Any day with a double digit amount of games on the NHL slate is a good day. Thursday’s slate is no different as there’s 11 games on the docket. Check out my three favorite plays below:
The Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning meet for the 4th straight game on Tuesday. The Hurricanes took the first game, but Tampa has claimed the last two contests including a 3-0 shutout win for Andrei Vasilevskiy on Monday night.
These two teams are both very good teams, but I think the most surprising aspect of this mini-series has been the lack of goals. The two teams have only combined for 13 goals through the first three contests, with each team being shut-out once. While both teams do a good job of creating offense and limiting their opponent, there’s enough talent here where it should shine through.
Both Carolina and Tampa Bay currently rank in the top five in the league in terms of goals per game. Tampa is scoring 3.6 goals per contest while the Hurricanes light the lamp 3.4 times a night. Both teams have the ability to put up a crooked number and have done so numerous times this season already.
With Vasilevskiy getting the start on Monday for Tampa Bay, it’s likely we see Curtis McElhinney in between the pipes for the Lightning. This is a huge downgrade as Vasilevskiy is arguably the best goalie in the league while McElhinney is a 37 year old career back-up who at this point in his career is average at best. He gave up six goals on 21 shots in his last appearance against the Panthers.
Alex Nedeljkovic has started two of the last three games for the Hurricanes due to James Reimer’s struggles. Reimer will likely be in the crease for Carolina on Tuesday night because Nedeljkovic took a tough loss on Monday. Reimer is stopping under 90% of the shots he’s faced this season while posting a goals saved above expectation of -2.03.
With both teams starting mediocre options in net, I think we see some of the goals we’ve been missing through the first three games these teams have played.
Bet: Over 6 Goals @ -118
The Boston Bruins and New York Islanders are like mirror images of each other; except the Bruins are better.
Both teams generate mediocre results offensively but it’s usually enough due to their defensive prowess.
The Bruins are giving up just 2.25 goals per game and their underlying metrics back up the defensive dominance. Boston ranks top five in shots against, shot attempts against and expected goals (XG) against.
Charlie McAvoy has blossomed into one of the best defensemen in the league and has helped make the loss of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug relatively insignificant.
Both Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been average between the pipes for Boston, but that’s more than enough when you consider Boston’s defensive ability. Additionally, based on their track records, I’d expect improvement from the goaltenders moving forward.
Like Boston, the Islanders are top five in the league giving up just 2.33 goals per game on average through their first 18 contests.
The underlying metrics have the Isles a tad better than average, posting a 52% XG rate thus far. The defense leads the way there as well, as New York’s mark of 1.92 XG/against per hour is the 6th best mark in hockey. The Isles give up under eight high danger chances every 60 minutes at 5-on-5, which is a top three mark in the league.
Despite Boston’s seven goal outburst at Lake Tahoe, they rank bottom ten in terms of XG scored and high danger chances created per hour at 5-on-5. Outside of the top line featuring Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, the Bruins don’t get much scoring help.
On the flipside, despite being a top five team defensively, the Islanders’ goal differential is just +2. This suggests they win close games and don’t score many goals. Both are clearly correct. The Isles average just 2.44 goals per night.
When these two teams meet up, I expect a low scoring affair and Thursday night is no different.
Bet: Under 5.5 Goals @ -130
Ah, a coaching change.
Montreal started the year off with a bang, getting points in nine of their first ten games. Since then, they’ve won just twice. And it cost Claude Julien his job. To be fair, if you lose back-to-back games to the Ottawa Senators, you deserve to be canned. Kidding.
This losing streak and firing really highlights how fickle this sport can be. Montreal was the better team in almost every game of this recent eight game slide, losing the expected goal battle in just one game.
The Habs lead the league in expected goal rate, high-danger chance rate, and are second in shot attempt share. And it isn’t just the offense or defense carrying the water, Montreal is great at both ends of the ice, ranking sixth in expected goals scored per hour at 5-on-5 and first in expected goals against per 60.
If we’re going to play the blame game, Carey Price likely cost his coach his job. Montreal has played great hockey for most of the year, but Price is stopping just 89% of the shots he’s faced while posting a -6.95 goals saved above expectation. If he provides even average goaltending, the Habs win more games and Julien is employed.
While the Habs aren’t winning, the Jets are. And while the Habs are underperforming their underlying metrics, the Jets are vastly overperforming theirs.
The Jets rank 30th in the 31 team league in terms of expected goal rate. They are giving up 2.65 expected goals per hour, which is also the 2nd worst mark in hockey. The Jets are giving up nearly 13 high danger chances per hour.
Sure, they have plenty of offensive firepower and Connor Hellebuyck is a hell of a goalie, but winning games like this seems unsustainable. If they don’t figure out how to play defense in front of Hellebuyck, the winning will slow down.
In this spot, it’s simple. I’ll take the best analytical team in the league against one of the worst. The jolt from a coaching change should only be a bonus.
Bet: Montreal Canadiens @ -120
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Expert NHL Picks
Hurricanes at Lightning - Over 6 Goals @ -118 (Click To Bet)
Bruins at Islanders - Under 5.5 Goals @ -130 (Click To Bet)
Canadiens at Jets - Montreal Canadiens @ -120 (Click To Bet)
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