The NHL Daily: The one where Boston gets healthy
Three teams that opened the season at 100-1 or longer, Vegas (+12500), New Jersey (+10000) and Detroit (+12500), are all currently nestled in a playoff spot. Thanksgiving is now firmly in the rearview mirror, and there’s a decent chance that we’ll have a legitimate outsider in the tournament. Of the three longshots, Vegas feels like the best bet to make the dance. The Knights are just a touch under a 50 percent Corsi team, and their PDO is just over 100.0, suggesting they aren’t getting all that lucky, as if you could call a team that has had to play five goaltenders this year lucky. A look at the chart below from Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) shows the Knights are creating more scoring chances than they are giving up, something that can’t be said for New Jersey and Detroit. Another thing the Knights have going for them is that they play in the Pacific Division, which looks like it will be the weakest in the NHL this year. If Marc-Andre Fleury comes back healthy and can get back on the roll he was on early in the year, the Knights should have enough in them to finish in a playoff spot in a down year in the Pacific Division.
Last night’s action: Despite blowing a pair of three-goal leads, the Panthers (+155) were able to scrub out a win at Madison Square Garden with a late goal by Denis Malgin. Our other two plays didn’t come through, as the Flames (-116) were outplayed by the Leafs and the Coyotes (+184) surrendered a pair of leads, including one in the third period, and fell in overtime on a late goal by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
The Montreal Canadiens are underperforming. And not just in the sense that they were expected to contend, but also in the sense that they are not turning expected production into actual results. Montreal is a top-five Corsi team so far, and when you compare their +5.99 expected goals differential to their actual -13 goal differential at 5-on-5, it screams that this is a ship that isn’t sinking, but just not getting the bounces — and their 97.22 PDO backs up that notion. It looks like Mike Condon will start in net for the Senators, making the Canadiens a decent wager at -132.
The Boston Bruins are getting Ryan Spooner, David Backes and Brad Marchand back tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are likely to start Peter Budaj in goal because they are on a back-to-back. With Tuukka Rask in net for the Bruins, the goaltending edge clearly lies with the home team. And yes, Rask has struggled through the first part of the season and backup Anton Khudobin has been great, but I’d seriously question the sanity of anyone who suggests the latter gives Boston a better chance to win over the former. The line opened with the Bruins as home favorites but has since moved, with money coming in on the B’s. After their scorching start, Tampa has experienced a bit of a hiccup over the past 10 days or so, which isn’t all that surprising. In fact, despite winning in Buffalo last night, the Lightning did not play all that well and were bailed out by their goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who pitched a shutout. No team would be expected to sustain the pace that the Lightning set in the first quarter. Even with the plus number gone, The B’s are in range, and that would be the case up to -118.
I know there aren’t lookahead lines in hockey like there are in football, but this one would have been fun to see before the season started. Anaheim was considered to be a threat in the West, and nobody really expected the Blues to be this good before the puck dropped on the season in October. But here we are, with the Blues a -227 (implied probability of 69.42 percent) favorite against the Ducks in late November, and you can see why the market has reacted this way. The Ducks are still a hot mess because of the injury bug, with Rickard Rakell the latest key player to go down. He joins Ryan Getzaf, Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves on the shelf — meaning the Ducks’ top six has been reduced to a shell of itself. Anaheim will also be playing its fourth game in six nights while the Blues have had three days off ahead of this tilt. It’s an ugly one, and St. Louis wins it roughly 63 percent of the time according to my numbers, meaning there is value on the banged up, tired visitors.
Picks: Montreal -132, Boston -106, Anaheim +203
Season to date: 59-68, +0.57u
All stats provided by Corsica.