Top NHL Betting Pick for Friday, June 25th (2021)

Every hockey fan’s two favorite words: Game Seven. We’ve got a Friday night Game Seven for the right to go to the Stanley Cup Final. What could be better?

Despite allowing an incredible 12 consecutive goals between the fourth and sixth games of this series, the Islanders scored the most important goal so far on Wednesday night when Anthony Beauvillier picked off a Blake Coleman pass and ripped the puck by Andrei Vasilevskiy just over a minute into overtime. It tied the series at three games apiece and sent these teams back to Tampa for a winner-take-all Game Seven.

ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER IN OT AND WE WILL SEE YOU IN TAMPA BAY FOR GAME 7!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(via @NHLonNBCSports)pic.twitter.com/aEKCKp2poV

— Islanders Videos (@SNY_Islanders) June 24, 2021

The question looming over the Lightning is the availability of their best player, Nikita Kucherov. The playoff leader in both points (27) and assists (22) missed all but 45 seconds of Game Six after he took a wicked cross-check from Scott Mayfield on his first shift and then limped down the tunnel after awkwardly finishing a check of his own on Mathew Barzal. Tampa Bay still jumped out to a 2-0 lead without Kucherov, but the offense dried up shortly thereafter. They’re going to need him if they want to reach their second straight Cup Final. 

Our last best bet was the Islanders +130 in Game Six, and with that win, our season-long record sits at a profitable 12-8-1. Can we squeeze out one more winner before this series is over? Let’s dive in.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders: Game Seven (Series Tied 3-3)

There’s far too much uncertainty with the aforementioned injury to Nikita Kucherov for me to confidently handicap a side in this seventh game. If Kucherov plays, especially since the Lightning are at home, it’s tough to pick against them, their experience, and their pedigree. But, without knowing his status and with Tampa Bay sitting around -160 at most books, it’s far too much juice to lay without having concrete information.

Instead, let’s pivot to the total. Game Seven unders are a known commodity, and the heavy desire from the public to blindly bet the under has forced the books to adjust accordingly. So, while I rarely like to take a chalky, public side of any bet, tonight’s under is anything but that. Many books have the current total sitting at 5.5 -160; that’s too much juice to lay. However, some books have lowered the total down to 5 but have given us plus-money odds at +115. I’ll take that, and here’s why.

First of all, this series has been tightly contested. Aside from the 8-0 outlier in Game Five, four of the five other games have been decided by a single goal, and all have been decided by two or fewer. Closer games between evenly-matched teams usually play towards the under, and that’s proven true in this series. Four of the six games in this series have finished with five or fewer goals.

The Lightning are also pretty heavily favored in this one -160 at most books, as I mentioned earlier, so if we play the percentages and assume Tampa Bay will come out on top, the Islanders will not score much. In the last six series-clinching victories for the Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .964 save percentage, 1.02 goals against average, and three consecutive shutouts. 

Game Sevens also are historically tighter and historically more lower-scoring than any other game in a series. Why? Players don’t want to make mistakes and cost their team a series or, in this case, a Stanley Cup Final berth. You’ll see fewer breakaways, fewer stretch passes, and overall just fewer chances are taken, so there will be far fewer scoring chances and odd-man situations for these teams to capitalize on. 

There will be fewer penalties called as well, so fewer power plays. Not only will players be extra careful to not cost their team with a trip to the penalty box, but the officials will also call fewer penalties, so they aren’t the ones to decide the outcome of the game. In fact, since 1988-89 penalty minutes per game in Game Sevens are half the average of the first six games of a series.

Finally, we have history on our side. Unders are 42-28-13 in Game Sevens, and despite only being 1-1 this year, I think we’ve got another under on the horizon. I love getting plus-money odds here, and I think the worst-case scenario is a push. If Kucherov is officially ruled out, plus-money odds will vanish in a blink. If he’s active, I’d prefer the under 5.5.

The Pick: Lightning / Islanders Under 5 (+115)

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