We are down to the Final Four! Regardless of the sport, when you get to this point, you can taste it. The championship is within your grasp.
For us, the sports bettors, the opportunities to place a wager are dwindling – the way hockey has gone for me, that makes me sad. No time to cry about tomorrow, let’s make some money today. You can be sure to place the best sport bets today our using trusted data and odds.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs New York Islanders
In a rematch of last year’s semifinal, the Tampa Bay Lightning will once again be prohibitive favorites over the New York Islanders. Last year, Tampa defeated the Isles in overtime in Game 6 to wrap up the series. Tampa went on to win the Stanley Cup last year.
Can the Islanders take the next step and give Tampa a run for their money? Most of the pundits don’t give New York much of a chance and that’s understandable. Tampa has the star power (Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman), they have the depth and they might have the best goaltender on the planet (Andrei Vasilevskiy)
If the Islanders are going to keep this series tight, it’ll be because:
Their goaltending (Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin) matches Vasilevskiy.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau continues to shut down the opposing team’s best players and best lines.
The Islander’s power play produces.
Can it happen? Absolutely? Is it the most likely outcome? No.
The fact of the matter is that the New York Islanders were actually better during the regular season at full strength or 5v5. The Islanders had a better expected and actual goals rate than Tampa Bay this season, but Tampa didn’t have their superstar, Nikita Kucherov, during the season. He returned just in time for the playoffs and his impact has been substantial as one might expect.
I believe Tampa wins this series more often than not. My biggest fear for the Islanders is their penalty kill. What was a strength during the regular season has been a liability in the playoffs. Quite inconvenient considering how good Tampa’s power play is. If the Isles find themselves in the sin bin too often and their penalty kill isn’t better, this series could be over in five games.
From a betting perspective, as usual, I’ll be looking for opportunities throughout the series – oftentimes, the best value comes after Game 1 or 2. My gut tells me this Islander team has something special going on. I remember feeling this when watching the St. Louis Blues go on their run a couple of years ago.
I’m betting on the Islanders to win the series in six (+700) and seven (+750) because I can’t envision a scenario where the Isles win it in fewer games and betting on those two outcomes gives me a better payout than betting on the Islanders to win the series at +220.
Vegas Golden Knights v The Montreal Canadiens
One of the most storied franchises vs an expansion team. This should be and is a true David vs Goliath battle. Except, it’s the expansion team that’s Goliath in this case.
Montreal has hoisted the cup more times than any other team, but this year they barely made the playoffs. In fact, they wouldn’t have made the playoffs in any other division.
As for Vegas, the Golden Knights are making their 3rd trip to the semifinals in four years. . They tied Colorado for the most points in the regular season and just disposed of the Avalanche in six games. They have a great defenseman in Alex Pietrangelo, their goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, gets as hot as the sun at times, and their first two lines are so solid.
So, this is just a formality, right? A cakewalk for the Knights, huh?
Not so fast. Vegas has traditionally played up or down to their competition. The Minnesota Wild took them to seven games and they lost last year in the bubble to Dallas who didn’t even make the playoffs this season. Now, I’m not going to tell you Vegas isn’t a good team, let’s even call them a great team. I am going to say, they’re beatable. I have questions about their depth and at these prices, I shouldn’t have any questions.
If you’re betting on any team and you’re laying -455, you should feel supremely confident and I just don’t.
As for Montreal, this is a team that lost their best player (Brendan Gallagher) to injury and his loss was apparent on the ice. Gallagher returned for the playoffs and Montreal is playing some good hockey right now. They have a couple of youngsters with speed to burn in Nick Suzuki and Cole Caulfield; Suzuki interestingly enough was drafted by Vegas and traded to Montreal.
There’s no doubt Vegas is a better team. They should win this series, but the line is pure insanity.
At these prices, my money is on Montreal. As always, I’ll look for opportunities should they arise. For example, it wouldn’t shock me at all if the Canadians stole game 1 and if they did, I could bet on Vegas afterwards as a hedge.