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NHL handicapper Pete Truszkowski is back with his picks and leans for Sunday's NHL games

Arizona Coyotes vs. Nashville Predators

BET: Predators Moneyline @ -130

This is a battle of differing styles.

Nashville was one of the league’s better offensive teams this season. The Predators finished 7th best in the league in goals/60 minutes at even strength. Their underlying metrics paint more of an average offensive team, but they did manage a 53% goal rate at even strength.

Arizona was one of the league’s better defensive teams this season. They slightly overperformed based on the underlying numbers but good goaltending will do that for you. Darcy Kuemper and Antti Raanta were both top-13 goalies in terms of goals saved above expectation. Kuemper himself was number two.

Nashville might have had a slightly mediocre record, but as the season went on their play improved. No surprise, this coincided with the team giving more starts to young goalie Juuse Saros who vastly outperformed veteran Pekka Rinne.

Arizona did not look like a team that was going to make the playoffs as the season as The Athletic had them at just a 15% chance. This is a team that struggles to put the puck in the net, despite the acquisition of Taylor Hall. This just isn’t a team I can see making a lot of noise. Even if they get their usual extraordinary goaltending, they don’t score nearly enough. Give me the small favorite.

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

BET: Over 5.5 Goals @ -130

LEAN: Columbus Moneyline @ +130

If you polled the general fanbase of the NHL this year and asked them the following questions: Who was the biggest surprise? And who was the biggest disappointment? You would likely get these two teams.

Columbus lost Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene to free-agency. Panarin is an MVP candidate for the Rangers. Bobrovsky was their star goaltender who is now struggling with Florida. Matt Duchene had a strong first year with Nashville. They replaced these stars mostly from within, excluding the addition of Gustav Nyquist.

Toronto was a pre-season darling choice to compete for a championship. There are very few teams in the league with the offensive talent of the Leafs, but their defensive ability leaves a lot to be desired. They had to fire their coach mid-season to avoid their campaign sinking into oblivion.

Just like the above game, this is a battle of differing styles. Toronto had the 4th highest expected goals/60 minutes. Columbus had the 3rd lowest expected goals allowed/60 minutes. Both teams had a positive share of expected goals. Toronto was the better puck possession team, but Columbus does a good job of keeping the danger of the chances against them low.

Toronto games this past season averaged 6.56 goals a game. This is a team that scores their goals, and they allow goals. I do think Toronto will set the pace of play here, and think that the goals should flow in this matchup. In addition, if I had to pick a side, I’d take Columbus at +135, but that’s just a lean.

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

BET: Wild Moneyline @ -106

LEAN: Under 5.5 Goals @ -115

Minnesota is one of the top 2 defensive teams in this league, alongside the best team in the league, the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately for Minnesota, their goaltending was awful this year. Devan Dubnyk was the worst goalie in ‘goals saved above expectation’ according to Evolving-Hockey. The worst.

The Wild opponent, Vancouver, is a bottom ten team across the board in possession metrics such as shot attempts, scoring chances and expected goals. Minnesota comes in as the 4th best team in the league in expected goal percentage.

When a team is just clearly better than another team in terms of the underlying metrics, the main reason for a disparity in their performance is goaltending. Goaltending is fundamentally random and changes from season to season. I do not think Devan Dubnyk is the worst goalie in the league, and therefore I expect him to bounce back in a way.

Goaltending was costing the Wild games this season, and all they need from Dubnyk is an average performance. I think he can give them one. Let’s take them at plus money in this toss-up game.


Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins: LEAN - Bruins Moneyline @ -130


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