The NHL season marches on, as Tuesday provides us with an eight game slate. Teams are beginning to settle into their true selves as the league approaches the one-month mark.
These two teams played on Sunday afternoon, with the Philadelphia Flyers taking the game by a final score of 7-4. Based on these two teams, that final score isn’t as surprising as it normally would be.
Both the Flyers and Capitals have strong records despite poor underlying metrics. Washington has points in nine of their first twelve games while Philly has points in 10 of their first 13.
Despite the strong start in the standings, it hasn’t been great under the hood.
Philadelphia ranks fourth from the bottom in terms of expected goal rate. They are the worst team in the league in shot attempt rate while finding themselves in the bottom ten in terms of high danger chances. Washington is in the bottom ten of all three categories as well.
These teams also share similarities in the fact that their offenses are overperforming what the metrics say. Both teams are bottom five in terms of expected goals scored per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Despite this, they are top five in actual goals scored at 5-on-5 per hour.
While usually this means regression is coming, I would not pick this game as the time for that regression to start.
These teams played on Sunday, and we saw 11 goals combined. We also saw over 100 shot attempts and nearly 30 high danger chances between the two teams. They combined for over 5 expected goals at 5-on-5.
Both teams have tremendous talent. Philadelphia boasts arguably the most impressive top nine forwards in the league with Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, James van Reimsdyk, Joel Farabee, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Kevin Hayes. On the other side, Washington has that Ovechkin guy. They also might get Evgeny Kuznetsov back in this game to join Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tom Wilson and John Carlson.
That collection of talent explains why they’re overperforming their offensive metrics.
In goal, both Carter Hart and Vitek Vanecek find themselves in the bottom ten in terms of goals saved above expectation. Both teams have middling defenses who have gotten little help from their goalies.
To begin the year, the over in these teams’ games is a combined 18-7. I expect to see the offense to continue in this one.
Bet: Over 6 Goals @ -120
Early in the season, it looked like we were going to have to fade Chicago’s goaltending hard. Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia were providing AHL level goaltending and Chicago was giving up five goals a night.
However, the team turned to third string Kevin Lankinen and he has been a revelation. Lankinen ranks top five in both goals saved above expectation as well as goals saved above average. He is stopping nearly 93% of the shots he is facing and his goals against average is a clean 2.32.
After finishing last season with the league’s worst mark in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes, Chicago fans and coaches must be rejoicing to see them be just slightly below average this season in that regard. Going from worst to not good is an improvement!
Speaking of team defense, that’s what Dallas is known for. The Stars are giving up just 1.82 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5on5. This is a top five mark in the league. Both Anton Khudobin and Jake Oettinger are providing solid but unspectacular goaltending. However, with this defense, that’s more than good enough.
Dallas is built around their defense and they have three guys who are considered elite at the position for different reasons. John Klingberg can make plays and contribute offensively. Miro Heiskanen is one of the smoothest skaters in the league and he transports the puck with ease. Esa Lindell is one of the better defensive defensemen in the league, often tasked with shutting down the other team’s best players.
Offensively, it’s a different story for Dallas. They are generating just 1.97 expected goals scored per hour at 5on5. This is a bottom ten mark in the league. Without Tyler Seguin, there is no real impact player on the Stars offensive unit. Jamie Benn’s better days are behind him, while players like Alexander Radulov and Roope Hintz are solid but not game changing.
Patrick Kane remains one of the more talented players in the league for Chicago, but his supporting cast has been depleted since the Hawks won three cups in six seasons a few years ago. Now, Chicago’s supporting cast consists of young players like Dominik Kubalik, Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome.
These two teams played a 2-1 game on Sunday. This was with both teams starting their backup goaltender. These teams put on a defensive clinic on Sunday that would have made Todd Bowles proud. I think we see a low scoring game again on Tuesday.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -104
These teams will meet for the fifth time this season already on Tuesday. Winnipeg has won three of the first four games, but Calgary is the side I fancy in this one.
The Flames are a top-ten team in the league in terms of expected goal rate. They carry play to the tune of a +4.28% expected goal differential, while the Jets are playing to a -1.99% rate.
In the three games these teams played last week, Calgary was the better team in each game in terms of generating possession and scoring chances. Despite this, they lost two of them.
Calgary ranks 7th best in the league in terms of expected goals scored per hour, while the Jets find themselves in the bottom ten in terms of expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5on5.
This was a common refrain for the Jets last season, but they were often bailed out by Connor Hellebuyck who won the Vezina trophy as the league’s best goalie. To begin this season, Hellebuyck has been pedestrian, posting just a +0.84 goals saved above expectation (GSAx).
In fact, he’s been outplayed by Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom who enters the game with a +1.5 GSAx. Markstrom was bought in as a free agent to shore up the Flames goaltending, and he’s done a good job to begin the year.
Hockey is a random sport with a lot of variance. Oftentimes, the better team doesn’t get the result they deserve. What we expect is that over time, the results will stabilize. For that reason, as the sample size grows between these two teams, I think the Flames will start getting the results they deserve.
Calgary has one of the best lines in the league with Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm. They are producing well and I expect that to continue.
With Markstrom, the goaltending discrepancy in this game is not wide.Often, that is Winnipeg’s biggest advantage. I think Calgary is the better team and I will take them to win the game as short home favorites.
Bet: Calgary ML @ -122
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Expert NHL Picks
Flyers/Capitals Over 6 Goals @ -120 (Click to bet)
Stars/Blackhawks Under 5.5 Goals @ -104 (Click to bet)
Calgary ML @ -122 (Click to bet)
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