A best-of-7 series has now transformed into a best-of-3, as the New York Islanders and Boston Bruins head to a pivotal Game 5 knotted up at two wins apiece. Both clubs have won once at home and once on the road, the latest game being an Islanders home victory to even up the series again.
Here is a closer look at this dramatic series so far, some players to watch, plus a key stat and a free betting pick. Back at home, Boston is a solid -180 favorite, while New York is a +152 road underdog.
In the series opener, the Bruins took control in the third period with three goals to win the game 5-2. Right wing David Pastrnak led the way with a hat trick, the last of his three goals coming in the three-score third period. Boston dominated the game on both ends with a pair of power-play goals and a 40 to 22 shot differential.
Game 2 was a much better outcome for the visitors. After surrendering a 3-1 lead after the first 40 minutes, the Islanders still managed to win 4-3 when fourth line center Casey Cizikas beat goalie Tuukka Rask on a breakaway in overtime. It was also a shift in net for New York, turning from rookie Ilya Sorokin to veteran Semyon Varlamov, who made 39 saves.
When the series shifted to Long Island for Game 3, the two teams once again found themselves tied at the end of regulation. However, thanks to left wing Brad Marchand’s overtime winner, the Bruins won 2-1, stealing a game on the road and re-taking the series lead. Like Game 1, though, Boston had a comfortable shot advantage of 41 to 29.
Then in Game 4, the Islanders overcame a one-goal deficit and scored four unanswered, three of which in the third period, beating the Bruins 4-1 and once again tying up this second-round series. The big go-ahead goal with about seven minutes left in the third came from center Mathew Barzal, his second goal in as many games after being held scoreless for the entirety of the postseason.
Players to Watch
Starting with New York, center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is the team’s new leader with 10 points after scoring his second goal of the series on Saturday. He is now just ahead of left wing Anthony Beauvillier, who has been shut out in the last two outings after putting together a six-game point streak.
It will also be interesting to see the goalie situation for the Islanders. While Sorokin was expected to be their main man in net, Varlamov has started each of the last three games, winning two of them and allowing less than three goals in two of them as well.
Shifting to Boston, Pastrnak’s hat trick has helped give him 11 points, three more than the next-closest group of players. He’s just ahead of guys like Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron, who had four games with a point before getting blanked in Game 4.
A big x-factor for the Bruins as well is the performance of left wing Taylor Hall. One of Boston’s top players who’s not on the first line, Hall had points in three games in the opening round series and points in two games this series, with the team winning all five of those games. However, in the four games he has been held point-less, Boston is just 1-3.
Aside from Game 1, the Islanders have been the better team during 5-on-5. New York has had the advantage with a 53.9 percent expected goal rate and a 51.9 percent high-danger chance rate in Games 2-4. However, they’ve only outscored Boston by one goal in those three games, so capitalizing more on their chances will go a long way.
For this matchup, I’m bucking the trend of alternating wins and picking the Islanders to steal this game on the road. New York has been a better team with Varlamov in net and the better team at even strength in terms of generating scoring chances. They have also found a way to not completely stop but rather contain Boston’s dynamic trio of Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron.
At solid underdog odds, give me the Islanders to take their first lead of the series.
Pick: Islanders +152