Top NHL Betting Pick for Wednesday, June 23rd (2021)

With a win tonight, the Tampa Bay Lightning will head to the Stanley Cup Final for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last six years. But, after an 8-0 beatdown in Game Five, you can bet (and we just might) that the Islanders will try to make life a lot harder for the Lightning than they did on Monday. Lets break down today’s game and the top NHL betting pick.

Tampa Bay’s victory in Game Five marked the first time since Edmonton destroyed Chicago 11-2 in 1985 that eight or more goals decided a semifinal game. There’s no time to dwell on the past, though; New York needs to put everything that happened on Monday night behind them and come out ready to prolong the life of the Nassau Coliseum once more.

An Islanders victory tonight will send this series back to the west coast of Florida for a deciding, winner-take-all Game Seven with a trip to the Cup Final on the line. The 2020 Eastern Conference Final between these two teams never reached the seventh game – the Lightning took Game Six in overtime to seal the series – so there will be added motivation for New York to avoid the same fate in back-to-back seasons. Can they live to fight another day?

Our best bets have some bouncing back to do themselves. We dropped last Wednesday’s best bet after Marc-Andre Fleury fumbled away the lead with just over a minute to go in Game Three, and Josh Anderson sealed the deal in overtime, giving the Canadiens a 2-1 series lead. Best bets still sit in the green – 11-8-1 on the year – so let’s get back on track tonight with a winner.

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

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New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Game 6 (TB Leads 3-2)

I love to look for motivational edges, especially in the regular season. But, in the playoffs, those can be hard to find. On the surface, most people would probably give the edge to Tampa Bay; a win punches their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. Digging a bit deeper, however, I think a case can be made that the Islanders will be the more fired up of the two teams. 

New York just got their teeth kicked in and not only got shut out but surrendered eight goals on their way to their first loss after game three of a series all playoff long. It was the most goals they’ve allowed in a playoff game since… last year when these same Tampa Bay Lightning beat them 8-2 in Game One of the 2020 Eastern Conference Final and the worst playoff loss in franchise history. Ouch. You’d better believe they’re going to leave it all on the ice; Barry Trotz isn’t going to let them sleepwalk through another game, especially since they’ll be headed home for the summer if they do.

Though they can still take the series with consecutive wins, the #Isles will need to have a big rebound from an ugly outing vs the Lightning Monday night that saw them suffer the worst playoff loss in their history (8 goals) while tying for the most allowed in a single game here pic.twitter.com/KhH6PhQzuC

— StatsCentre (@StatsCentre) June 22, 2021

The Islanders will also be back in front of their home crowd at Nassau Coliseum, and the Long Island faithful have been incredible this postseason. They’ll have their team fired up, and don’t forget: a loss won’t just send the Islanders packing. It’ll close the book on their nearly 50-year history in that building – including four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1979-80 to 1982-83. The hockey world, and the Islanders in particular, aren’t ready for that to happen just yet.

It’s hard to find many holes in Tampa Bay’s lineup, or even in their play right now, but there are certainly a few numbers that favor the Islanders in Game Six. For starters, before the Game Five debacle, the Islanders were a perfect 7-0 in games after the third game of the series this playoff, outscoring their opponents at a two-to-one ratio.

Islanders after Game 3 this postseason:

7-0
30 goals for (4.3 per game)
15 goals against (2.1 per game)

This team wears you out #Isles @NYIslanders

— Mike Wagenman (@mjwags23) June 21, 2021

Their hard, heavy forechecking style of play is relentless and increasingly difficult to play against as a series goes on. Just because they’re down 3-2 in this series doesn’t mean Tampa Bay isn’t a bit worn out by the physicality of New York. The Islanders are also 16-2 lifetime in game sixes at Nassau Coliseum, and despite being 3-9 all-time in series, they trail three games to two in all three series they captured, featured a game six win at home, followed by a series-clinching victory on the road. 

If you followed my series preview, we’ve already cashed over 5.5 games at -130, and I like the Islanders to add another win to our ledger and force a seventh game.

The Pick: Islanders ML (+130)

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