Three NHL games for Thursday have been postponed due to Covid, but the league continues on with an eight game slate. Here are three of my favorite plays for the Thursday slate.
The league’s best offense will face-off against the league’s worst defense. Montreal is in first place in the North Division. Ottawa is in last place. Montreal has points in every game they’ve played except one. Ottawa has just one win on the season and it happened on opening night.
Do you get the picture? This is a mismatch and the odds highlight that.
At -295, Montreal is obviously unplayable on the moneyline. This is not a sport that you can lay that type of juice and be profitable long term.
Betting on the Senators at this point is basically asking someone to shove a pair of scissors through your eyes. So we’ll find a better way to attack this game.
Montreal is a top five team in all four major metrics: expected goals, scoring chances, shot attempts and high danger chances.
This is not new, as Montreal has been a good team for a few seasons now when it comes to the underlying metrics. However, they’ve always underperformed those metrics.
Until this year.
GM Marc Bergevin made two moves this off-season that appear to be gold. Tyler Toffoli was signed as a free-agent and Josh Anderson was bought in via trade. Through the club’s first ten games of the season, they’ve combined for 15 goals. Toffoli is scoring almost a goal a night.
In addition to the two acquisitions, Montreal has to be happy with the development of youngsters Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Suzuki is producing more than a point per game while Kotkaniemi has added a very solid seven points.
Montreal leads the league, scoring an average of 4.4 goals per game. Their balanced attack is the reason. They have ten players averaging better than half a point per game. Jeff Petry leads all defensemen in goals and is second amongst defensemen in points.
Maybe one day someone will slow down the Habs. It won’t be the Senators.
No team is giving up more goals per game than Ottawa. They’ve allowed 48 goals in their first ten games. Their 4.32 goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 is almost a full goal worse than the San Jose Sharks, who are the second worst team in that regard.
Both of the Senators goaltenders, Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg, have goals against averages north of 4.5 and save percentages under .850. Combined, they have a -15.8 goals saved above expectation.
I think Montreal wins this game handily, therefore I like them on the puck-line.
Bet: Montreal -1.5 @ -113
Just two of the Capitals’ first ten games have gone under the total, and with the New York Rangers on the other side of the ice, I expect that trend to continue.
Washington plays a style of hockey that leads itself to the over. They are not good at possessing the puck or playing in the opponents’ zone. They are below average in almost every possession metric. For that reason, the other team spends a good amount of time in the Washington zone.
You don’t have to know hockey to figure out that playing in the offensive zone leads to a higher chance of scoring goals.
However, Washington has the offensive firepower with players like Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson to score at any point. They don’t need to wear opponents down or pepper the other team’s goalie. They just need a few moments and they will make you pay.
Washington scored seven goals over the last two games against the Boston Bruins, which is a team that was barely giving up two goals a game. If they can put up goals against the Bruins, the Rangers should be no issue.
New York is looking for some key players to get going. Mika Zibanejad scored 41 goals last season, but he has just one goal to begin this season. I expect him to get going soon, because he’s way too talented to struggle for an extended period of time.
The Rangers offense goes through Artemi Panarin, who is producing at well over a point-per-game clip to begin this season after being a contender for the NHL MVP last season. Once Zibanejad gets going, it’ll give the Rangers a dynamic 1-2 punch.
Players like Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere are also not doing much. However, they all have either proven track records or high potential.
Coming into the season, the Rangers were expected to have one of the league’s best offenses and it feels like they’re just waiting for a game to break out. I would not be surprised to see a back-and-forth high scoring game here.
Bet: Over 6 Goals @ -110
What the hell is going on in Vancouver?
The Canucks first line of Elias Pettersson, JT Miller and Brock Boeser entered the season as one of the best lines in hockey. However through the first three weeks, they rank amongst the worst lines in terms of expected goals.
And that’s not even Vancouver’s biggest problem.
The Canucks cannot keep the puck out of their net. Both Braden Holtby and Thatcher Demko have been under siege as the Canucks are one of the worst teams in the league in terms of expected goals against. The goaltenders have not helped matters as both have been below average.
The Toronto Maple Leafs offense is not a team you want to give a lot of chances to. They have three franchise players in Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner. They have solid contributors like William Nylander and Morgan Rielly to add to the output.
Both of these teams are averaging over three goals a game. Offense is not an issue as there are all-star players up and down the line-up on both sides. However, defensively, both teams have question marks.
Vancouver is bottom-five in terms of goals against per game, giving up 3.7 a night on average. Toronto is middle of the pack, giving up just under 3 goals a night. However, defense has been a long standing worry with the Maple Leafs.
While Holtby and Demko have struggled, there have been question marks around Fredrik Andersen as well for the past few seasons. Is the Leafs goalie good enough to backstop a contending team? Most seem to think the answer is no.
I think both teams will score at least three in this game, which puts the over in a good position. Offense rules the day for both of these teams.
Bet: Over 6.5 Goals @ -120
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Expert NHL Picks
Montreal -1.5 @ -113 (Click to bet)
New York/Washington Over 6 Goals @ -110 (Click to bet)
Toronto/Vancouver Over 6.5 Goals @ -120 (Click to bet)
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