The Action Network: Lightning vs. Islanders, Game 6 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 6 of the Semifinals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders.

Lightning at Islanders Game 6 odds

Lightning odds: -155
Islanders odds: +125
Over/Under: 5
Time: 8 p.m. ET

Note: If you’re new to betting, the Lightning’s -155 odds mean a $155 bet would profit $100 if they win the game. Conversely, the Islanders’ +125 odds mean a $100 bet would net $125. Convert odds using The Action Network’s Betting Odds Calculator.

In horse racing you’ll often hear handicappers say they are “drawing a line” through a previous race. Perhaps the horse had an unlucky trip or a bad post position, or maybe that run was just an outlier for a usually reliable thoroughbred. That is the conundrum facing bettors ahead of Game 6 between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. Can you excuse what we saw from the Isles on Monday night and throw it out? Or was it indicative of a team that has finally run out of gas after beating the odds for the last two-plus rounds?

There’s no sugar coating what happened to the Isles in Game 5. They were absolutely steamrolled by the Lightning. It isn’t often that you see an 8-0 scoreline in the NHL and it is even more rare for it to happen this deep in the postseason. But perhaps most concerning is that the final score was pretty fair to how the game went. You could argue that the Islanders were a tad unlucky, but they also allowed eight odd-man rushes in the first period alone, so both teams got what they deserved in the end.

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.

As you could imagine the betting market has reacted pretty favorably toward the Lightning coming off their whirlwind performance. Not many bettors will feel confident going back to the Isles after an 8-0 loss. At the time of writing Tampa sits as a -155 favorite, when you convert those odds to implied win probability, they translate to a 60.8% chance that the Bolts win. The Islanders, on the other hand, are at +125, which would be their highest odds at home in this series, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that number tick up before puck drop considering what transpired a couple of nights ago.

Game 3: Lightning -140/Islanders +115
Game 4: Lightning -125/Islanders +105
Game 6: Lightning -155/Islanders +125

Betting on hockey is a challenging endeavor and one of the biggest hurdles bettors need to be able to consistently navigate is to not get caught up in what you just saw. Sure, the easy choice in this matchup would be to go right back to the Lightning, an elite team that just trounced the Islanders. But savvy gamblers will tell you that reacting to a one-game sample is not a recipe for success in the long term. Sure, the Lightning may win on Wednesday night, but if you consistently back a team just because they looked good their last time out you could find yourself on the wrong side of the ledger sooner rather than later.

Instead, it’s best to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. And in this series that picture has been quite competitive, save for one contest. Through the first four games of this best-of-7 the Islanders and Lightning were almost dead-even at 5-on-5:

Goals: Lightning 7, Islanders 7
Shot attempts: Lightning 176, Islanders 164
Expected goals: Lightning 6.99, Islanders 8.95
High-danger scoring chances: Lightning 29, Islanders 38

Those numbers would suggest that Game 5 was the outlier. The Islanders held Tampa to 7.25 high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5 per game through the first four games. They allowed eight in the first 20 minutes on Monday night. That said, the Lightning are the defending Stanley Cup champions and performances like the one we saw in Game 5 are not out of the question for this team. 

That brings us back to the question at the top. Are you willing to draw a line through New York’s performance in Game 5 and buy low on a team that has been consistent and resilient throughout this postseason? Or are you instead going to pay a bit of a premium on the notion that the juggernaut Lightning have finally separated themselves in this series?

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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