The Philadelphia Flyers rebounded to tie the series at one with a 4-3 overtime victory on Wednesday, and following social justice protests league-wide, the East's No. 1 seed takes the ice again in Saturday's Game 3 against the New York Islanders.
It had to be tough for the Isles to be that close to going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Nevertheless, New York is for real and did extremely well to force extra hockey considering it spotted Philly a 3-0 lead in the opening period.
Read on for abe Insights' preview, which provides the best odds across the major sportsbooks, a breakdown of the key betting lines, noteworthy stats to consider and more for this conference semifinals clash.
Date: Saturday, August 29
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Flyers 49%; Islanders 52%
Spread: PHI +1.5 (-270); NYI -1.5 (+230)
Moneyline: PHI +105; NYI -110
The big story here is the goaltender situation, which is probably the most vital element of playoff hockey especially. Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov was having a brilliant postseason until Wednesday, when he got pulled upon allowing three goals on 10 shots.
No reason to think Varlamov can't bounce back from the adversity, and it certainly helps that he's had several days off from that experience he'd like to forget. Varlamov's counterpart, 22-year-old Flyers netminder Carter Hart, has to deal with demons of his own after conceding three unanswered goals in Game 2.
3.59 vs. 3.98: One reason to have faith in Varlamov recovering is the fact that he led goalies who appeared in 40-plus games in expected rebounds per save percentage. Meanwhile, Hart was 11th, although it was a second-chance opportunity that led to Philly's OT winner on Wednesday.
80.0 vs. 77.1: Neither of these teams has been overwhelmingly awesome on the power play — Philly is especially bad (9.5%) — but their playoff penalty killing percentage is alarming. The Flyers are fourth-worst among the teams left, and New York is dead-last.
16 vs. 4: When it comes to third-period goals during the postseason, the Islanders have the prohibitive advantage on Philadelphia. Some of it can be attributed to Philly sitting on leads, yet it shows that the Orange and Black's conservative style of play late, which almost resulted in a disastrous Game 2 collapse.
Even with Game 2's woeful showing in the books, Varlamov is still 8-2 in the playoffs with a 1.72 GAA. He's playing too well to let Wednesday's outlier faze him, as are the Islanders as a team. They initially entered the playoffs as a sixth seed, yet they look like a team worthier of hoisting the Stanley Cup than just about anyone in action right now.
New York actually had a -1 goal differential during the 2019-20 campaign due to a lackluster offense. That issue has been rectified in time for the playoffs, though. It seems the Isles came back refreshed and ready to roll after the extended break, and the same was initially true for the Flyers.
However, since the round-robin seeding games where Philadelphia earned the top seed, a difficult series ensued against upstart Montreal and elite goalie Carey Price. What was the NHL's hottest offense before COVID-19 hit suddenly needed Hart to bail them out in two straight victories where they scored only three goals total. The Flyers were shut out 4-0 in the opener of the conference semis, too.
Was Game 2 an outlier for Philly, or a return to its elite offensive form prior to the NHL stoppage? It's difficult to say, because the Flyers essentially sat on the puck for the final two periods and allowed New York to fight its way back.
When the Fly Guys were really soaring, they forechecked opponents relentlessly, and averaged 3.89 goals in 19 games off the All-Star break. Hart has been excellent with a 1.97 GAA in these playoffs, but he and Philadelphia really thrived on playing at home. The bubble is bound to benefit underdogs as it is, and the reality of that may hinder the Flyers' pursuit of Lord Stanley's Cup in Game 3 and beyond.
The goal total suggests a low-scoring affair, and considering Varlamov got yanked in Game 2, his confidence has to be shaken. Nevertheless, expect that performance to be an anomaly, and for the public to ultimately bet on him bouncing back through more action on the Over.
New York's spread is simply too good to pass up at such long odds. Hedge bettors will take that and the Flyers to win outright, but considering the Islanders have played better hockey since the playoffs' first round, look for moneyline bets to slightly favor the Isles.
Note: Odds current as of 8:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 29.
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