My apologies for the delay in action, folks, as a brief illness and lack of value had me sitting out a few days, but I’m happy to be back coming off a great Saturday where I nailed two picks at plus-money.
The month of February has been far more kind to us than January was, and we’ll look to keep it going with this Islanders vs. Penguins NHL pick from Pittsburgh!
- Season Record: 15-18
- Units: -3.24
Islanders vs. Penguins Betting Odds
- Islanders (+103)
- Penguins (-114)
- Islanders +1.5 (-245)
- Penguins -1.5 (+205)
- Over 5.5 (-107)
- Under 5.5 (-103)
Islanders vs. Penguins NHL Pick Breakdown
To the surprise of few, the Islanders aren’t scoring a whole lot of goals this season after struggling to do so in each of the last two seasons. They’re just not built to score a whole lot.
The Islanders enter Thursday’s contest with the Penguins averaging 2.53 goals per game on the season, good for 23rd league wide while their 21.7% clip on the power sits right in the middle of the pack at 15th.
The team has more or less scored as much as they have deserved at 5v5 this season. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders rank 20th in scoring chances for/60, 15h in high-danger chances for/60 and 23rd in expected goals/60 on the campaign. Their 2.13 goals/60 at 5v5 this season is actually hair above their 2.03 mark, so the Isles have essentially deserved their offensive fate if we believe the underlying metrics.
They’ve been a fairly productive group of late, however. They’ve managed at least three goals in each of their last four games, averaging 3.25 goals per game during that stretch and they’ve scored seven across their two games against these Penguins so far this season.
They’ll continue to look for more from their bottom-six, but the Islanders’ lack of offense overall hasn’t hurt them in the standings.
The below-average offense doesn’t hurt all that much when you prevent goals like this team does.
They’ve been one of the very best defensive teams in the NHL since Barry Trotz took over prior to the 2018-19 campaign, and the results are stellar again.
The Isles will enter this one ranked fourth with 2.20 goals against per game on the season while their penalty kill sits near the middle of the pack at a solid 81.1% rate.
At 5v5 for the season, the Islanders rank 11th in scoring chances against/60, fifth in high-danger chances against/60 and ninth in expected goals against/60. They allowed 1.97 goals/60 at 5v5 on the season, a number nearly identical to their 1.95 expected mark, so their defensive fate has also been well-earned. As opposed to last season, the Islanders’ excellent advanced metrics matchup quite nicely with their on-ice results.
They’ve also been fantastic of late. The Islanders are coming off a shutout win over the Sabres on Tuesday while they’ve allowed just two goals over their last two games and three goals over their last three, winning all of those contests against the Sabres twice and the division-leading Bruins as well.
They probably won’t allow just 2.20 goals per game all season as last year’s best mark was the Bruins at 2.39, but the Islanders’ back end appears to be for real again this time around.
Islanders fans expected big things from rookie Ilya Sorokin after he posted some eye-popping numbers in his native Russia before making the move to North America, but his first three outings largely didn’t go as planned as he went winless in that time.
Of course, that was prior to his first career NHL win and shutout over the Sabres on Tuesday as the 25-year-old now owns a 2.74 GAA and .895 Sv% across four starts to kick off his NHL career.
While Sorokin struggled early, however, veteran countryman Semyon Varlamov was busy being one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Varlamov sits with a 1.89 GAA and .931 Sv% for the season across 11 starts, going a cool 7-2-2 in the process. His last outing came in the first contest of that two-game set with the scuffling Sabres, allowing just one goal on 21 shots (.952 Sv%) as part of the winning effort.
At this point, we don’t know which of the two netminders will get Thursday’s nod. It’s not a back-to-back situation, so conventional wisdom says Varlamov will get back into the crease, however, with Sorokin coming off the shutout effort, perhaps Trotz goes back to the rookie and afford his veteran some additional rest given the 11 vs. 4 starts to the season in Varlamov’s favor.
We’ll see if there’s an update closer to gametime, so check me out on Twitter @BKemp17 for updates!
It’s been a mediocre-at-best start for the Penguins overall as they sit at just 7-6-1 through 14 games on the season, and the offense is partially to blame.
