Both 2021 semi-finals are shaping up to be extraordinary spectacles for both fans and sports gamblers alike, packed with excitement, intensity, and loads of uncertainty.
On Sunday night, the Las Vegas Golden Knights rallied late in Game 4 in Montreal, tied up the score, and then won in overtime. The dramatic 2-1 comeback gives Las Vegas new life and draws the series back to even at 2 games apeice in the best-of-seven format.
Meanwhile, on Saturday night, the NY Islanders rebounded with a powerful performance at home, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in a game many thought was a probably "must win" for the underdog Islanders. Tampa Bay managed to close the gap somewhat, losing by a 3-2 score. However, this was the Islanders night and the final result erased any false notion this was going to be an easy series for the Lightning.
Both series will go to a crucial Game 5 over the next two nights. Now, it's really crunch time. The puck drops in Tampa Bay on Monday night. Face-off in Las Vegas happens on Tuesday.
The odds say....
Regarding the odds, the numbers have been moving wildly based on results from the previous few games.
Recall the series odds on the Tampa Bay-NY Islanders opened at +220 for the Islanders to advance. Then, after two games (tied at 1-1) the Islanders were +175. Now, even at 2-2, the Islanders are listed at +180. It seems unusual the betting market would increase the payoff on the Islanders given they've shown their ability to give the Lightning all they can handle.
The series odds on the Las Vegas-Montreal matchup has adjusted in a similar fashion. The Canadiens opened at +370 (and were as high as +425 in Las Vegas sportsbooks). Then, when the series was deadlocked at 1-1, they were +290. After taking a 2-1 lead, the Canadiens were +170. Now, back at 2-2 and tied, the latest numbers show Montreal at +250.
New York Islanders vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (2-2, series tied)
This is now a best-of-three series heading into Game 5 on Monday night in Tampa.
The Lightning lost Game 4, but they won't be feeling too dejected after the defeat. The bright side of the loss was that this team roared back and nearly sent the game into overtime in the final seconds. When they want to play their best, they can and often do.
Indeed, Tampa Bay is still in good shape to win this series. Both of the Lightning losses were by a single goal. They will also host two of the last three games if the series goes a full seven.
As for standout performers, Brayden Point has been sensational this postseason. His 12 goals are the most in the NHL during the playoffs. He has scored in each of the last seven games. New York does a great job shutting teams down in the neutral zone, but if Point continues playing in the zone, he gives the favourites a clear edge in intensity and consistency.
Game 5 numbers show Tampa Bay at home laying -190, which comes back at +160 for the Islanders. The O/U is 5, shaded slightly to the OVER at -120.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights (2-2, series tied)
The series heads back to the desert heat. Las Vegas hosts two of the next three games, if necessary.
Montreal really had a great chance to nearly put away the Golden Knights in Game 4. But they seemed deflated after surrendering a game-typing goal and lost in overtime. The Golden Knights, who showed nothing for 51 minutes, came alive and dominated the final minutes and extra time. The Canadiens better shake that loss off quick because there's no time for mourning.
The big question for the Golden Knights is – who will start in goal? After Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled prior to Game 4, Robin Lehner came off the bench and played an outstanding game. This sets up an interesting quagmire for Las Vegas. Should they stick with the hot glove in the net or go back to the superstar goaltender who has been such a great leader on this team?
Oddsmakers continue to overvalue the Golden Knights. They're 10-7 in playoff games and have been frustrated by Montreal, at times. Nonetheless, Las Vegas stands as a massive -245 moneyline favourite in Game 5. Betting on the Canadiens, who are 10-5 in the playoffs, returns +190. The game total is 5, shaded to the OVER at -125.
Prediction: Plenty of excitement and high energy. One thing's for sure – we're going to enjoy some great hockey this week.