Islanders vs. Lightning Game 7 Free NHL Picks and Odds Breakdown

Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders is pursued by Ryan McDonagh #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning.   Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP
Mathew Barzal #13 of the New York Islanders is pursued by Ryan McDonagh #27 of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sarah Stier/Getty Images/AFP


The Islanders forced a Game 7 after defeating the Lightning on Wednesday night and will now travel to Tampa to determine the Eastern Conference entry into the Stanley Cup. Let’s analyze this Friday night showdown and keep cashing our NHL picks!


Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders


Friday, June 25, 2021 – 8:00 PM EDT at Amalie Arena


Brayden Point was loitering in front of the Islanders crease when he pounced on an Anthony Cirelli muffed shot and backhanded the first goal of Game 6 on Wednesday night and his 14th of the postseason. It was a huge goal because the team scoring first in this series had won every game and Tampa Bay was 11-1 when striking first over the course of the postseason.


Midway through the second period Anthony Cirelli broke toward the New York net and connected on a slick little shot through the five-hole of Islanders’ netminder, Semyon Varlamov. It appeared all doom and gloom for New York especially after getting routed, 8-0, just two nights earlier. Only a period and a half remained to stay alive for a Game 7 against the Stanley Cup champs, and arguably the best goalie on the planet, Andrei Vasilevskiy.


But less than two minutes after Cirelli’s goal, the Isles got a monumental lift from Jordan Eberle as he wheeled well in front of the Tampa net as he got an inadvertent screen from a Lightning defender and tucked a backhander by the stick side of Vasilevskiy. That cut the lead to 2-1 and gave New York a lifeline.


Fast forward to the final stanza when Scott Mayfield caused bedlam in Nassau when he roofed a wrister shot over the shoulder of Vasilevskiy with 8:44 remaining to knot the game at two apiece. The game would remain tied until a minute and change into overtime when a sloppy defensive play, exacerbated by a screen courtesy of teammate, Victor Hedman, would see Anthony Beauvillier take advantage and find a tight window above Vasilevskiy’s shoulder.


Lighting captain, Steve Stamkos, was philosophical about the loss, “We battled hard, we were short from the beginning. We played a hell of a game to get up 2-0. We knew they were going to push. It’s two good teams going at it at the best time of the year. For the most part, I thought we played pretty solid. …We didn’t get the job done tonight, but we get to go back in front of our fans and get the job done there.”


Lightning’s Point Leader Sidelined


Tampa Bay’s playoff scoring leader, Nikita Kucherov (27 points), was injured after skating only 46 seconds of Game 6 and his status is uncertain at the time of this writing. It appears he was hurt after being cross-checked by Islanders’ defenseman Scott Mayfield but that is still unconfirmed.


Tampa Bay coach, Jon Cooper, was asked about playing without the talented forward, “We played 56 games without him. Usually, we have 12 forwards when we play without him so that probably made it tougher on us when we had 11. But we’ve gone down this path for four months. It’s nothing new for us.”


Kucherov had registered five goals and 22 assists for 27 points over 16 postseason games but missed the entire regular season after undergoing hip surgery shortly before the season began.


“There’s no replacing ‘Kuch,'” Stamkos said. “He’s had an unbelievable playoffs for us. He’s so lethal out there offensively, on the power play.”


Wanna Make a Bet?


Lots to consider here as the Islanders are a team that is usually overmatched in terms of talent by the better clubs but have remained in the Stanley Cup hunt due to their grittiness and never-say-die attitude.


I believed the Isles had excellent value in the last game after I saw that the NHL odds at all of the best online sportsbooks were initially giving underdog backers as high as a +140 return on New York. That number subsequently dropped after the sharps took a piece but that was an inflated number because it was a guarantee that the squares would bet the Lightning no matter how high the line after coming off of an 8-0 whitewashing of the Isles. The problem was it was the only blowout of the series and was an aberration, not the norm.


However, now the series returns to Tampa Bay where the Lightning are 2-1 versus New York and was the site of their 8-0 destruction of the Isles on Monday night. I believe the Islanders had a few lucky goals against the All-World netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and I don’t see that happening again. As sharp as I was in picking the Isles in Game 6, I am going to turn into Joe Q. Public with a bet on the Bolts in Game 7, with or without Nikita Kucherov.


Free NHL Pick: Lightning -167 at BetMGM

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