NHL Betting Odds: Will the New York Islanders silence the Tampa Bay Lightning again?

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·4 min read
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Game 2 of the Stanley Cup semifinal series is on tap tonight, as the Tampa Bay Lightning look to avenge their surprising Game 1 loss against the New York Islanders.

Let's get to it.

All betting odds courtesy of BetMGM

New York Islanders (+165) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (-200) — Total: 5

Is it hyperbole to say the New York Islanders played perfectly in their 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1?

Perfect for the Islanders, I mean.

It might be hard to contemplate just how difficult it is to not only defeat the Lightning but to hold them scoreless for two whole periods. In fact, the Lightning didn't get on the board until they had a 6-on-4 man advantage.

A lot of the credit for that victory should go to Barry Trotz, who has this Islanders team skating disciplined, unflappable hockey. It also helps that their star forward, Mat Barzal, has four goals in his last five games, but offense has never really been the story of the Isles. It's their smothering defense that stole the show in Game 1, and it's hard to expect that they're suddenly going to crumble in Game 2, even with Tampa no doubt looking to strike early and often.

New York Islanders' Mathew Barzal (13)
Mat Barzal has heated up at the perfect time for the Islanders. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Oddsmakers seemingly haven't gotten around to respecting the Islanders yet, not even after they dispatched the powerful Penguins and beastly Bruins one after the other. The Lightning remain a -200 favorite, even after the Isles completely outplayed and outclassed them in Game 1.

It's never fun betting against a reigning Cup champion in the build of Tampa Bay, but I understand why a prospective bettor would chase the +165 juice with the Islanders. Time and time again, New York has undermined all odds to pull off seemingly inconceivable victories throughout these playoffs, even when they're being outplayed 5-on-5. In fact, Game 1 of this series was one of the few times the Isles actually won the 5-on-5 battle during these playoffs.

But maybe Tampa Bay is getting such heavy chalk even after an embarrassing home loss because of their tendency to bounce back after a defeat. The Lightning haven't lost consecutive games all playoffs, and you'd have to go all the way back to May 8 for the last time they've lost two or more in a row. Only five instances the entire 2021 season have the Lightning lost consecutive games.

Basically, they know how to recalibrate. And maybe they're due for a couple of losses in a row, but it's hard to buy into that kind of variance; not with this team. I would never bet on a -200 favorite straight up; there's just too little value there, even though it seems so secure. But I do think there's value in taking the Lightning on the puck line, where they're +140. That heavy juice reflects how good the Islanders' defense is, but is it so hard to believe the Lightning can win this game, 3-1, or maybe even 2-0? With Andrei Vasilevskiy in net, I think it's worth a small wager, especially considering how well the Lightning have fared after a loss (and they're at home, which means something now as opposed to last season's playoffs).

Again, I won't argue with anyone who once again takes the Isles in this spot. They're a great team and as long as oddsmakers don't respect their ability, there will be value in betting on them. But I have to side with the defending champs in Game 2.

One final note: In full discretion, I initially wanted to bet on the total of this game as opposed to a winning side. The UNDER has cashed in three straight head-to-head matchups between these teams; the UNDER has hit four out of five times the Lightning have played New York at the Amalie Arena. Variance will eventually strike between these squads, it's just a matter of when.

Then I saw that the opening total of 5.5 has been bet down to 5, with the OVER coming in at -145 and the UNDER at +120.

If you've followed my work in any capacity (apologies to those who have), you know how I feel about a 5 total in hockey.

If you don't, I'll let Admiral Ackbar of Star Wars fame explain.

With me leaning towards the Lightning winning by a multiple-goal margin, I can't in good conscience select the UNDER (even though, as I mentioned before, this game could very well end 3-0 or 3-1 or 2-0 or some slightly lopsided score like that). I also won't pay up the chalk to take the OVER here, not when both teams and goaltenders are capable of shutdown performances.

TL;DR: I'm terrified of that damn 5 line.

Pick: Tampa Bay Lightning -1.5 (+140)

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