Betting a Do-Or-Die NHL Saturday: Playoff Spot on the Line in Avs-Blues
Over the past few years there’s been talk in both the NHL and NBA about expanding the playoffs to include a play-in game. Well, those in favor of the play-in format are basically getting their wish tonight as we’ve got a do-or-die game between the Blues and Avalanche in Denver. If the Avalanche win in regulation, they are in. If the Blues win or get to overtime — they get the final spot.
If that game is the main event, we’ve got a good undercard as Phildelphia can punch its ticket to the playoffs with a point against the Rangers.
New York Rangers (+203) @ Philadelphia Flyers (-245) | O/U: 6
3 p.m. ET, NBC Sports
Stakes: The Flyers need just one point to clinch a playoff spot. If they lose this game in regulation, they leave the door open for the Panthers, who can get into the dance by winning their final two games. The Cats host Buffalo tonight and then travel to Boston on Sunday.
Pace Watch: It will be interesting to see if the Flyers, who rank 30th in the NHL in pace (shot attempts for + shot attempts against) at 5v5, tighten things up even further in this one knowing that they need only to get it to overtime to get into the playoffs. That wouldn’t be a particularly wise move, but it would definitely not be surprising to see Dave Hakstol’s team sit back and try to grind out a point against the Rangers, who have nothing to lose in this one.
Low Expectations: Philadelphia’s formula for success is simple. They limit chances against, as evidenced by their 2.25 expected goals against per 60 minutes (xGA/60) at 5v5, and hope that Claude Giroux can create some magic. The Rangers are not great at producing good opportunities, ranking 20th with 2.29 xGF/60, so the Flyers should be able to stifle the Blueshirts if this game stays on script. It’s another reason that Philadelphia shouldn’t go into the game hoping to just get to overtime. – Michael Leboff
Player to Watch (Rangers): In a lost season for the Rangers, Mika Zibanejad has been a proven commodity in DFS hockey. Tonight he remains one of the top options to consider for New York, as he ranks in the 95th and 94th percentile in shots and shots+blocks at just $5,800. The Rangers don’t generate many shots as a team (fourth-worst Corsi For over the past month), but when they do, Zibanejad is usually a primary beneficiary. That said, he has been trending the wrong direction lately with three or fewer shots in six straight games. – Joe Holka
Player to Watch (Flyers): For power-play shooters today, only Tyler Seguin and Jack Eichel (99th percentile) rank ahead of Shayne Gostisbehere (98th) in shots on the man advantage over the past month. Philadelphia has drawn the seventh-most power-play opportunities in the league this year, but Ghost has been significantly more consistent at home. Per our Trends tool, he has reached his salary-based expectation 58.5 percent of the time at home and only 49.9 percent on the road. – Joe Holka
Philly Matinee: In the first period this season, the Rangers have allowed 86 total goals, tied for the most in the NHL (entering Friday’s action). In the 24 games this season in which the Rangers led after the first period, they are only 15-9 on the moneyline. Those nine losses are tied for the third most in the NHL when leading after the first period. – Evan Abrams
Pressure’s On: Philly desperately needs a win. In April, teams facing an opponent that has won fewer than 45% of its games, like the Rangers, have gone 406-259 (61%) straight-up since 2006. If they are home favorites the record improves to 216-104 (68%). – John Ewing
St. Louis Blues (+105) @ Colorado Avalanche (-125) | O/U: 5.5
9 p.m. ET, NHL Network
Stakes: This game is a real rarity in professional sports. It’s the last game of the season and features two teams fighting for the final playoff spot. The Avalanche need a regulation win to get in, which could mess with the over/under as the Avs could be in a spot where they pull their goalie if the game is tied late in the third.
Cagey? Maybe: With so much at stake, this one could be played pretty tight — especially in the opening period. But on the other hand, both of these teams are playing with house money. Last year, Colorado finished dead last in the NHL with 48 points. The Avs were not expected to be even close to the playoff picture this year.
St. Louis, on the other hand, was expected to be in the mix before the season but it seemingly waved the white flag in the middle of the season by trading one of its best players — Paul Statsny — to Winnipeg.
Possession Game: St. Louis should figure to see more of the puck in tonight’s game. The Blues boast a 51.75 Corsi For % (a barometer for possession that measures the amount of shot attempts for vs. shot attempts allowed, also known as CF%) while Colorado is a bottom-five possession team with a 47.48 CF%.
The hallmark of the Blues’ game is preventing shot attempts. They only allow 54.6 shots per 60 minutes at 5v5. Colorado allows 60.26. – Michael Leboff
Player to Watch (Blues): Alex Pietrangelo, a peripheral stat monster, is the clear player to watch for the Blues tonight. He leads the team in shots+blocks (98th percentile), blocks (96th), Corsi (99th), and power-play shots (91st) over the past month. Further, St. Louis is in a great macro spot against the Avalanche with the night’s third-highest expected Corsi For. – Joe Holka
Player to Watch (Avalanche): Priced at $7,700 on DraftKings, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon stands out in our Models on Saturday. MacKinnon is currently tied with Connor McDavid for the most DraftKings Pro Trends at the center position (10) and is one of three players on the entire slate who ranks in the 99th percentile in shots over the past month. MacKinnon is a nice contrarian option, given his team’s middling 2.9 implied goal total, and the Avalanche’s slate-low expected Corsi For. Per our Trends tool, power-play skaters at home with comparable salaries, peripheral stats, and Vegas implied totals have historically outproduced their salary-based expectations by 0.92 points hitting value 52.9 percent of the time. – Joe Holka
Sweet Spot: The Blues have to play on a back-to-back in Colorado for their playoff lives on Saturday night. Over the past two seasons, St. Louis is 20-7 (74.1%) on the moneyline when playing on a back-to-back, the most profitable team in the NHL over that span. – Evan Abrams
Weird Spot: While that’s true, Evan, the impact of the altitude in Denver can’t be underestimated. Our man Matthew Freedman detailed just how tough these spots have been on visitors, but this is a peculiar spot given the stakes.
Photo: Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports