NHL Winter Classic Betting Odds and Pick: Are the Stars Undervalued Against the Predators?

NHL Winter Classic Betting Odds and Pick: Are the Stars Undervalued Against the Predators? article feature image

Norm Hall, Getty Images. Pictured: Alexander Radulov

  • The updated betting odds for the 2020 Winter Classic between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars make the Stars a slight favorites (moneyline: Dallas -130).
  • The over/under is set at 5.5, with heavier juice on the under (-135).
  • How should you be betting Predators-Stars? Our NHL expert Michael Leboff picks out his favorite bet on the board.

Winter Classic Odds: Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars

  • Predators odds: +110
  • Stars odds: -130
  • Over/Under: 5.5
  • Time: 2 p.m. ET
  • Location: Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, Tx.

Winter Classic odds via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.

For the first time in a few seasons the NHL Winter Classic features a pair of teams in the mix for a playoff spot and judging by the odds, it figures to be a tight contest between the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars.

The first thing you’re going to want to do before betting the Winter Classic (or any NHL game) is to ignore all the narratives. Road teams have won eight of the 11 previous games (hilariously, the Rangers were the “road team” in the 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field against the Buffalo Sabres). Those results have nothing to do with what will happen at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday.

The Dallas Stars grade out as one of the league’s best defensive teams, but they have an effective offensive game plan — sacrificing volume for quality scoring chances.

The Stars are middle of the pack in terms of generating shot attempts, but they create the fifth-most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. The strategy has paid off for Dallas, which has the eighth-best expected goals rate (52.7%) this season.

Quality per shot

Some teams shoot less/more. Some get less/more quality.

But this is a measure of shot pickiness — DAL’s average shot is notably more dangerous than average and the average shot they allow against is notably less dangerous than average. pic.twitter.com/u6rsX5O3QK

— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) December 31, 2019

Dallas averages 5.1 total goals per game, which is the fewest in the NHL by a considerable margin. Part of the low output is due to the Stars’ methodical approach to offense, but defense and goaltending is their bread-and-butter. No team in the NHL gives up fewer 5-on-5 goals per game than the Stars.

As you can tell by the numbers, Dallas is very comfortable playing in low-event games, relying on an opportunistic offense and terrific goaltending. Ben Bishop earned himself a Vezina nomination in 2018-19 and the big netminder is back in the conversation again this season.

The Stars make life easy on Bishop but he has returned the favor with a 6.4 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in 27 games.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

These teams aren’t all that different, but contests involving the Predators typically feature plenty of scoring. Nashville averages 6.74 total goals per game and plays at a much higher pace (shot attempts for + against) than Dallas does.

That being said, the Predators are a defense-first team that allow the seventh-fewest expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season. They may find themselves outside of the playoff picture currently, but there aren’t too many red flags for Nashville, which has earned 51.9% of the expected goals this season. That number has dipped to 47.5% in the Preds’ past five games, but 5-on-5 play has not been Nashville’s biggest problem this season.

The real issue for the Preds has been their goaltending, which is surprising considering how strong Pekka Rinne has been for Nashville over the years. This season has been an entirely different story, as Rinne owns the second-worst GSAx of any goaltender this season.

You’d expect Rinne’s play to regress towards the mean over the season, but the Predators are also shooting hot, scoring 3.17 goals per 60 minutes on just 2.36 expected goals per 60 minutes.

In other words, the Predators should be allowing fewer goals at 5-on-5, but they also should be scoring fewer, too.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

Now for some logistics. This game is on a “neutral site” but the Stars are the home team, so they get last change. Neither team has any real injury concerns and they both come in on at least two days rest.

Overall, there isn’t much separating these two teams, but the odds imply this is pretty much straight-up coin flip. I disagree with that notion. Dallas has been in better form and has been the more consistent team this season, so the Stars are worth a play at any number better than -120.

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