After rallying to erase a two-goal deficit, the New York Islanders staved off elimination on Wednesday with a 3-2 win in overtime. The teams will decide the series Friday night in Tampa, Fla., and the Lightning could be without their top forward, Nikita Kucherov, after he suffered what appeared to be an upper-body injury after receiving a cross-check from Scott Mayfield that went uncalled by the officials.
Kucherov’s absence would be a huge loss for the Lightning, but this is a deep team capable of winning an important game without the services of its leading point producer.
DraftKings lists the Lightning as -175 moneyline favorites on Friday but it’s tough to justify laying the favorite at a price that isn’t all that far away from the closing price of Game 5, which was about -185. Kucherov has scored 27 points in 17 playoff games and bettors should use caution here. If he plays, he’ll be playing injured, but the Lightning would be worth a bet on the moneyline at -175 or better (they are -165 at BetMGM in New Jersey). However, if he is not able to suit up, bettors should know there’s not really a bargain to be had here unless they see a substantial shift in the game odds.
By my estimation, the Lightning should win the game approximately 65 percent of the time with Kucherov in the lineup, which equates to odds a fair moneyline of -185. Without him, their chances drop to about 61 percent or -155. That also means that there won’t be any point in which I would back the Islanders here because, at best, their chances of winning are about 39 percent or +155 and DraftKings currently lists them at +148 on the moneyline (it’s +135 at BetMGM). Oddsmakers should feel good about how they’ve priced the main markets, and that doesn’t bode well for bettors. So, how should you approach this game?
Look for instances where oddsmakers have not correctly adjusted if Kucherov is not in the lineup. Player props would be a good place to start. Anthony Cirelli did a fine job filling in for Kucherov on the top line, chipping in a goal and an assist Wednesday. While the former (a goal) might not be a great bet to happen again in Game 7, the latter (an assist) is something a little more obtainable with Brayden Point, who has scored goals in nine straight games, on his line.
Yanni Gourde is another player who would benefit by moving up into the lineup and there’s a way for bettors to benefit. Gourde will move up if Kucherov is out of the lineup and he’ll be flanked by Steven Stamkos and Alex Killorn.
Prior to Game 6, bettors could lay -161 at BetMGM on Gourde to go over 1.5 shots on goal, a feat he has accomplished in 12 of 17 playoff games this season. He has averaged two shots on goal per game in the playoffs but has been hitting the target 2.5 times per game in this series.
There’s no smoke and mirrors here. If bettors can find similar odds heading into Game 7, that’s a great bet. If Kucherov doesn’t play, and a bettor can lay anywhere close to -161 on Gourde to go over 1.5 shots on goal, they can rest assured that oddsmakers haven’t made the proper adjustments.