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NHL Odds & Picks For Capitals vs. Bruins: Bet On Washington’s Win Streak To End Friday

NHL Odds & Picks For Capitals vs. Bruins: Bet On Washington’s Win Streak To End Friday article feature image

Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Bruins and Capitals scuffle.

  • The Capitals have won four straight heading into Friday's game against the Bruins.
  • Boston is heavily favored despite Washington's hot streak.
  • NHL betting analyst Sam Hitchcock breaks down Friday night's battle below.

Capitals vs. Bruins Odds

Capitals Odds +123
Bruins Odds -141
Over/Under 6 (-114 / -106)
Time | TV Friday, 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Thursday evening and via DraftKings.

If postmodernism teaches us to be suspicious of everything, the NHL’s East Division is totemic. It has entertaining hockey that is viciously competitive, but nearly halfway through the season, can we gauge how good its teams are?

The Boston Bruins were unbeatable; now they are skidding. The Washington Capitals sprinted out of the gate, stumbled, and now are surging, winning their last four games. Up, down, hot, cold. Like a moody teenager, the East Division is volatile.

We do know that home ice matters for some teams. Boston is one of them. The Bruins are 5-1-1 in their own barn, with the Capitals supplying the digit in that third column Wednesday night. Like a hot Broadway show, the prices for favorites are rising. The Bruins are -141 on DraftKings for the moneyline. It’s a stiff price, but the Capitals’ four-game victory streak is likely to come to an end on Friday.

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Washington Capitals

COVID and injuries ravaged this team earlier in the season, but it is difficult to assess the extent of damage. What we do know is that the Washington team of the last two weeks is mauling its adversaries. Washington is boasting a 54.72 expected goals percentage and a 55.93 high-danger chances percentage.

Perhaps surprisingly, it is Washington’s defense that is rocketing this team into the top 10 in both categories. The Caps’ offense has been pedestrian by hockey analytics standards, but they are tamping down opponents’ opportunities.

So, the Capitals got healthy and now they are winning? Yes, but there is more to the story. Coach Peter Laviolette runs a man-to-man defense in lieu of the zone defense run by most of the league. With enough games, the personnel may have adapted to the system.

And that extends even beyond defensive coverage. The Capitals’ defensemen have been participating in the rush, which opens up lanes for the forwards. Against Boston on Wednesday, the Capitals brought a physicality that was disruptive, enough so that the Bruins were in danger of going shot-less in the first period.

On Lars Eller’s goal — Washington’s only one in regulation — Boston’s Sean Kuraly was guilty of a pass from wing to wing that T.J. Oshie gobbled up for a turnover.

Kuraly was hardly the only puck-management offender. Washington consistently forced the Bruins’ defensemen and forwards into surrendering the puck on their breakout. Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask played the foil, finishing with a 1.62 goals saved above expected (GSAx) in the game.

Now that Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov is back and healthy, it will be interesting to see if the goaltending job will be split between him and Vitek Vanecek. On the season, Samsonov has a -2.96 GSAx and he posted a -0.32 against the Devils in his first game back. Wednesday was the fewest 5-on-5 shots the Bruins have posted this season, so the expectation is that Samsonov will face a lot more rubber on Friday.

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.

Boston Bruins

Last season, the Bruins were a top-five defense while their offense was among the five worst in expected goals. In the last two weeks, Boston has been below average in both metrics. Oddly, the solution to both facets might be the same thing.

The Bruins’ offense is at its best when its defensemen are involved. Yes, when the forwards move the puck from low to high and create a lot of traffic, that screams Bruins hockey. But scoring chances accumulate when the Boston defensemen carry the puck out of their own end.

A Bruins defenseman could be looking toward the forwards to spearhead a transition chance or create a race to get the opponent hemmed in. If the Capitals are taking away the perimeter on breakouts — which they did in Game 1 — Boston needs to go up the gut. If that isn’t there, indirect pass the puck out of the zone. Even with the Capitals’ stingy defensive metrics of late, they are vulnerable if Boston pulls the right levers.

Last Saturday, the Capitals beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2. But in the first period, Washington had a telling miscue. In the Capitals’ defensive zone, New Jersey defenseman Ty Smith was being pursued by Capitals forward Garnet Hathaway and Hathaway followed Smith around the net.

As Smith was being tailed, the rest of the Devils forwards crowded toward the puck on the near side, dragging the Capitals’ defenders with them. Lost in the shuffle was the weak-side Devils defenseman, Damon Severson, who got a great look when the puck found him. Force the Capitals to chase the puck-carrier around their end and coverage lapses are going to occur.

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy. There are more. The Bruins have a cabal of capable puck-handlers who can put knots in the Capitals’ man-to-man defense. But puncturing Washington’s defense through extended possession and lots of motion is a possibility premised on leaving one’s end.

The problem on Wednesday was zone exits, as every time the Bruins looked toward the boards or perimeter, Washington magically appeared to steal the pass. No wonder Boston defenseman Matt Grzelcyk nearly coughed up the puck before zipping a pass up the middle to Pastrnak for a breakaway. For Boston on breakouts, it was boom or bust.

One final area worth watching is the Bruins’ counterattacks. The Pastrnak goal came off a John Carlson gaffe. And in the Rangers game on Sunday, pressure from the Boston forwards at the point produced a Jack Studnicka breakaway. Washington’s defensemen are playing with a lot of confidence, but if Boston’s forwards can pressure them, it may lead to odd-man rush looks. Faceoffs used to be a Bruins advantage, but with Michael Peca now aiding the Capitals’ organization, the gap may have narrowed.

Betting Analysis & Pick

As impressive as the Capitals are playing, I am loath to bet on the Bruins losing consecutive games at home. With coach Bruce Cassidy able to determine the matchups and build off of Wednesday’s demoralizing defeat, I like the Bruins to grind out a victory.

Pick: Bruins -141

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