A usually high-octane attack currently sits 16th with 2.93 goals per game on the season, however it’s their power play that’s struggled most at just 14.3% and tied for 24th in the league.
The underlying metrics are a little bit of a mixed bag. At 5v5, they sit 22nd in scoring chances for/60, 19th in high-danger chances for/60 and 20th in expected goals/60. They’ve actually scored notably more at 5v5 than they apparently deserved as their 2.57 goals/60 on the season sits well above their 2.06 expected mark.
Unlike recent seasons, it’s actually been a healthy group so far this season. Jared McCann is the lone notable top-nine player missing from the lineup at the moment while the top-six has been almost entirely intact had it not been for Kasperi Kapanen’s late start to the season due to visa issues.
They scored three times in regulation against these Islanders in each of their two meetings this season, but also hung six on the Capitals before scoring just one in the rematch on Tuesday.
In reality, the team needs more from their big boys. Sidney Crosby has 12 points in 14 games and Evgeni Malkin has been ice-cold to start the season with just seven points in 14 contests on the season.
Until that duo — along with the power play — gets going, the Penguins offense will continue to middle.
The main issue for the Pens, however, is the amount of goals they’ve surrendered this season.
Only the Senators and Canucks have allowed more than the 3.57 goals per game the Penguins have yielded on the season, although the Capitals and Sharks share that same underwhelming figure.
But here’s the thing: the Penguins certainly deserve a far superior defensive fate.
Despite their blueline being ravaged by injuries early in the season, the Penguins sit fifth in scoring chances against/60, 22nd in high-danger chances against/60 and 17th in expected goals against/60. Sure, the latter two rankings aren’t great, but their certainly not among the league’s worst while their 2.83 goals against/60 at 5v5 this season sits well above their 2.11 expected mark.
A lack of goaltending has been the biggest issue — and more on that in a minute — but this Penguins team has missed No. 1 defender Brian Dumoulin for exactly half the season so far, Michael Matheson has appeared in just six games and Marcus Pettersson has been in just five. Fortunately, Matheson and Pettersson have returned, but this injury-ravaged blueline has more or less held its own this season.
Even with average goaltending the Penguins would be a far superior overall defense.
Between starter Tristan Jarry and backup Casey DeSmith, the Penguins have received the 30th-ranked 5v5 save percentage at just .891 while their .735 Sv% at 5v5 on high-danger scoring chances is the worst mark in the NHL.
For comparison, the worst 5v5 save percentage last season was the Sharks at .901 and the worst high-danger mark was the Wild at .770. While I certainly believe this tandem is due to regress positively, that’s just how poor they’ve been to this point.
For his part, Jarry has probably been the most disappointing goaltender in the league this season. On the heels of a breakout year in which he posted a 2.43 GAA and .921 Sv% across 33 appearances, Jarry has turned in a ghastly 3.74 GAA and .875 Sv% in nine starts this season. The pressure was on once Matt Murray was traded to the Ottawa Senators, and so far Jarry has failed the test with authority.
DeSmith has been the better of the two, but still owns a subpar 2.84 GAA and .885 Sv% on the season in six appearances.
At this time, DeSmith is listed as day-to-day with an illness with Maxime Lagace having been recalled for Sunday’s win over the Capitals.
Jarry did turn aside 39 of 42 shots (.929 Sv%) in a 3-1 loss to the Capitals on Tuesday, so expect him to get the nod for this one.
Islanders vs. Penguins NHL Pick
The last time I handicapped an Isles/Pens game I took Pittsburgh and they earned me the win via the shootout.
It worked so well the first time that I’m going to roll with it again.
For Pens fans, you should be very happy to see Jarry turn in a fine effort despite the loss to the Caps two nights back. It was the best outing of his season and he’s obviously due to regress significantly. He’ll certainly bring plenty more confidence into this one than he has for much of the season and the Pens aren’t going to allow 3.57 goals per game all season.
Nor will the Islanders allow just 2.20 per game. Their 2.53 goals of offense per game is a little under their 2.78 mark from last season, but there were were six teams last season at 2.58 or worse. There’s no guarantee of a notable positive regression here.
You’re also not going to keep Crosby and Malkin so quiet for so long, so give me the Penguins once again as slight moneyline favorites.