Islanders vs. Lightning odds, prediction: NHL picks as playoff race heats up

It’s anybody’s guess which version of the New York Islanders will show up on a game-by-game basis this season.

On some nights the Isles look like a team that can play with any opponent in the NHL, but too often this season they’ve been an easy mark and have cost themselves bushels of points thanks to poor execution, a lack of discipline and mental mistakes. 

Despite the roller coaster nature of this campaign, the Islanders are still with a shot to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Isles are four points behind the Capitals and four back of the Flyers, but they have two games in hand on the latter. 

A win on Saturday night in Tampa Bay would be a huge step forward for the Islanders and would set up a massive contest with Philadelphia on Monday evening.

The Lightning are -155 favorites at the time of writing.

Islanders vs. Lightning prediction

(7 p.m. ET.)

The Lightning deserve plenty of credit for seizing control of the first Wild Card in the Eastern Conference. The Bolts were without Andrei Vasilevskiy for the first quarter of the season and had to completely re-vamp the bottom of their roster due to salary cap constraints.

Plenty of pundits projected that the Lightning would miss the playoffs because of these factors, but Tampa is a hardy group and is now a sure thing to get into the dance. 

A lot of the credit for Tampa’s resilient season belongs to Nikita Kucherov for his MVP-caliber campaign, but lately, the Bolts have been getting plenty of production from all over the lineup and, crucially, Vasilevskiy has found his form in goal.

A couple of acquisitions at the Trade Deadline, Anthony Duclair and Matt Dumba, didn’t get much attention compared to other moves made around the league, but both players have done an admirable job since joining the Bolts and, most importantly, their arrival improved Tampa’s depth. 

The Lightning are still not a dominant team at 5-on-5, but they have the league’s best power play and they’re always a threat to outscore their problems with Kucherov, Brayden Point, Brandon Hagel and Victor Hedman all playing at an All-Star level. 

A victory for the Islanders would go a long way to snagging a playoff spot. Getty Images

The Islanders don’t have those luxuries. With their special teams struggling and a lack of all-world playmakers, the Islanders need to have every player pulling the rope in the same direction and they can ill-afford to make mistakes.

The Isles were able to do that against the Florida Panthers in a 3-2 win on Thursday and will need a repeat performance in Tampa on Saturday.

Knowing that they have very little chance in a back-and-forth contest filled with scoring chances and power plays, the Islanders will likely try to keep things as tidy as possible against the Lightning.

Tampa will do what it can to get this game on its script, but it could take some time before this thing opens up, should it do so at all.

The Islanders have not allowed a first-period goal in 13 of their last 16 games and four of their last nine first periods have ended 0-0. 

Betting on the NHL?

If you were to ask me to pick a side I’d lean towards the Isles in a sell-high spot on Tampa, but backing the first period to end 0-0 at a big number is my favorite play on the board. 

PICK: 1P Under 0.5 Goals (+380, DraftKings

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