The Philadelphia Flyers had to grind their way through the first round, but they did enough to advance to the conference semifinals, where they'll take on the New York Islanders in Monday's Game 1.
A dominant run through the round-robin restart got Philadelphia the East's No. 1 seed. However, Montreal proved pesky in Round 1, pushing the Flyers to six games. New York had an easier time with Washington, disposing of the Caps in only five.
In abe Insights' preview, we'll take a closer look at the main betting lines, advanced stats and the best odds to optimize your betting experience for this exciting best-of-seven series opener.
Date: Monday, August 24
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Islanders 49%; Flyers 54%
Spread: NYI +1.5 (-260); PHI -1.5 (+230)
Moneyline: NYI +105; PHI -118
Goalies are always key in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, and two of the hottest ones in hockey will go head-to-head in this matchup of the playoffs' two stingiest teams in terms of goals allowed. Islanders netminder Semyon Varlamov has a 7-2 playoff record with a 1.67 GAA, including a 21-save shutout in the clincher against Washington.
Varlamov's counterpart, Carter Hart, plays wise beyond his 22 years of age. Hart actually had two shutouts in the Canadiens series to pick up the slack for his teammates when Philly struggled to produce offense against Carey Price and the Habs.
3.33 vs. 2.44: It's surprising, but the Islanders hold the lead between these clubs in goals per contest during the postseason. This comes after the Flyers led the NHL in the same area following the All-Star break with a ridiculous 3.89 average.
15.8 vs. 10.3: Another big-time offensive stat where New York has the advantage in the playoffs is in power play percentage. It's not saying much, because the Islanders have obviously struggled here, too. It's more alarming that Philadelphia is converting at less than half of its 20.8% regular-season success rate.
3.59 vs. 3.98: To circle back to the goalies really quickly, Varlamov led all players at his position who played at least 40 games in expected rebounds per save percentage. Hart's number in this category was solid but not spectacular, ranking 11th among qualifiers.
New York is a gritty defensive team whose offense has caught up to its typical area of strength. It's created a complementary hockey combination that makes coach Barry Trotz's team among the most dangerous in the entire playoff field.
If you're looking for a strong scouting report on the Isles' overall tactics, it's pretty straightforward when a veteran like Philly defenseman Matt Niskanen can break down their strategy in such detail, per the Daily Times' Rob Parent:
"They're going to clog up their blue line, so we're going to have to be on the same page, whether we want to chip pucks to support and speed, or set up our forecheck (and) be able to create some space and speed so we can attack them on the line. They're going to just feast on turnovers if we turn it over in the neutral zone. That’s going to be a big part of it, I think.
Niskanen was actually suspended for an untoward hit for the series finale versus Montreal, so it'll be nice for the Flyers to have him back. The 33-year-old blue liner was a big reason Philly managed to blank the Habs twice. that's not to detract from Hart's performance between the pipes, but he faced a manageable workload of 52 shots in those contests.
The playoff stage hasn't proven too large for Hart, and if he can continue his stout play, the Flyers will be tough to beat on Monday, much less four times in seven games. Claude Giroux was one of five Philly players to net at least 19 goals in the regular season, yet he's failed to light the lamp in nine playoff outings. That's bound to change very soon.
That the Flyers have much room to improve on offense has to be discouraging for New York, or any other potential opponent later on. Having stated this, the Isles were the sixth seed and had to play a qualifying round series before earning the right to face the Caps, so they're used to being underestimated and counted out — and winning anyway.
Pennsylvania's sports betting scene and enthusiasm over the Flyers' top-seeded status should cause action to trend on Philadelphia's moneyline and spread as the slight favorites.
Given how well both these goalies are playing, the standard goal total of five as of this writing feels right. That should leave more upside for Over wagers, but expect the betting public to side more with the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 12:30 p.m. ET on Monday, August 24.
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