As the NHL enters March, we’ve completed about a third of the season. This season keeps getting more odd every night, but that’s the league we follow. It’s been a bit of a rough go the last few days, and when I looked at Friday’s slate, nothing jumped out to me. It’s important to take days off when you’re betting an everyday sport like hockey to get your mind right and regroup. For me, Friday will be an off day, but I’ll preview all three games on the slate so perhaps you can get enough from my write-ups to make your own informed plays.
Boston is clearly the better team as few teams in the league are at the level of the Bruins. However, they usually build their identity around their defense and that unit is battered and bruised currently.
After losing Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug to free-agency, the Bruins didn’t miss a step in the early part of the season. However, injuries to players like Matt Grzelcyk, Jeremy Lauzon and Kevan Miller are proving tough to overcome. The team has been forced to call on the likes of Urho Vaakanainen and John Moore to fill the void, and the results haven’t been up to par. Boston’s defense unraveled on Thursday night, allowing 5 goals to the Islanders in the third period to blow open what was a 2-2 game midway through the third.
The Bruins also played last night while the Rangers were off. Unfortunately, the Rangers will be without Artemi Panarin as he deals with a personal matter. Panarin is an MVP contender and he drives the Rangers whole offense. Without Panarin, New York’s offense takes a significant dip. Additionally, the Rangers will start Alexandar Georgiev between the pipes over starter Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin struggled in his last appearance, but he’s a better option than Georgiev.
The Bruins are significant favorites in this one, and it seems steep for a team playing the second half of a back-to-back with a depleted defense. But the Rangers starting their back-up goalie and being without their star player doesn’t make me want to rush to grab them either.
The underlying metrics say the Minnesota Wild are one of the better teams in the league while they also say the Los Angeles Kings are the 2nd worst team in hockey. With the Wild being the home team in this game, it’s no surprise to see them as substantial favorites.
The Wild are a very solid team. They are 10-6 through their first 16 contests. They rank top ten in goals per game and top five in goals against per game. As I mentioned, their underlying metrics suggest a very good team. However, due to their lack of high-end talent, I don’t feel comfortable betting them as such huge favorites.
Kaapo Kahkonen has given the Wild something to think about in terms of their goaltending. Cam Talbot was signed to a multi-year contract in the offseason to be the team’s starter, but an injury and Covid have slowed down his take-off in Minnesota. Kahkonen has won four straight starts, stopping 103 of 109 shots.
On the flipside, Los Angeles is vastly performing their underlying metrics with a record of 9-6-3 through 18 games. Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty are playing like it’s 2014 again. However, their analytical profile leads me to believe regression is coming and I don’t want to buy the stock when it’s high.
I’d definitely lean towards the underdog here as I don’t lay juice this large in hockey, but I don’t love the idea of betting a team that should start losing games more often.
The Colorado Avalanche are the current Stanley Cup favorites, but you’d probably be shocked to know that they are in the bottom third of the league in terms of goals per game. While their 9-6-1 record is solid, it doesn’t scream elite.
With their reputation, it’s no surprise to see the Avalanche as prohibitive favorites on the road, even against a team with a winning record. Colorado will likely make a run in the playoffs, but at -182 they aren’t near worthy of a bet at that number in this spot.
They have Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen and a load of other talent, but it’s been their defensive effort and goaltending which has won them games to begin the year. They are the 4th best team in the league when it comes to goals against per game.
Arizona is too erratic and flawed for me to feel comfortable in this spot. They’ve erased three goal deficits in back-to-back games and lost their two games before that. The team has transitioned to playing more of a wide-open style this year, which is a change from the past where they relied on keeping games low-scoring and grinding out their opponent.
Does Colorado win this game most of the time? Yes. But at this price, they aren’t a play. However, positive regression is coming for the Avs and the Yotes are playing with fire their past few games.
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Our expert handicapper Pete Truszkowski is a die-hard Islanders fan but doesn't let it bias him. He was born and raised on Long Island and he's been betting on hockey for a decade. Don't miss out on his picks.