The Action Network: Lightning vs. Islanders, Game 4 odds, analysis

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The Action Network is providing NHL.com readers with odds and analysis for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Today, a look at Game 4 of the Semifinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders.

Lightning at Islanders Game 4 Odds

Lightning Odds: -135
Islanders Odds: +110
Over/Under: 5
Time: 8 p.m. ET

Note: If you’re new to betting, the Lightning’s -135 odds mean a $135 bet would profit $100 if they win the game. Conversely, the Islanders’ +110 odds mean a $100 bet would net $110. Convert odds using The Action Network’s Betting Odds Calculator.

For the most part, sport bettors want to know one thing: “What have you done for me lately?” It’s only human that, after a team burns you and you lose a bet, you’re a little bit hesitant to go back to the well and back that team the next time out. That is especially true when betting on underdogs.

That’s why it will be interesting to see where the price for Game 4 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders closes. After putting on a defensive clinic in a Game 1 upset, the Islanders have dropped two straight games to the Lightning and now find themselves down 2-1 in their best-of-7 series. What’s more is the Isles were a popular bet — especially by underdog standards — on Thursday night.

According to Action Labs, we tracked 15,535 bets on Game 4 and 62% of the moneyline wagers came in on the Isles. New York has been a terrific team at home this season and its reputation as a profitable underdog is well known, but it is pretty unusual to see that many folks betting against an elite team (and the defending champs, to boot) coming off a win. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see that script flip for Saturday’s Game 4 as the Isles try to claw their way back onto even terms.

The playoffs are certainly no time for moral victories, but the Islanders can at least be encouraged with how they’ve played through the first 180 minutes of a series that most folks didn’t give them a chance to win.

Ahead of Game 1, most people thought that the Lightning would be the team on the front foot. The Bolts weren’t a dominant 5-on-5 team during the regular season nor have they been one during the postseason, but the consensus was that Tampa’s talent would be able to dictate the game flow in this series. Interestingly, it’s actually been the Islanders who have been dictating the tempo for the most part at even strength.

New York ended up on the wrong side of the final scoreline on Thursday night, but for the third game in a row the Isles won the expected goals battle. Per MoneyPuck, the Islanders created 2.84 xG at 5-on-5 and 2.95 xG in all situations, while the Lightning mustered up 1.5 xG at even strength and 1.52 xG overall. Additionally, the Isles had a +9 edge (14-5) in terms of high-danger scoring chances and also attempted nine more shots. Winning the “xG battle” isn’t the end-all and be-all, but these numbers do tell us that the Isles are skating with the heavily-favored Lightning in this series.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play. xG numbers and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.

Just because the Islanders are finding success at 5-on-5 doesn’t mean the Lightning are just getting lucky, though. The Bolts put up two very impressive efforts in the past two games and are fully deserving of their 2-1 series lead. You don’t achieve the success that Tampa has over the years by having just one path to victory. The Lightning are a versatile bunch, and their commitment to defense and structure in Games 2 and 3 showed that this team doesn’t need to run-and-gun to win. In fact, they looked very comfortable mirroring what the Islanders do best.

As I said in the preview for Game 3, the Bolts don’t need to dominate the puck to win. Tampa’s goaltender is elite, its power play is dynamic and its star players are incredibly difficult to contain. This team can make up for a lack of possession in a number of ways, which can be particularly frustrating for a team like the Islanders, who need to work their collective tail off to get results. It’s no wonder that the Bolts now find themselves as -550 favorites to advance to the Stanley Cup Final. Those odds imply that Tampa has an 84.6% chance of winning this series.

Of course, 84.6% is not 100%, and staring down seismic odds is nothing new to the Islanders, who have already erased 2-1 deficits twice this postseason. Add in the fact that the margins in this series have been razor thin and all of a sudden that +400 series price on the Isles starts to become pretty intriguing.

Michael Leboff covers the NHL and more at The Action Network — a sports media company that builds products and creates content to inform and entertain the sports bettor.

Listen: NHL Fantasy on Ice podcast with guest Michael Leboff of The Action Network

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