NHL Best Bets Tonight: Nicholas Martin’s Picks for Saturday

NHL Best Bets Tonight: Nicholas Martin’s Picks for Saturday article feature image

MONTREAL, CANADA – FEBRUARY 13: Juraj Slafkovsky #20 of the Montreal Canadiens skates for the puck during the first period of the NHL regular season game between the Montreal Canadiens and the Anaheim Ducks at the Bell Centre on February 13, 2024 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Vitor Munhoz/NHLI via Getty Images)

Here are my top two NHL best bets from Saturday's 13-game slate.

NHL Best Bets Tonight | Picks for Saturday, Feb. 17

Saturday, Feb 17
4:00 p.m. ET
Red Wings ML (+110 | Play to +100)

When the Flames traded away Elias Lindholm on February 1, the assumption by many was that move was akin to waving the white flag on any playoff hopes this season. However Lindholm had not been playing at a high level as he awaited trade, and therefore the net loss was more navigable than it seemed.

Losing a player who did not want to be a on the team anymore seemed to give the Flames a short term boost, and they managed upset wins over Boston, New Jersey, and New York on their Eastern road swing.

It seemed logical to think that the Flames were getting too much credit for those when they opened as -360 favorites versus San Jose though. A horrible Dustin Wolf performance might be the greatest cause for the Flames shocking 6-2 loss in that game, but I still think they are getting too much credit for a short sample of acceptable play today versus a potent Detroit side.

The Red Wings have started their road trip with two underrated performances in Edmonton and Vancouver. They easily could have fared better without numerous misses on quality looks, and owned 58% of the high danger chances in the two games combined. Given the way they have routinely won games owning less of the play this season with their clinical finishing ability, we should expect a better result if they own much of the play today.

The Wings have been due for some regression in terms of their recent goals against totals, as despite being a playoff team they own significantly worse than average defensive metrics over the last month. They have faced off against a nightmare schedule in that period, though.

Since January 7, the Senators are the only non-playoff team the Wings have played, and they are currently playing like a playoff team. They've had the Panthers, Hurricanes, Stars, and Oilers twice as well, so not just borderline playoff teams.

The Flames make for a much easier matchup, and I believe we will see the Wings carry more of the play in today's game.

Jacob Markstrom has been one of the leagues very best goaltenders this season, and offers Calgary a significant edge in goal over James Reimer. That is more than accounted for with the better overall team being an underdog in this spot though, and I would back the Wings at anything better than +100.

Pick: Red Wings ML (+110 | Play to +100)

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Saturday, Feb 17
7:00 p.m. ET
Juraj Slafkovsky Over 2.5 Shots on Goal (+140 | Play to +132)

Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and Juraj Slafkovsky have combined for 27 points over the last six games. They have been dominant both at even strength and on the power play, and perhaps the most surprising thing is that Slafkovsky is arguably the one pulling the most weight.

Slafkovsky was the first overall pick in 2022 NHL entry draft, but appeared to be trending towards being somewhat of a bust. It was beginning to look like the Canadiens reached by grabbing him first, potentially putting too much weight upon his seven goals in seven games at the Olympics for Slovakia in his draft year, and therefore overlooking concerns elsewhere with his game.

I'll be the first to admit I believed that he was going to struggle at the NHL level, as his lack of awareness and inability to see the play were flaws that often do not come around. Tough look for those of us that doubted this kid right now though, because his incredible run of production has been far from favorable luck.

You could talk me into betting any props from the Canadiens top trio tonight in a solid matchup versus Washington, but Slafkovsky to record over 2.5 shots at +150 is the price that looks the most enticing. His shot was one of the main reasons he went first overall in 2022, and it shouldn't be surprising to see him trend over 2.5 playing on a quality top line and top power play. He has gone over 2.5 in four of the last six matchups, and that mark is sustainable given his usage.

I also believe there is room for growth in Slafkovsky's shot totals with a man advantage. Mike Matheson has consistently favored either taking low percentage point shots himself, or looking to an elite scorer in Caufield on the left side. As teams will often lean toward taking away Caufield's shot first, Slafkovsky is often left with some space on the other side.

Slafkovsky has an excellent one-timer, and there is no reason to look him off if he is open. The Canadiens coaching staff should definitely be instructing Matheson to use Slafkovsky more on the power play, and in time that could also lead to more shots on goal for Slafkovsky.

Pick: Juraj Slafkovsky Over 2.5 Shots on Goal (+140 | Play to +132)

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