NHL playoff picks: Knights, Stars set for chess battle; Isles to respond
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We split Game 2 of the conference finals, losing with the Stars while easily cashing the under in the Lightning's 2-1 win over the Islanders.

Let's push for the 2-0 in a pair of pivotal Game 3s.

Vegas Golden Knights (-165) @ Dallas Stars (+145)

Until the narrative surrounding this Golden Knights team changes, we're well-positioned to take advantage. Vegas is still viewed as an end-to-end, high-scoring, fun hockey team that produces a ton of goals at both ends. That couldn't be farther from the truth. This is a very good team, not a fun one.

Note how high the Knights sit in the above chart. That's down to the fact that they don't allow many opportunities. They possess the puck very well, which gives their opponents precious little to work with. The Stars' focus in this series is to fight strength (Vegas' puck possession) with strength (Dallas' ability to suppress offense), which is going to lead to low-scoring games.

The Knights' last five games have all stayed under the total (just 14 combined goals), and the under has cashed in 10 of their 14 playoff contests. The Stars have been a bit more friendly to over bettors, but that's largely due to some atrocious goaltending against the Colorado Avalanche. The underlying numbers suggest unders should have been much more profitable in that series.

Pick: Under 5.5 (-125)

Tampa Bay Lightning (-160) @ New York Islanders (+140)

Despite allowing 10 goals, the Islanders have done well to limit the Lightning's dynamic offense in this series. New York was undone by a pair of miserable goaltending efforts in Game 1, but through two games, Tampa has managed a total of just 3.02 expected goals for at five-on-five while being held to fewer than 10 high-danger scoring chances in each of them. That's an impressive feat given the Lightning had been averaging just shy of 2.5 expected five-on-five goals per game in the playoffs coming into the series.

The Islanders have nothing to show for their defensive success, however, as Nikita Kucherov's goal with 8.8 seconds left put them into a 2-0 hole in the series. Losing in that fashion would break a lot of teams, but that's not in the DNA of a Barry Trotz club.

Instead of closing up shop and folding on the season, look for the Islanders to put in their gutsiest effort of the series Friday. They need an offensive spark, and they'll get it in the form of last change as the home team. Trotz knows as well as anyone how to exploit this competitive edge, with the Islanders 5-2 in home games in the bubble, controlling 56.2% of the expected goal share in those contests.

Pick: Islanders (+140)

(Odds source: theScore Bet)

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

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NHL playoff picks: Knights, Stars set for chess battle; Isles to respond
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