Game 3 of the semifinal matchup between the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning shifts to the Nassau Coliseum.
Let's get to it.
Well, well, well. For the first time in either Stanley Cup Playoff semifinal series, we don't have a monster favorite of the -200 variety.
I guess that's what happens when you go to Long Island, NY.
If you've watched even a bit of Islander hockey these playoffs, you know what awaits the Lightning tonight. A raucous, boisterous crowd that will be looking to one-up itself after its performance in Game 6 of the Isles-Bruins series (New York crushed Boston, 6-2, in that elimination game). And, if you've bet on Islander hockey this year, then you know just how much they've enjoyed a home-ice advantage.
All told, the Isles went 22-12 against the spread at home and are 4-2 at home during these playoffs. And as much as the Islanders have been a defensive powerhouse, they perform better on offense when at the Nassau Coliseum.
The Lightning, however, aren't exactly slouches when they leave the Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay is 3-1 (straight-up and against the spread) in their last 10 games away from Florida. The team has also implemented a defensive game plan outside of Tampa, going 0-4 in favor of the UNDER their last 10 games.
Game 3 is a tough one to bet on. It's probably easy to just take the plus-money with the Islanders at home and call it a day (won't argue with anyone who does, as the Isles are exactly the kind of team that can cash a plus-money ticket), but remember, these are the playoffs, and they're going against the defending champs; anything can happen (just look at what Montreal did to Vegas in Game 2).
You can look at that plus-money on the Isles but you can also look at the reasonable chalk the Lightning are getting; will it ever be this cheap to bet on them again, especially if they win this game?
So, let's shift gears a bit with tonight's picks. Normally, I'd like to pick a winner or a side on the total (I do lean the OVER in tonight's matchup, but won't bet it). People always want to know who will win, or how many goals will be scored. But the beauty of betting is there are so many different angles you can take with a game to maximize your chance of winning.
And on that note, enter Nikita Kucherov.
Since making his playoff debut, Kucherov has been the engine that powers this Lightning attack. When he shines, they've shined. Consider this: Kucherov is currently riding a five-game point streak that has featured a whopping EIGHT assists (four this series already). He's also played a pivotal role on the man-advantage, securing PPPs in every game this series. The Islanders have had their hands full with Kucherov and have shown no signs of stopping him. That goal (no pun intended) will be made even more difficult if New York's Jean-Gabriel Pageau skates at less than 100 percent after leaving Game 2 late with an injury.
Suffice it to say, Kucherov is on a heater right now, and while variance will inevitably strike, I don't think it happens in Game 3 when Tampa will need his elite playmaking while skating in enemy territory.
I think Kucherov keeps his point streak alive tonight.