Penguins at Islanders Picks and Game 6 NHL Odds
by Alan Matthews - 5/11/2013
So, is alienating your star goalie worth winning a first-round playoff series? Because that's essentially what the Pittsburgh Penguins will be doing in their Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the New York Islanders.
Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the better goaltenders in the NHL, finishing the regular season with a 23-8-0 mark, 2.39 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Not Vezina Trophy numbers but good. He was a huge reason the Pens won the Stanley Cup in 2009. Yet since then, Fleury has been very, very shaky in the playoffs. Two seasons ago, he went 3-4 with a 2.52 GAA. Last year, he was destroyed by the Flyers, going 2-4 with a 4.63 GAA. And against the Islanders in this series, Fleury was great in Game 1 with a shutout but then allowed 14 goals in the next three games as the Isles tied the series at two games apiece.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma made the smart move by benching Fleury, who had made 79 straight playoff starts but had allowed 40 goals in his past 10 playoff games, for Game 5 in favor of Tomas Vokoun. It worked, as the Penguins won, 4-0, and they can clinch the series on Saturday night back in Long Island in the only NHL Playoff game of the night.
Penguins at Islanders Betting Story Lines
Vokoun hadn't made a playoff appearance in six years but stopped all 31 shots on Thursday night to improve to 4-8 all-time in the postseason. It marked the first time in 34 years that two different goalies had a shutout in a single series for the same team. It was the second playoff shutout of Vokoun's NHL career and first in nine years. It was the third-longest gap between playoff shutouts by a goaltender in NHL history. Perhaps Bylsma should have started Vokoun from the start of the series. He was 3-0 with a 0.90 GAA against the Islanders during the regular season. Clearly, Vokoun will be the Game 6 starter. It will be interesting to see what happens if the Pens advance.
Vokoun wasn't the only lineup change Bylsma instituted Thursday. He scratched defenseman Mark Eaton and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Tanner Glass in favor of Simon Despres, Joe Vitale and Tyler Kennedy - the latter three are younger and faster. Kennedy, a healthy scratch the first four games, paid major dividends, scoring the first goal of Game 5. He only had six goals in 46 regular-season games. Obviously, he will stay in the lineup. Sidney Crosby, who was named a Hart Trophy finalist on Friday along with Washington's Alex Ovechkin and the Islanders' John Tavares, also scored in Game 5 on a highlight-reel goal. He has eight points in the series.
Tavares was held pointless in Game 5 for the first time since the opener. The Islanders just aren't as talented and are clearly in trouble as they are without top defenseman Andrew MacDonald, who is done for the season with a broken hand. MacDonald led the Islanders in ice time during the regular season and through the first three games of this series. The team also lost center Frans Nielsen, who didn’t play the final 12:41 of Game 5. He's “iffy” for Saturday, although he's a hockey player, so I'm sure he will play. Nielsen had six goals and 23 assists during the season and has two assists and is minus-1 in this series.
I am presuming that Islanders coach Jack Capuano will stick with No. 1 goalie Evgeni Nabokov, even though he was pulled in Game 5 just as he was in Game 1. He hasn't been very good, with a 4.68 GAA and .847 save percentage, but young backup Kevin Poulin has never started a playoff game.
Penguins at Islanders NHL Game 6 Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BookMaker, Pittsburgh is -170 and the Islanders +150 with the total at 6 (only opening series that has had totals over 5.5). The Penguins were 12-11-1 “over/under” on the road this season, while the Islanders were 14-9-1 at home. The over has hit in three of the five games in this series. The Pens have been big favorites in all of them.
The Islanders are 6-2 in their past eight Saturday games. They are 9-4 in their past 13 after scoring two goals or fewer in their previous game. New York is 1-4 in its past five when its opponent allows two goals or fewer in its previous game. The over is 4-1 in Pittsburgh's past five when allowing two goals or fewer in its previous game. The over is 5-2 in New York's past seven playing on one day of rest. The over is 5-0-1 in the past six meetings on Long Island. Pittsburgh has won six of the past eight at the Islanders.
Penguins at Islanders Picks and Game 6 Betting Predictions
If this were next year, I might like the Islanders in Game 6 as it might be their final game on Long Island. They are scheduled to move to the Nets' home at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season, but that may be moved up to after next season. However, with no MacDonald and shaky goaltending, I don't see how New York can outscore Pittsburgh like it did in Games 2 and 4. Penguins and the under it is. Pittsburgh would then face No. 7 Ottawa in the next round.
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