After evening up the semifinal series, 2-2, the New York Islanders return to Florida to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5.
Let's get to it.
These favored teams better be careful, or they just might let the dogs have their day.
Both Stanley Cup semifinal series are now tied at 2-2, and the hotly contested play has been reflected perfectly in the New York Islanders-Tampa Bay Lightning matchup. Outside of Game 2 (when the Lightning won, 4-2), neither team has broken the three-goal threshold, and every game but that one has been decided by one goal.
Yet, here are the Isles, heavy underdogs for the fifth straight time against the reigning champs — what gives?
Well, maybe the Islanders getting so much plus money has something to do with a startling trend surrounding the Lightning that goes back to last season's Cup run. Tampa Bay just doesn't lose two games in a row in the playoffs. In fact, the team is 12-0 in games after a loss going back to 2020's postseason. Tampa Bay hasn't lost two in a row since May 7-10, 2021.
Talk about making adjustments.
So, it makes a bit of sense that the Lightning are a heavy -190 favorites in this game — even if it is a bit disrespectful to an Islanders team that has shown time and time again in these playoffs they're not to be undermined.
All told, this is a tough game to bet (but they're all tough at this point of the playoffs).
I'm going with a duo of picks tonight.
First off, I'm going to ride the trend of the Lightning making post-loss adjustments for as long as it lasts — but not at -190 chalk. That kind of favoritism screams (at least to me), "Bet the dog!" especially considering this is the playoffs. It's not like the Isles are down 3-0 and have been losing by multiple goals. Did we already forget that they won Game 1 in Florida?
So, I won't argue with anyone who takes the Isles tonight; +155 is a quality price. Yet, if I'm going to ride the trend yet avoid the -190 hammer, I have little choice but to take Tampa Bay on the puck line. Ill-advised, considering how tight this series and playoffs have been? Maybe, but as we saw in Game 2, the Lightning's adjustments after a loss — especially at home — can equate to a two-to-three-goal victory. And the Islanders' usual defensive prowess has shown some holes away from Nassau Coliseum.
And because I'm betting the Lightning to deliver a result akin to Game 2, I'm also betting on the scorching-hot Nikita Kucherov to continue his dominance with the puck. Oddsmakers are making you pay up for Kucherov to continue his streak of helpers (-175 over 0.5 assists), so I'm turning my attention to the points column. Kucherov has one or more points in every home game during these playoffs.
I'll take the plus money on him having a huge impact in this pivotal Game 5 at the Amalie Arena.
Picks: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+145), Nikita Kucherov over 1.5 points (+145)