Islanders-Penguins Matchup Crucial For Stanley Cup Playoff Positioning
There are only two games on the NHL schedule Friday night, the penultimate day of the 2014-15 regular season. One if Buffalo at Columbus, which means nothing with both teams out of the playoffs. The other is New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins and that’s crucial in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Pittsburgh is a -125 favorite at Bovada.
As of Thursday, neither the Islanders (98 points) or Penguins (96 points) have clinched a playoff berth. New York could still finish second in the Metropolitan Division as it is three points behind the Washington Capitals, who end their season Saturday at home against the New York Rangers. However, the Blueshirts have already wrapped up the top overall seed in the playoffs and probably will rest a bunch of guys. The Islanders finish Saturday at home against Columbus, the final regular-season game ever at old Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders move to Brooklyn next season.
Isles Choked Vs. Flyers
New York comes off a tough 5-4 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday. The Islanders were three seconds away from clinching a playoff berth. The pair of late goals they scored while netminder Jaroslav Halak was on the bench capped a furious rally that drew New York even with the Flyers at 4–4 with 28 seconds remaining in regulation. And that tie was all the Isles needed. Once the game went to OT, they’d pocket a point and with it their second postseason berth in seven seasons. However, the Flyers had other ideas and didn’t just lie down. Halak, all but staring at the clock as it counted down, was caught off guard and Brayden Schenn’s harmless looking 69-footer trickled under him with just 2.1 seconds left on the clock.
All the Islanders need is one point in the final two games and they are in.
Pittsburgh has 96 points. That’s currently enough for the first wild-card spot, but Boston is just one back as the second wild-card team and Ottawa also has 95 points. The Bruins were in Florida on Thursday and the Senators at the Rangers, who did rest some key guys for that, including leading scorer Rick Nash.
Pens Choked Vs. Sens
The Penguins are crashing, losing 4-3 in overtime at Ottawa on Tuesday in overtime so this could be their final home game of the season. Mark Stone scored his second goal of the game 2:43 into overtime to cap Ottawa’s comeback from three goals down. Pittsburgh, 3-8-2 in its last 13 games, could have clinched a playoff spot with a regulation win. The Penguins were without D Kris Letang (concussion, day-to-day), D Christian Ehrhoff (upper body, day-to-day) and RW Steve Downie (upper body, day-to-day).
Rob Scuderi suggested the ittsburgh Penguins have been a “fragile group for the last couple of weeks.” Any combination of three points claimed by the Pens or not claimed by the Senators down the stretch will put Pittsburgh into the playoffs. It’s pretty unlikely the Pens will sit out the playoffs, particularly with a game against the hapless Buffalo Sabres in Saturday’s season finale. Anything other than an 0-2-0 run keeps them pretty firmly in the playoffs. The bad news is that if they fail to make the playoffs, they won’t benefit from the draft lottery after trading their first-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers to acquire top-line winger David Perron.
Key betting trends: Islanders are 3-9 in their last 12 overall. Islanders are 1-7 in their last 8 vs. a team with a winning record. Islanders are 0-5 in their last 5 games playing on 2 days rest. Penguins are 0-5 in their last 5 vs. a team with a winning record. Penguins are 0-8 in their last 8 vs. Eastern Conference. Penguins are 5-1 in their last 6 Friday games.
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