Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET
Free NHL Pick: Islanders ML
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
The New York Islanders are no longer the laughing stocks of yesteryear, now sitting atop the Metropolitan Division with five straight wins under their collective belts. The last two have been shutouts, over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals as well as the Anaheim Ducks. It’s not surprising, then, that the Isles are the top team in the league in goals allowed, courtesy of the outstanding goaltending tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss.
Offensively, New York’s top point-getter is 21-year-old Mathew Barzal, who has 44 points on the season, while Anders Lee leads the Islanders with 18 goals. Nevertheless, New York has been middling in terms of goals scored, averaging 2.98 goals per game (15th). The power-play unit has delivered subpar results, connecting on just 16.5 percent of the opportunities.
The Blackhawks are struggling through a woeful season, but those who follow my hockey write-ups and NHL picks cashed on Sunday when I advised a play on Chicago as a live dog over the Capitals. Jonathan Toews had a hat trick along with two assists while Patrick Kane added two goals and three helpers in their 8-5 win. The Blackhawks’ offense has been decent, although unspectacular, averaging 2.96 goals per game (16th), but their defense has been the bane of their existence, currently ranked 30th of 31 teams and surrendering 3.71 goals per game, with a penalty-kill unit ranked dead last, extinguishing just 73.4 percent of those man-advantage situations.
These clubs met on January 3 for the first time this season and the Islanders claimed a 3-2 overtime victory in a hotly contested battle, with New York defenseman Devon Toews collecting his own rebound and making the first goal of his career an important one as it won the game.
New York skates into Chicago having won 15 of its last 18 games. The NHL odds board opened with the Islanders as road favorites and we believe they are worthy of laying the lumber. The Hawks have zero stability between the pipes as they are searching desperately for either Cam Ward or Collin Delia to seize the job permanently, or at least until Corey Crawford returns to action after undergoing the NHL’s concussion protocol.
The Islanders are one of the better road clubs in the league with a 15-8-1 mark while the Hawks have not exactly thrived on the home cookin’, registering a 9-10-6 record at the United Center. New York’s rugged defense and stellar goaltending will be too tough for a pedestrian offense such as Chicago’s to crack, and their susceptibility to wilting when down a man is a another determining factor in backing the Isles here. And finally, bad teams fresh off big wins are ideal to fade immediately thereafter, so lay it and like it on the invaders from the island.
Final score prediction: Islanders 4, Blackhawks 1