What a ride the first week and a half of the NHL playoffs have been. We’ve already seen three handshake lines, and two of the three teams who’ve punched their ticket to the next round – Boston and Winnipeg – were the lower-seeded team. Let’s take a look at today’s top NHL betting picks!
There are three huge games on the slate tonight, and thus three more opportunities for teams to close out their first-round series. The Islanders and Lightning would love to get it done tonight because if they’re forced into a Game Seven scenario, it won’t be on their home ice. On the other hand, the Golden Knights will have the fallback option of having a potential seventh game in their building.
As far as our best bets are concerned, we’re coming off an even 1-1 day last Friday, bringing the overall record to a modest 7-2-1. I’ve got two more hopeful winners on tap for tonight, so without further delay, let’s get into it.
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Top NHL Betting Picks For Wednesday, May 26th (2021)
New York Islanders vs. Pittsburgh Penguins: Game 6 (NYI Lead 3-2)
I touched on it in my playoff preview: the Islanders are not the team you want to go deep into a series against. They’re difficult to play against, and they completely wear you down.
There’s no denying the Penguins absolutely dominated the better part of Game Five. Early in the third period, Pittsburgh had registered 24 of the last 28 shots on net, yet the game was knotted at 2. MoneyPuck’s “Win O’Meter,” which considers all metrics from a completed game and runs them through 1,000 simulations, determined that the Islanders had a 14.1% chance to win based on the Game Five numbers. Yet, they still came out on top.
So why am I on New York after they seemingly “lucked” into a win on Sunday? One big reason is their goaltender, Ilya Sorokin. The young Russian has been superb in this series, sporting a 3-0 record, 1.66 goals against, and an other-worldly .951 save percentage. That’s right, Sorokin is 3-0. New York hasn’t lost a game in this series when he’s been in net; their two losses came in front of Semyon Varlamov. Now he’s at home in one of the most difficult arenas to play in for opponents and riding a torrid hot streak.
Another reason I like the Islanders is because of how Game Five ended. For those who missed it, the video is below.
Josh Bailey’s double OT goal that made it 3-2 in Game 5 and 3-2 in the series #Isles pic.twitter.com/sYolvukYUb
— SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (@SiriusXMNHL) May 25, 2021
What a deflating way to lose a playoff hockey game. In double-overtime, no less. The Penguins can sales-pitch us to death about how “Game Five is behind (them),” but it feels like it’ll be difficult to come out and match the Islanders’ intensity after swallowing such a tough pill just 48 hours ago.
And as for Tristan Jarry – I highlighted in my playoff preview how enormous of a mismatch the goaltending landscape was in favor of the Islanders. My prediction has come true, as Jarry is dead last among all goalies who’ve appeared in the playoffs in goals saved above expected (-4.5). Essentially, he’s allowed four or five goals that an average NHL goaltender should stop. He’s clearly struggling in the crease, and to add fuel to the fire, that gaffe to end Game Five is going to have his confidence shaken.
Look for the Islanders to control this game early, net their usual timely goals, and give the fans at Nassau Coliseum perhaps their final series-clinching victory in the old barn, making them one of the top NHL betting picks.
The Pick: Islanders ML -110 (Good to -120)
Minnesota Wild vs. Vegas Golden Knights: Game 6 (VGK Lead 3-2)
The moneyline for Game Six between Vegas and Minnesota has undergone some strange movement. The Golden Knights have received over 85% of the money and the bets and are clearly on the public side as of this morning. However, the line has moved in the opposite direction. Vegas opened at -140 on Tuesday night at most books, and at the time of writing, they’re just -130 at most online books like DraftKings and PointsBet. Some books in Las Vegas even have the Knights at -125.
The line movement isn’t earth-shattering, but it sure is curious. It feels like the books want to continue to attract money and bets on the Golden Knights, despite 85% of both already being on the Vegas side. We’re not going to fall into the trap; we’re going to do the opposite of what the bookmakers want us to do because Minnesota has been every bit as good as Vegas in this series.
The scoring chances have been nearly identical – Minnesota has had 51% to Vegas’s 49%. High danger chances are more of the same, as the Wild have 52% of them in this series compared to the Knights’ 48%. Vegas really doesn’t seem to be a cohesive unit for some reason, and they’ve really relied heavily on Marc-Andre Fleury in this series. Fleury is third among playoff goaltenders in goals saved above average (4.6), so he’s really bailing his team out, but he had a bit of a clunker in Game Five in front of his home fans. Now he’ll be in Minnesota’s building, and despite the Xcel Center not being at full capacity, those fans are going to be all over Fleury.
This year, Minnesota has been strong against Vegas, sporting a 5-2-1 regular-season record, including a 3-0-1 record on home ice against the Knights. However, they’ve dropped both home tilts in this series, and I expect that skid to end tonight. There’s no tomorrow for the Wild. They’ll be motivated on their home ice making them one of the best NHL betting picks. I’m not saying Vegas won’t be – it’s the playoffs, after all – but that team knows if tonight’s game doesn’t go according to plan, they’ll get a Game Seven in their building. Motivation edge: Minnesota.
The Pick: Wild ML +120 (Good to +110)
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Mike Wagenman is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @mjwags23.
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