Islanders at Penguins Picks and Game 1 NHL Odds
by Alan Matthews - 5/1/2013
The overriding storyline entering the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs isn't about the Chicago Blackhawks, who won the Presidents' Trophy for the second time in franchise history and set an NHL record by starting the season with at least a point in 24 straight games. The playoffs also aren't about whether the Los Angeles Kings can become the first team to repeat as Cup champions since the Red Wings in 1997-98. The playoffs aren't about the Original Six Maple Leafs returning to the postseason for the first time in nine years.
No, these playoffs are all about Sidney Crosby, the face of the league, and whether he's healthy or not.
How good is Crosby? He finished tied for third in the NHL in points this season with 56, just four behind scoring champion Martin St. Louis of Tampa Bay despite the fact St. Louis played 48 games and Crosby was limited to 36. Crosby's 1.56 points per game was by far the best. His last game was March 30 when he suffered a broken jaw against, fittingly enough, Pittsburgh's Round 1 opponent: the New York Islanders. The Pens won their 15th straight in that one -- two shy of the NHL record -- but dropped their next two without Crosby.
Will Crosby play in Wednesday's Game 1? That's still up in the air as of this writing. He has been participating in non-contact drills in practice but hasn't been cleared to play. The good news is that he didn't suffer another concussion. A doctor's appointment on Tuesday will determine whether he's cleared for Game 1. Pittsburgh was 8-4 without Crosby in landing the top seed in the Eastern Conference and probably doesn't need him to beat the Islanders.
Despite his uncertain status, Crosby is the 15/2 favorite at Bovada to be named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. Teammate Marc-Andre Fleury and Chicago goalie Corey Crawford are distant second-shots at 15/1.
Islanders at Penguins Betting Story Lines
The No. 8 Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time in six years and looking for their first series win since reaching the 1993 conference finals. That team upset two-time defending Cup champion and heavily-favored Pittsburgh of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in seven games in the conference semis. If this one goes seven games, the series finale will be two days short of the 20th anniversary of finishing off that upset.
The Islanders were in fine position to avoid the Penguins in the opening round but they lost their final three games, each by a goal, to slip to No. 8. The Isles, who did earn at least one point in 12 of their final 13 games, finished with a goal differential right at zero on the season, the only East team not in the positive. New York finished No. 7 in goals scored per game at 2.8 but No. 21 in goals allowed at the same number. John Tavares led the team with 28 goals and 47 points.
The Penguins led the NHL in scoring at 3.4 goals per game and were No. 2 in power-play percentage at 24.7. The good news is that Pittsburgh does have back injured players Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Paul Martin. It's not clear if physical defenseman Brooks Orpik will play in Game 1. He missed the final two games with a lower-body injury.
Pittsburgh lost the first meeting of the season with the Islanders, 4-1, on Jan. 29 but then won the final four by a combined 16-5. Crosby played all five games and didn't have a goal but did have nine assists. Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz combined for nine goals against the Isles. Fleury only played in two of the games, going 1-1 with a 3.60 GAA. Tavares was held to two points in the five games vs. Pittsburgh and was minus-5. Goalie Evgeni Nabokov was in net for all five games and had a GAA of 3.04 and save percentage of .893.
Islanders at Penguins Game 1 NHL Betting Odds and Key Trends
At Bovada, the Penguins have been opened at -240 and the Islanders +200 with the total at 5.5 (only opening game with a total more than 5). New York was 26-21-1 “over/under” (12-12 on road) this season and won three of its last four as a dog. Pittsburgh was 23-24-1 O/U (11-13 at home) and lost two of its final three as a favorite.
The Islanders are 8-3 in their past 11 games after allowing two goals or fewer in their previous game. The Penguins are 7-0 in their past seven home games against teams with a winning road record. The Pens are 7-1 in their past eight games playing on at least three days of rest. The under is 5-0 in the Isles' past five games against Atlantic Division foe. The over is 7-0 in Pittsburgh's past seven Wednesday games. The under is 9-2-1 in Pittsburgh's past 12 games when its opponent scores two goals or fewer in its previous game. The over is 5-2-1 in the past eight meetings. New York has won just seven of the past 30 meetings overall.
Islanders at Penguins Picks and Game 1 Betting Predictions
I certainly would recommend a wager on Crosby getting a point if he plays in Game 1. Why? Crosby has an incredible 75 points (20 goals, 55 assists) in 41 career games against the Islanders. That's bad news for New York. The good is that Fleury has struggled in his past three playoffs with a 3.12 GAA and .880 save percentage in 26 postseason games. He was torched in last year's first-round loss against Philadelphia.
Nabokov has plenty of playoff experience from his Sharks days, with a career 2.29 GAA in the postseason. But he's one of the few guys on the team with any experience. I think Nabokov can keep it close, so I'd take New York on the goalline at -140. Pittsburgh wins the game, however, 3-2 (so take the under).
Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s NHL picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please on any of our top hockey handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Get all of Tonight's NHL Picks.
Get all of Tonight's guaranteed Expert NHL Picks.