Saturday’s NHL Betting Guide: Odds and Picks for Canadiens vs. Oilers and Lightning vs. Capitals
Sergei Belski, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Phillip Danault, Brendan Gallagher
There’s a lot of betting action to be had on Saturday. A 3-game NFL slate, six college bowl games, professional and college basketball, the World Darts Championship and, of course, 13 games of NHL action.
There are a few matchups on the NHL slate that stand out from a betting perspective.
Let’s dive in:
Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals Odds
- Tampa Bay Lightning odds: -113
- Washington Capitals odds: -104
- Over/Under: 6.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV: NHL Network
Odds as of Friday evening and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
Two of the NHL’s best will tango in Saturday’s headliner.
The Washington Capitals pace the NHL with 55 points and they are getting results in a familiar fashion. The Caps have developed a reputation over the past five seasons of relying on their high-end talent and special teams to cover up for some disappointing 5-on-5 metrics. The Caps are above 50% in expected goals this season, but their statistical profile isn’t all that impressive — at least not compared to their overall record.
That isn’t meant to take away from Washington’s legitimacy. The Caps are for real thanks to their prolific offense. The Capitals generate 2.5 expected goals and 11.3 high-danger chances per 60 minutes, both of which rank sixth in the NHL. Washington needs its offense to keep cooking, because the defense has struggled to limit scoring chances against.
The Capitals allow the sixth-most high-danger chances and 11th-most expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season. The goaltending hasn’t been great, either. Normally, Braden Holtby is a reliable starter but this season he has struggled to a -1.8 Goals Saved Above Expectations (GSAx). Washington’s defense isn’t terrible and the goaltending can bounce back, but if you want to punch holes in the Caps, you certainly will have an easier time finding flaws on the defense than on the offense.
We still have more than half the season to go, but at the moment the Tampa Bay Lightning are in a fight for a playoff spot. There’s not too much to be concerned about with the Lightning’s play overall — Tampa is every bit the contender it was last year, it just needs better goaltending.
The Lightning have the fifth-best expected goals share in the NHL at 53.8% and they are improving. Over their last 16 games, Tampa has ticked up to 55.5%. They Lightning rank inside the top-10 in expected goals for and against per 60 minutes. The Bolts are balanced and if they can get some saves, they’ll start to run.
After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19, Andrei Vasilevskiy has not found any form this season. The Russian netminder has the third-worst GSAx and his deputy, Curtis McElhinney, hasn’t provided much relief with a -5.8 GSAx. I’m expecting one of the goaltenders to stabilize in the second half, because the rest of the team is pulling its weight.
The Capitals may have 17 more points than the Lightning, but I still have Tampa as the better overall team. The Bolts will also have a schedule advantage as this is the second game in as many nights for the Capitals, who just won in New Jersey on Friday night.
The listed odds imply this game is as close to a coin flip as you can get, with Tampa having a 51% of winning. I think that number sells the Lightning — the better 5-on-5 team — short in a good spot. I’d play Tampa up to -120.
Montreal Canadiens at Edmonton Oilers Odds
- Montreal Canadiens odds: -120
- Edmonton Oilers odds: +102
- Over/Under: 5.5
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
Odds as of Wednesday morning and via DraftKings, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.
The Montreal Canadiens are quietly fascinating. They are just often overlooked considering the Atlantic Division was supposed to be a three-horse race between Boston, Tampa and Toronto with the Florida Panthers as the outside shot. That hasn’t been how the division has sussed itself out.
The Habs have a strong statistical profile, with a 53.6% expected goals rate and they have been getting better as the season wears on. Over its last 15 games, Montreal has improved its expected goals share to 55.7%.
The Habs may not have the name-brand talent that other teams in the Atlantic have, but there’s a working system here — especially on defense, where the Canadiens have allowed 2.23 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 this season.
Things are different for the Edmonton Oilers. After a hot start, the Oilers have come crashing back down to earth in December. The Oilers are 2-6-1 in their last nine games and their poor 5-on-5 play has finally caught up to them.
Not only are the Oilers hovering around 48% in terms of expected goals this season, they also allow the fifth-most (2.77) goals against and score the sixth-fewest goals for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisatl and Edmonton’s terrific special teams have kept them afloat this season, but that is not going to work over an 82-game season. The Oilers’ lack of depth has been found out.
With Edmonton on the second night of a back-to-back, I’m happy to take a shot on the Canadiens as a short road favorite. As long as Montreal can keep this game 5-on-5, it should have the better of play. I’d play the Habs at -120 or better.
I also played the Detroit Red Wings at +225 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s strictly a numbers play. The Red Wings are the worst team in the NHL, but they will get the Leafs on the second night of a back-to-back and will face struggling goaltender Michael Hutchinson. It’s not a fun bet, but the price was too good to look past.
I’ve also got my eye on the Minnesota Wild as short home favorites over the Winnipeg Jets. If the Wild get below -120, I will look to back them. Minnesota’s statistical profile is much stronger than Winnipeg’s, despite the Jets having the better overall record.