We’re at the semifinals now with the Final Four remaining teams battling for the Stanley Cup. At this point, none of these remaining teams have played each other this season due to the in-division only structure of this season so these two series could potential get very interesting. In this first series of the semi’s, we have a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Finals between the Central Division Champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the East Division Champion New York Islanders.
In last season’s conference finals, the Lightning knocked off the Islanders in six games on their way to lifting the Stanley Cup in the bubble. Arguably the hardest Cup to win.
To get here, the Lightning beat their in state rival Panthers in the Battle of Florida for the first round in six games and then won the Central against Carolina in five. The Islanders upset the Penguins in the first round in six games and then battled six games against the Bruins to win the East.
Statistically the Bolts have an edge on offense, averaging 3.21 goals per game (third in the NHL) vs. New York’s 2.71. Tampa has scoring depth with all four of their lines contributing. Barry Trotz coaches a defensive machine on Long Island and the Isles have a slightly better 2.23 goals allowed per game vs. Tampa’s 2.59. Goaltending on both teams is very good though with Vezina Trophy Andrea Vasilevskiy in goal for Tampa and the due of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin for the Islanders.
In last season’s conference finals, the series in the bubble between these teams was a hard defensive battle and besides a huge 8-2 Tampa win in Game 1 and a 5-3 Islanders win in Game 3, the rest of the rest of the series was a goaltending battle with three games all ending with a 2-1 score. I’d expect much of the same this year but I’d give Tampa the slight edge in goal.
I think the key factor of winning this series though will be the depth of Tampa Bay Lightning. This team was fantastic in the regular season even without their top two players in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. When you insert Kuch and Stammer in the lineup, that gives the Bolts even more depth that makes them a huge contender to win the Stanley Cup. They have four lines that all contribute to scoring goals. I don’t think the Isles will be able to keep up with that.
I think Tampa wins this series in six games, but I don’t think the price is worth betting on them to just win the series straight up. I’ll take a unit on Tampa to win the series in six games or less at a much more manageable price at -125 as well as the series to last over 5.5 games for a unit at -139. I feel like its pretty much impossible to lose both of these, so I think this is a good approach to hopefully hit both. I’m also going to throw a half unit flyer on the Bolts to win this series in exactly six games at the nice price of +425.
Coming into this series, I already had a unit on the Isles to win the Cup at +1300 and 4 units on Tampa to win the cup at +200. With a ton of value I have from earlier this season on Vegas on the other side of the bracket, I’m adding 3 more units on Tampa at +175 and 0.8 units on the Isles at +600. This guarantees me at least a 6.8 unit profit as long as Montreal doesn’t somehow win the Stanley Cup (I’ll break down Vegas/Montreal tonight or tomorrow).
Four of six games in the Eastern Conference Finals last season went under 5.5 between these teams and I’d expect similar results again. I’m going to lay off the under in Game 1 but look to add it in later games this series depending on how it starts off. For Game 1, I’ll just keep it simple with a unit on the Tampa ML.
1u Stanley Cup Champions: New York Islanders (+1300)
4u Stanley Cup Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning (+200)
3u Stanley Cup Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning (+175)
.8u Stanley Cup Champions: New York Islanders (+600)
1u Lightning/Islanders over 5.5 games played (-139)
1u Lightning to win series in six games or less (-125)
.5u Lightning win series 4-2 (+425)
Game 1 Bets:
1u Tampa ML (-200)
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