NHL Playoffs Preview and Pick- New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
The action is set to get underway at 4:30 p.m. (PT) and the game will be broadcast nationally on the NBC Sports Network. Let's analize this match-up and look at the NHL odds.
After a five-year hiatus from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Islanders now have the unenviable task of taking on the top team in the Eastern Conference to avoid a very short stay in this year’s tournament. They come into this series as the eighth seed in the conference after compiling 55 total points with a record of 24-17-7. The good news for Game 1 is that New York actually had a better record on the road this season at 14-6-4. The total has gone OVER in four of its last six games.
To have any shot at grabbing the early edge with an upset, John Tavares is going to have to continue to find the back of the net early and often after posting a team-high 28 goals in the regular season, which was also the third-highest total in the NHL. The Islanders have done a good job scoring goals this year in general with a goals-per-game average of 2.8, but their defense has had its share of trouble keeping opponents from doing the same with a goals-against-average of 2.8 as well. Look for Evgeni Nabokov to get the start in goal for Game 1. He comes into this series with a GAA of 2.50 in 41 regular season games.
The big question surrounding Game 1 for Pittsburgh is whether or not team captain Sidney Crosby will be cleared to play after missing the month of April with a broken jaw. His return would only enhance a lineup that is ranked first in the league in scoring with 3.4 goals a game. Despite missing the last 12 games of the regular season, Crosby still led the team in total points with 15 goals and 41 assists. Chris Kunitz led Pittsburgh in goals with 22, but James Neal tallied 21 and Pascal Dupuis added 20 more so there is no shortage of scorers on this team.
Backing up all that firepower on offense is the goalie tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun. Fleury saw most of the action during the regular season and is expected to get the start on Wednesday night. In 33 previous games this season he posted a 2.39 GAA and a save percentage of .916. Overall, the Penguins were ranked 12th in the league in goals allowed with a GAA of 2.50.
HAve you read up on our Eastern Conference Playoffs Picks?
Islanders vs. Penguins Betting Lines and Trends
New York has been opened as a 209 road underdog on BetOnline’s money line with the Penguins listed as prohibitive 239 home favorites. The total for Game 1 has been set at 5.5.
The Islanders are 16-41 in their last 57 games playing on three or more day’s rest and 8-22 in their last 30 Wednesday games. The total has gone OVER in 19 of their last 27 games against a team with a winning record.
The Penguins are 40-15 in their last 55 home games but just 2-7 in their last nine opening round playoff games. The total has stayed UNDER in 10 of their last 13 home games.
Head-to-head in this Atlantic Division matchup, the road team is 5-3 in the last eight meetings and the total has stayed UNDER in six of the last nine meetings in Pittsburgh. New York won the first meeting this year in late January, but went on to lose the next four games in the season series. The total went an even 2-2-1 in the five games.
Islanders vs. Penguins Free NHL Pick
Pittsburgh’s recent struggles in the first round of the playoffs have been well documented, but that was then and this now. Look for the Penguins to jump-out to a fast start in this series to erase any lingering concerns heading into this postseason making them my free NHL picks for this game.
Pittsburgh 5 New York 3 (at Bet365.)
2013 NHL Regular Season Record: 30-17-2