off a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road Tuesday night (NBCSN, 7:30 p.m.)?
Betting markets are skeptical. But, they’ve been skeptical of the Islanders since before the series began.
*Pittsburgh closed as a -135 favorite to win the series before it began, despite not enjoying home ice advantage.
*Pittsburgh closed as a -125 road favorite in Game Two after dropping the series opener. Some sharps (professional bettors) and most squares (recreational bettors) couldn’t resist taking the “superior” team to zig zag in a bounce back spot.
*Pittsburgh closed as a whopping -200 favorites at home in Game Three. Bettors thinking “there’s no way the Penguins are going to lose three in a row to the Islanders” learned once again that bad roulette strategies can be very painful at sports books.
There’s plenty of time before they drop the puck for game-day lines to settle. You can be sure that Pittsburgh will be a pricey favorite once again Tuesday with its backs against the wall. Pricey favorites have been awful this postseason! No team laying -200 or higher has won a game yet.
Tampa Bay (-240) lost to Columbus 4-3
Tampa Bay (-320) lost to Columbus 5-1
Calgary (-230) lost to Colorado 3-2 in OT
Pittsburgh (-200) lost to NYI 4-1
That’s a composite record of zero wins and 9.9 losses in real money terms. Hockey is played on ice, not chalk (Vegas slang for favorites because odds used to be written on chalkboards in the old days).
Thus far vs. the Isles, Pittsburgh’s been outplayed emphatically when it was time to perform. The Penguins have been outscored 6-2 at even strength over the last two games…despite trailing most of those games on the scoreboard, and every second of those games in the series.
When analyzing the NHL playoffs, professional bettors look for teams that can control the flow of play. Luck can play a big role in any game or series because many teams are so evenly matched. Those that create the most opportunities have the best chance of overcoming variance and grinding out victories.
Check out how the underdog Islanders have stayed in control of the last two games while expressing surprising superiority…
*Game 2 Shots: New York 34, Pittsburgh 33; “Expected Goals: New York 3.7, Pittsburgh 2.6.
*Game 3 Shots: New York 36, Pittsburgh 26; “Expected Goals: New York 3.5, Pittsburgh 2.2.
Those “expected goal” calculations are from respected hockey analytics site Natural Stat Trick. Nobody can make the case that New York hasn’t earned its series edge. It’s common for the trailing team in a game to win shot counts because they’re aggressively trying to rally. The Isles are winning shot counts from ahead.
That makes the Isles prohibitive market favorites to eventually advance, even if they don’t finish off a sweep. Still at least two home games at the raucous Nassau Coliseum ahead if needed.
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