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Bruins vs. Capitals NHL Odds & Pick: Expect Fiery, High-Scoring Affair in Rivalry Game (Thursday, April 8)

Bruins vs. Capitals NHL Odds & Pick: Expect Fiery, High-Scoring Affair in Rivalry Game (Thursday, April 8) article feature image

Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals.

  • The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals sqaure off on Thursday's NHL schedule.
  • This is the first time these sides will meet since Tom Wilson's hit on Brandon Carlo, which drew a seven-game suspension.
  • Nicholas Martin details why he expects a high-scoring affair below.

Bruins vs. Capitals Odds

Bruins Odds +102
Capitals Odds -118
Over/Under 5.5
Time | TV Thursday | 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday morning via DraftKings.

The Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals get reacquainted Thursday for the first time since Tom Wilson injured Brandon Carlo with a hit that drew a seven-game suspension.

Although I believe it’s unlikely we see much carryover in regard to Wilson, who fought Trent Frederic and Jarred Tinordi after the hit, I fully expect this to be a heated game between teams with a real dislike for one another.

These franchises are currently set for what would be a very fun opening-round matchup, but there is a lot of time left to settle a very close East Division.

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Washington Capitals

The Capitals are currently playing their worst hockey of the year. The team has managed to hide it a bit, though, by stealing a pair of games on the weekend from the New Jersey Devils that they were certainly lucky to win.

Washington has looked horrible to my eye as a fan as of late, something confirmed by its 43.6 expected goals rate over its last 8 games. This team certainly has the talent to curve some possession metrics, whether entirely analytic-based hockey minds will accept it or not.

Most analytics have always been low on the Capitals’ core, which has led them to five consecutive division titles despite finishing 16th, 23rd, 24th, ninth and seventh during those years in the xGF% category. Those years also included two Presidents trophies, plus a coveted Stanley Cup.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

More specifically, the Capitals have consistently scored more goals than the data expects, and this year sit +25.91 in the goals for above expected metric.  Going back to 2016-17, Washington has led in goals scored above expected two separate years and finished no lower than sixth place.

It’s hard to say for certain what is causing this, but I believe in part this data doesn’t entirely pick up the effectiveness of the extra pass that several of the key players are willing to make and how good they are at doing so.

There is certainly some work to be done to stop the leaks defensively, as the top pair of John Carlson and Brenden Dillon continue to give up a lot of chances against, sitting at an expected rate of 2.39 expected goals against per 60 minutes on the year.

Zdeno Chara has been a great story, and has admittedly brought more to the table than I expected, but he’s certainly regressing and beginning to look a few steps too slow most nights.

Boston Bruins

The Bruins appear to be in a pretty good stretch of play, where it counts at least coming in at 6-2-2 over their last 10 games.  However, some of the underlying numbers have been less than positive of late. They own just a 48.22 xGF% over that 10-game span.

Boston’s traditionally stellar defense has slipped, giving up 18 goals over its last five games. The club has allowed an average of 2.88 xGA/60 over its last eight games, good for third worst in the league during that timeframe. Charlie McAvoy missed Tuesday’s game vs against Philadelphia.

It will be interesting to see if either of goaltender Tukka Rask (upper body injury) or Jaroslav Halak (COVID-19 protocol) are ready to go in net.

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Betting Analysis & Pick

This should be an ultra-competitive, heated affair between teams fighting playoff position. Wilson has thrown some gasoline onto this rivalry, and I certainly expect a great game. Sometimes I feel that these emotional, tightly checked games can lead to less scoring, but I don’t see this going that way.

Boston has quietly been giving up a lot of chances and goals lately, as evidenced by its 2.88 xGA/60 on the stats. McAvoy leaves a big hole on its blue line, and I will be looking intently to see if he can play.

Washington has shown time and again it has proven scorers, and I believe it can put some goals up and show much better than it did versus the stingy New York Islanders in Tuesday’s contest.

Over their last 10 games, the Capitals have also given up a ton of chances, with an xGA/60 of 3.19 during that span. I believe this roster will keep putting up the goals, with a lot of proven scorers in the mix and plenty of offensive support from the defensemen.

I think it’s possible Washington manages the puck in its zone more effectively, and beats the forecheck more consistently than it has been, but I just see the Bruins top two lines not having some extended shifts leading to good chances.

This could be a spot for a better effort from the Capitals, specifically if McAvoy ends up sitting out for the Bruins, but I believe the total going over 5.5 goals at is a safer bet.

Pick: Total Over 5.5 Goals (-122)

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