As the sample size of playoff hockey grows, it’s safe to say that most forecasts missed the mark on the New York Islanders. We’re only 13 games into the NHL playoffs, however, the Islanders have laid waste to opponents with such ease that it’s become clear that they always should have been labeled a contender. Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight, which begs the question, just how predictable was this? During the regular season, the Islanders owned about 47 percent of the shot attempts, and 50 percent of the expected goals, at 5-on-5.
In the qualifying round, the Islanders were slight favorites against the Florida Panthers with an average price of -116 (53.8 percent) over the course of four games. The Isles managed own about 55 percent of the expected goals—and about 53 percent of the shot attempts—during 5-on-5 play in the series. Personally, I didn’t believe much should be made out of four games against a Panthers team that had a 48 percent expected goal share (xGF%) at 5-on-5 during the regular season and wasn’t known for their work ethic.
However, the Islanders went out and did it again, against their round one opponent, the Washington Capitals. The Isles were plus-115 underdogs in the series opener, but after an injury to Nicklas Backstrom, and their continued strong play, the Islanders odds improved. New York actually closed out the series as favorites in the final two games and sent the Capitals packing while posting a 58 percent share of the expected goals in four games. Once again, however, the injury to Backstrom, and a seemingly disinterested Capitals team that had only had an expected goals for percentage of 50.4 in the regular season, led me to dismiss their success as a byproduct of the weak competition they faced.
By the time the Islanders were set to take on the Philadelphia Flyers, the market seemed to have shifted a little bit. The Flyers had looked really good in the qualifying round, but they had faltered a bit in their series win over the Montreal Canadiens and as a result, only carried about a -125 price tag as series favorites against the Islanders. Of course, the Islanders have gone on to dominate the Flyers, pushing them to the brink of elimination whilst owning approximately 55 percent of the expected goals. Flyers were a top regular season team in terms of their ability to generate more shots and chances, and thus expected goals, than their opponents, and the Islanders have made them look extremely pedestrian.
Through 13 games, the Islanders average price is -102, which means they’ve only been expected to win games at about a 50 percent clip. Their record currently stands at 10-3, and they’re outscored their opponents 43-21. Clearly, we (the betting market) have missed the mark on this team, but this is a different Islanders club than we saw in the regular season. The Flyers will have last change as the ‘home’ team on Tuesday, however, their play hasn’t improved with head coach Alain Vigneault dictating the matchups and the Islanders will likely be the favorite in each of the remaining games because there’s just no denying that they’re the superior team.