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Lightning vs. Red Wings NHL Odds & Pick: Detroit Has Value as Big Underdogs (Tuesday, March 9)

Lightning vs. Red Wings NHL Odds & Pick: Detroit Has Value as Big Underdogs (Tuesday, March 9) article feature image

Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Bobby Ryan.

  • After a four-day break, the Red Wings resume play against the Lightning.
  • Detroit is a massive underdog against the reigning champions, although it has played relatively well of late.
  • Matt Russell breaks down where he sees betting value in this Central Division matchup.

Lightning vs. Red Wings Odds

Lightning Odds -375
Red Wings Odds +300
Over/Under 5.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds as of Monday night and via FanDuel.

March Madness is right around the corner, which means the sports world can look forward to more than a few days of talking about resumes and the difference between home and road games relative to Quad 1 and Quad 2 wins and losses.

Home ice in the NHL has always been more than a little overrated from a handicapping standpoint. If you can look past the din of a good hockey crowd when momentum seems to be snowballing against the road team, the truth is there isn’t much of an advantage to being at home.

From a strategic standpoint, the only advantage is that the home team gets the last change during stoppages and can match lines if they want. In some matchups, this is completely moot, which is why it’s somewhat strange that both the Lightning and Red Wings have considerably more success at home than they do on the road this season. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 8-5 on the road this season and if that seems like a really good record, it’s because it is. However, in comparison to their 9-1 record in the friendly confines of Amalie Arena, it certainly feels like the Lightning are more getable on the road. In fact, Tampa Bay’s expected goals (xG) at even strength is pretty even to its opponents’, 24.98-24.22 over the 13 games.

The Lightning continue their Midwestern road trip after a three-game set in Chicago that was the diametric opposite to what they’ll likely see in Detroit.

Goals in the Windy City were not hard to come by for either team, as the Blackhawks and Lightning combined for 20 in the three games. After two games that went beyond regulation, Tampa gave up three quick goals in the first 25 minutes of the rubber match, only to apparently flip a switch. The Lightning immediately responded with six goals, four of which were on the power play on just four opportunities with the man-advantage.

Scoring four goals on four chances is a massive outlier, and nine-goal game totals are wholly uncharacteristic of the Lightning. This is a team that will wring you out defensively like a boa constrictor. When you get the occasional even-strength High-Danger Chance (HDC), Andrei Vasilevskiy is often there to snuff that out, as well. Teams are converting just 10.5% of their HDC, which is 3.5% below the league standard.

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.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings’ longest scheduled break of the season came at the exact right time for a team that has to put in more effort than their opponents in order to stay competitive.

When last we saw the Red Wings, they were finishing a road trip in Carolina as heavy underdogs. They took a 2-1 lead but slipped up defensively just before the second intermission and gave up a game-tying goal. Once the teams returned to the ice in the third period, it was like the Wings left their intensity in the dressing room. Three goals later and the dreams of a +280 winner were doused, like a very heavy rainstorm with high winds might douse something. 

The loss to the Hurricanes came in Detroit’s 26th game of the season. The Wings are the first to reach that number of games in the Central Division and were due for a four-day break.

In the Wings’ first dozen games, they went 2-10 with just 5.66 even-strength HDC per game and 1.31 Expected Goals For. Since then, the Wings have averaged 6.71 and 1.61.

That offensive increase has come at a cost, though, and that’s a little looser of a defense. The Wings’ opposition went from 5.75 to 7.71 HDC at even strength during that span. After allowing more than nine even-strength HDC just once in the Wings’ first 18 games, they’ve given up 10 or more in five of their last eight games.

Even though Detroit had some success, winning three of those games, the weekend off should give it a chance to recharge and get back to its strategy of keeping games boring. 

The Red Wings’ moments of success have come at home, though not to the level of the Lightning, of course. Detroit is 4-8 at home in Little Caeser’s Arena and 3-11 on the road. They’re total xG at even-strength in those home games are 18.6 for the Wings and 20.5 for their opponents for a 47.6% Expected Goal Share, which is better than the 4-8 record indicates. 

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Betting Analysis & Pick

While the home-road splits for these two teams aren’t going to change anyone’s mind whether the defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning should be favored against the worst team in the division, the price is going to be the final decider when it comes to making a bet in this one. 

The Red Wings and Lightning met much earlier in the season back in Tampa, and the Wings held their own in a pair of games . Despite losing both, the two had an identical 2.34 even-strength goals for over the two games. Red Wings fans would note that both games were started by Thomas Greiss, who has been a disaster so far this season. He was pulled after three first-period goals in the first game, and none of the three goals the Lightning scored in the rematch were off HDC.

With the Red Wings’ re-commitment to defence and the Lightning getting a team that’s more likely to play the type of conservative game Tampa’s willing to play, I think Under 5.5 is a good bet.

However, when goals are hard to come by, that makes the underdog more interesting. While there’s still a very strong chance the Lightning win, I don’t think their win probability should be 76% which is what their moneyline price of -330 indicates. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model makes the Wings’ chances of winning this game closer to 40% which makes them a viable bet, especially if you can find a +300 out there. 

Pick: Red Wings +300 (+270 or better) / Under 5.5 (-110 or better)

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