The task is simple for the Islanders: Get a win at Prudential Center on Monday and clinch a playoff spot.

The Isles, who are 7-0-1 in their last eight, have a three-point cushion on the Capitals and Red Wings, plus a four-point lead on the Penguins with two games to go in the NHL regular season.

The only thing that complicates things is that the Isles would lose the tiebreaker to all three teams chasing them, so one point in their final two games may not suffice.

The job isn’t done for the Islanders, but the finish line is within reach and that is not something that seemed plausible a couple of weeks ago.

But just because the Isles have everything to play for Monday, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically a strong bet to win against the Devils.

Islanders vs. Devils prediction

(7 p.m. ET)

Bookmakers know that most bettors will default to the team with something to play for in these matchups, so they can put something akin to a “must-win” tax on the Islanders, while letting the Devils — who have nothing to gain from winning — drift a little bit.

In fact, we saw a similar situation with the Islanders in almost this exact spot last year. In Game No. 81 of the 2022-23 season, the Islanders were essentially in a win-and-in situation against Washington, who was just playing out the string. The Isles came out tepid in that contest and were blanked, 4-0.

This isn’t to say that will happen again, but it is a warning to anyone who is going to bet on the Islanders just because of the situation.

Now, if you wanted to bet the Islanders because of the way their play is trending, that’s a different story entirely.

The Isles are playing as steadily right now as they have all season. Over their last 10 games, the Islanders have a plus-10 goal difference at five-on-five and their underlying metrics are all pointing in the right direction. The Isles own a 55.3 percent high-danger scoring chance rate and a 52.4 percent expected goals rate in that span.

Special teams are still an issue for the Islanders, but it seems like every other part of their profile is moving in the right direction and the goaltending tandem of Semyon Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin has been elite over the last two weeks.


Betting on the NHL?


The Islanders are a better team than the Devils right now and they have more to play for Monday, but this line will likely get to a place where you’re paying a premium on the Isles because of the situational spot.

The Isles would be a fine bet if they stick around -120, but I wouldn’t be shocked if this line takes off in their direction throughout the day.

Instead of focusing on a side or the game total, I’ll instead try to isolate the Isles’ offense, which has been creating plenty of looks at five-on-five over this point streak, even if they haven’t been finishing them off.

The bet: Islanders Over 3.5 Goals (+138, FanDuel)

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