The New York Islanders' inspiring playoff run is all but over if they can't find a way to top the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals this evening.
After getting blown out 8-2 in the first face-off, New York played far better on Wednesday, but Nikita Kucherov's goal with 7.8 seconds remaining lifted the Lightning to a 2-1 victory and a 2-0 series lead. Can the Islanders recover, or will it be too little, too late against the white-hot Bolts?
Read the rest of abe Insights' betting preview for the best odds from all the major sportsbooks, a glimpse at the essential betting lines and analysis on them, advanced stats and more key information for Friday's showdown.
Date: Friday, September 11
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Lightning 59%; Islanders 42%
Spread: TB -1.5 (+190); NYI +1.5 (-190)
Moneyline: TB -143; NYI +140
Much of the discourse rightly revolves around the Lightning's offense, but goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy deserves a ton of credit. He stopped the final 27 shots he faced in Game 2 after letting in an early, somewhat fluke of a goal off a deflection, and continues as the workhorse guarding the crease for Tampa Bay.
Semyon Varlamov showed improvement in his last start, yet fell victim to a quick, one-timer winner from Kucherov. Although New York coach Barry Trotz is likely to ride Varlamov in Game 3, Thomas Greiss looms as a viable backup option who won Game 7 against Philadelphia in the conference semis.
22.54 vs. 15.79: Per Natural Stat Trick, these are the high-danger scoring chance shooting percentages for the Lightning and Islanders in the playoffs. Tampa Bay has a massive edge, as New York has failed to convert many of its golden opportunities to light the lamp at a far greater rate, which doesn't bode well for Game 3 and beyond.
53.50 vs. 49.36: Here are the Corsi percentages for the whole postseason on each side, and once again, the Bolts are better, ranking fifth out of 24 teams to the Isles' 15th. It's a discouraging sign that New York actually had the big edge in this area in Game 2, only to falter at the end.
33.3 vs. 11.1: There's a big enough sample size on the power plays for these figures to be significant. Tampa Bay has converted three of nine chances with the man advantage versus the Isles, whereas the underdogs are just 1-for-9.
It doesn't get much more devastating than losing by six goals, scoring on your first shot in the next game, failing to convert a five-minute power play minutes later, and losing just before the buzzer. That's what happened to the Islanders through the first two meetings with the Lightning.
Game 2 really felt like the Isles' window to get back into this series. They've been playing from out in front amid their excellent run to the Conference Finals, but against a well-rested, explosive Lightning club, they've hit a roadblock.
Through two periods of excellent defensive hockey, New York was in striking distance of evening the score with Tampa in a 1-1 tie. The Bolts only had 10 shots on goal through the first 40 minutes. Then, it all went horribly wrong late as the Isles' late lapse in their own end cost them.
This matchup boils down to the following two facts: Vasilevskiy, as long as he stays fresh and healthy, is a superior netminder to Varlamov and Greiss, and the Lightning are more talented, deeper, more experienced and more skilled than New York at the forward spots. It's a second seed versus a sixth for a reason.
Lots of information to make a case against New York here, and its moneyline doesn't reward bettors with the type of payout you'd expect from an underdog. Thus, look for more action to be placed on Tampa Bay's spread and moneyline.
The goal total is appropriately low, given that the Islanders can grind with the best clubs in the league and rebounded well from Game 1's embarrassment. With Vasilevskiy in fine form, too, look for more wagers to go on the Under.
Note: Odds current as of 1:20 p.m. ET on Friday, September 11.
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