Now that the NFL season is officially over, some people will take a betting break until March Madness. Those people are missing out on great daily NHL action, and Monday is no different. After a low scoring Super Bowl, I like two overs on Monday’s NHL slate.
The Vancouver Canucks have given up at least five goals in four straight games. This is their second such streak of the NHL season. Mind you, the season is less than a month old.
While there have been times and games where you think Vancouver might have figured out their defensive woes or shored up their goaltending, those times have been fleeting.
The Canucks lead the league in terms of expected goals allowed per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Their mark of 2.81 xG/against ranks below teams like Ottawa, San Jose and Los Angeles, some of the league’s worst teams.
Expectation meets reality, as the Canucks have the second worst mark in terms of actual goals against per game. They are allowing on average four goals a night.
After the departure of goaltender Jacob Markstrom in free-agency, there were concerns about Vancouver’s goaltending entering the season. Those question marks have not been answered in the early going.
Newly acquired goaltender Braden Holtby has posted a -3.49 goals saved above expectation (GSAx) so far. Youngster Thatcher Demko has been a bit better, but still not good. He’s posted a -1.61 GSAx thus far.
When you combine poor defensive play with below average goaltending, you are going to give up a lot of goals. That’s what’s happening in Vancouver.
On the other side, the Leafs might have one of the best forward groups in hockey. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares are all capable of leading a franchise on their own. Toronto has three franchise-level players on their top two lines.
It’s no surprise that the Leafs have the second most prolific offense in the league, scoring 3.75 goals per game. They also have the league’s best powerplay, scoring on almost 40% of their man-advantage opportunities.
If there’s a question mark about the Leafs, it’s between the pipes. Frederik Andersen has been called into question the past few seasons about whether or not he can be the guy who backstops Toronto to a championship. While he has been winning games to begin the year, Andersen still has a -2.25 GSAx mark through ten games.
One of the league’s best offenses takes on the league’s worst defense. Toronto has scored 12 goals in the last two games against Vancouver. I expect the goals to continue to come in this one.
Bet: Over 6.5 Goals @ -122
Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets entered this season with goaltending partnerships. They expected to evenly split the workload between their goaltenders, giving everyone plenty of rest to be at their best.
Unfortunately, even the best plans can come unglued. Petr Mrazek, Carolina’s starting goalie, needed surgery on his thumb. Elvis Merzlikins, Columbus’ number one goalie, got hurt in practice and has been placed on IR.
Normal 1B goaltenders James Reimer and Joonas Korpisalo have been thrust into starting roles. They are not used to carrying full loads, but neither team has a reliable third string goaltender that they trust.
With this game being the second half of a back-to-back set, this problem is amplified. It’s known that goalies perform worse in the second half of a back-to-back and NHL teams almost always rest the starter on the second leg.
It’s already been confirmed that Joonas Korpisalo will get the start for Columbus, despite being beat six times by the same Hurricanes team yesterday.
It’s unknown whether James Reimer will start again after being beaten five times yesterday, or if the Hurricanes will turn to third string goalie Alex Nedeljkovic and his six games of NHL experience.
Columbus is a team that prides itself on its team defense and strong goaltending, but that hasn’t been the case to begin the season. They are bottom ten in goals against per game. Their expected goals against and team save percentage is about average.
With Columbus struggling to play their normal brand of hockey, Carolina can take advantage. The Hurricanes are one of the best teams in the league when it comes to puck possession and generating quality offensive looks.
These teams played yesterday with the Hurricanes winning 6-5. With the goaltending situation of both teams in flux, I expect to see another back-and-forth game.
Bet: Over 5.5 Goals @ -110
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Expert NHL Picks
Vancouver Canucks vs Toronto Maple Leafs - Over 6.5 Goals @ -122 (Click to bet)
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Columbus Blue Jackets: Over 5.5 Goals @ -110 (Click to bet)
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