NHL Picks, Predictions & Odds: Nashville Predators vs. Dallas Stars
The NHL season continues on Friday night with a slate of eight games. We have some interesting storylines as the Western Conference Champion Dallas Stars make their season debut after surviving a Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, Washington will be playing their first game since four of their star players were placed on the Covid list.
These three bets stick out to me as the best on Friday’s slate:
Pittsburgh made the decision to move on from goaltender Matt Murray in the offseason. Despite Murray back-stopping the Penguins to two Stanley Cups, his play faltered a bit and his contract was becoming a detriment. By trading Murray, the Penguins entrusted young goaltender Tristan Jarry to be the new franchise goalie.
Jarry has not done much to reward that trust. Through the first nine days of the regular season, no goalie has a worse goals saved above expectation than Jarry’s -5.01. Jarry was pulled in the Penguins game of the season after giving 9 goals in three and a half periods and he hasn’t returned to the crease since.
Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith has started the last two games, and while he’s won both, he’s still given up 7 goals in the two starts. DeSmith’s -2.09 goals saved above expectation is nothing to write home about either.
The Penguins are allowing 4.17 goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5, the worst mark in the league. They are bottom five in both expected goals against per 60 minutes and high danger chances against.
Despite the bad defensive performance and bad goaltending, Pittsburgh has still managed to start the season 2-2. A lot of the credit has to go to their offensive firepower with players such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Penguins are scoring 3.5 goals per game and have one of the most feared offensive attacks in hockey.
At this point, I’d feel comfortable betting the over in Penguins games no matter who they played, but the fact it’s the Rangers makes it even more appealing.
New York was the 2nd worst team in the league last season in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5. This year, they are once again in the bottom five of the same metric.
The Rangers play an offensive style where they try to outscore their defensive woes. They can afford to play this way due to the wealth of offensive talent they possess. Artemi Panarin is a legitimate contender for the NHL’s MVP. Mika Zibanejad has established himself as a true first line center. Youngsters like Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere and Pavel Buchnevich will only continue to get better. Players like Chris Kreider and Ryan Strome have put up numbers in this league already.
I think both teams light the lamp frequently in this game.
The Pick: Over 6.5 goals @ -105 (click to bet)
One of the more fascinating and annoying things to watch in sports this year is how teams are handling the new restrictions and how they are doing their best to avoid a crisis when it comes to the pandemic.
In football, we watched the Broncos play with no quarterbacks, the Browns play with no wide receivers and the Lions play with no coaches. In hockey, we’ve already seen a team have 17 positive cases and have to postpone their first week and a half worth of games.
In Washington, it seems like their Russian born players didn’t get the memo. The team was fined $100,000 for breaking protocol and they will be without four of their top players for at least the next four games.
Alex Ovechkin (one of the top goal scorers of all time), Ilya Samsonov (young starting goalie with massive potential), Evgeny Kuznetsov (first line borderline elite forward) and Dmitry Orlov (top four defenseman) decided to hang out in a hotel room while on the road, and the NHL dinged them for it. Once Samsonov tested positive for the virus, the other three will be forced to quarantine.
This means Washington will play without some of their better players for the next four games.
Last week, the Capitals beat the Sabres twice. However in both games, Buffalo was the better team. Buffalo generated more expected goals, had better puck possession metrics and generated better quality of opportunities. Buffalo was extremely unlucky to lose those two games, but that’s hockey.
In the rematch of these two teams, I’m taking the team that deserved to win the first two games. The fact that Washington will be without their goalie, two elite forwards and a very good defenseman only adds to my love for the Sabres in this game.
The Pick: Buffalo ML @ -139 (click to bet)
The last few months have been a roller coaster ride for the Dallas Stars.
They were one of the final two teams standing in the NHL Bubble, advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Stars greatly exceeded expectations as nobody had them pegged as a true contender for the Stanley Cup.
Since the season ended, Dallas has announced that they’ll be missing arguably their two most important players for an extended period of time. Goalie Ben Bishop and forward Tyler Seguin will both miss significant chunks of the season after undergoing offseason surgeries. Dallas will be without their starting goaltender and top line center for most of the season.
If the injuries weren’t enough, Dallas was the first team to learn how hard navigating this NHL season will be. The team had 17 players test positive for the virus forcing the team to suspend their training camp and postpone their first four games. Their preparation was disrupted big time as they prepare to defend their Western Conference championship.
Even before the injuries and Covid-issues, there were questions about the Stars. Current odds have the Stars at 27-1 to win the Stanley Cup, only 13th best. Seems pretty disrespectful for a team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, but it shows the perception of this Stars team.
Dallas was the second worst team in the league last year at goals per 60 minutes at 5v5. While the Stars were a good team that did a good job of driving play, their offense left a lot to be desired. It’s hard to see how losing Seguin for a considerable length of time will benefit the Stars.
Anton Khudobin carried the Stars through the playoffs in the NHL Bubble, but questions will arise with the absence of Ben Bishop. Khudobin has been one of the better backup goalies in the sport over the past few seasons, but at the age of 34, can he handle a starter’s workload?
On the other side, Nashville is a team I was high on coming into the season. In 2017, they made it to the Stanley Cup Final. They won their division in 2018 and 2019. In 2020, they had a disappointing season but still made the playoffs.
Goaltending for the Predators looks much improved as the team appears to be moving on from Pekka Rinne and handing the reins to Juuse Saros. Saros was one of the better goalies in hockey the second half of last season, and he’s continued that into the beginning of this season. Saros has won both of his starts, stopping 71 of 74 shots.
It’s also encouraging to see players like Filip Forsberg, Viktor Arvidsson and Matt Duchene have multiple points early in the season. The Predators top forwards underperformed last year, but if they return to form, Nashville should be dangerous.
I’m high on Nashville and I’m not a true believer in Dallas. I also don’t think we should underestimate the impacts of Covid on the Stars players. Sure, they are all in shape and young enough where they can overcome it without major complications. However, their conditioning could be affected. We saw numerous superstar NFL players such as Myles Garrett require weeks before becoming their old selves on the field.
Give me Nashville in this one.
The Pick: Nashville ML @ -108 (click to bet)
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Expert NHL Picks
Sabres at Capitals - Buffalo ML @ -139 (click to bet)
Rangers at Penguins - Over 6.5 goals @ -105 (click to bet)
Predators at Stars - Nashville ML @ -108 (click to bet)
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