Islanders emerging as a dark horse

New York Islanders have emerged as a dark horse for the Stanley Cup as their recent hot streak has propelled them into a three-point advantage at the top of the Metropolitan Division.

Barry Trotz’s men are still as big as 31.00 to lift the Stanley Cup at the end of the season and fans are starting to dream of the good times returning, having won the sport’s biggest trophy four times on the bounce in the glory days from 1980-83.

The Islanders haven’t won a Divisional championship since 1988 but are on course to do that with a three-point cushion over Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, while they are enjoying a hot streak as their rivals falter.

Good times returning to New York?

Mathew Barzal and co are enjoying a five-match winning run that includes a 5-1 defeat of runaway Presidents’ Trophy leaders Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as back-to-back shutout wins over the Capitals and Anaheim Ducks in their last two matches.

The latest purple patch comes after a seven-game winning run before a double reverse to New York Rangers, and they should be full of confidence heading to the United Center.

Chicago have shown glimpses that they can upset the odds, but they are not propping up the Central Division because of any kind of positive consistency, and no team has conceded more than their tally of 188 goals against.

The Hawks have not been shy in scoring so far this term, their 153 goals beats the Islanders’ 145, and they go into the clash on the back of an 8-5 win over Washington.

However, that success ended a five-game losing run and they are unlikely to enjoy the same kind of freedom against the Islanders and it is difficult to back them with confidence at 2.20, even though Patrik Kane has been in ominous form with 10 points from his last three games, including five against the Caps.

Two of those games were still defeats though and the Islanders, who beat the Hawks at home at the start of the year, can justify 1.80 favouritism, while over 6.5 goals at 2.02 is worthy of consideration.

Surprise in store in Ottawa

It is safe to say that there will not be too much post-season talk wasted on the two sides going head to head at Canadian Tire Centre as the Ottawa Senators host the Arizona Coyotes.

The Sens are currently seventh in the Atlantic Division with only Detroit Red Wings below them, while the Coyotes are second bottom in the Pacific Division, currently propped up by the NHL’s worst side, the LA Kings.

A case could be made for either side winning this game, given the opposition, but it may be worth taking a chance on the Coyotes, given the match odds as well as their improved recent form.

Rick Tocchet’s men have won five of their last seven games and while they were soundly thrashed 7-1 by the Calgary Flames, their other defeat in the sequence came in an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Coyotes go into the match having won 4-2 in Toronto last time out, while they have also recently beaten the San Jose Sharks 6-3, and their form on the road has been better than at home over the course of the season so far.

Ottawa generally score more points than their upcoming opponents, with Mark Stone leading the way with 50, including 22 goals, compared to Clayton Keller topping Arizona’s charts with 34 points and 11 goals, along with 23 assists.

The Sens, installed as the 1.83 favourites, though have the second-worst defensive record in the NHL and an in-form Coyotes side can capitalise at 2.15.

Goal glut in Calgary

Calgary continue to impress this term and are co-third favourites at 11.00 to lift the Stanley Cup, while they head the betting at 4.50 to win the Western Conference.

Their recent form has also been impressive as they have won ten of their last 13 games and have now pulled six points clear of San Jose in the Pacific Division.

They may not have everything their own way at the Saddledome on Wednesday as they host a resurgent Carolina Hurricanes side, but have unsurprisingly been installed as strong 1.51 favourites, given their home record of 16-4-5.

The Hurricanes have picked up of late, winning eight of their last 11 games, and they may well have their supporters at 2.60, having beaten the likes of the Islanders, the Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators in that run, but that may be taking something of a chance.

Calgary though could easily justify market favouritism and the way to go might be to back goals, with only Tampa Bay having scored more than the Flames.

Over 4.5 Calgary goals – a feat the Flames have managed in three of their last four games – is available at 2.85, with over 5.50 on offer at 4.90, while Over 6.5 goals in the game is priced at 1.92.