Thursday NHL Betting Previews: Finding Value on a Huge Slate
James Guillory, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Justin Williams
The NHL’s Christmas break is over and that means we’ve got a pretty packed slate to get through on the ice.
There are 13 games on Thursday night and only one of them (note: Rangers-Blue Jackets doesn’t have a line yet) opened with odds tighter than -130/+110. That game was St. Louis vs. Buffalo and the Blues, who opened as -125 favorites, have now been bet up to -134, according to the consensus odds on The Action Network App.
Let’s get to a few games.
NHL record: 29-28, +11.77 units
Betting odds: Detroit Red Wings (+224) at Pittsburgh Penguins (-252) | Over/Under: 6
The Penguins opened at -225 at Pinnacle, arguably the sharpest sportsbook on the planet, but were quickly tapped up to -252. Pittsburgh is a much stronger team than Detroit, but the odds are now a little too wide.
In terms of talent, the Red Wings are one of the weakest teams in the NHL and the Penguins are one of the strongest. That won’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the Red Wings, nor should it, but just because Detroit is second best by a mile here doesn’t mean there isn’t value on backing the Wings.
There is a path to success for Detroit. The Wings generate very few scoring opportunities, ranking 29th in expected goals for per 60 minutes (xGF/60). However, the Penguins aren’t particularly good at preventing scoring chances, allowing 2.4 xGA/60.
It foes without saying, but the Red Wings will need some stellar goaltending from (hopefully) Jimmy Howard if they have a chance. Howard has been strong this season (he is currently ranked as the No. 12 goalie in the league by Corsica) so who knows, maybe he can keep this close.
It’s a longshot and a bet you lose more often than you win, but the Red Wings are worth playing at any number above +205.
The Bet: Detroit Red Wings +224
Betting odds: Carolina Hurricanes (+150) at Washington Capitals (-170) | Over/Under: 6
I agree with the line movement here and think there’s still some value left on the Hurricanes at this number.
Carolina leads the NHL in expected goals for per 60 minutes, while the Capitals rank second-to-last in preventing expected goals at 5v5.
The Hurricanes have had some more puck luck again this season. Their 2.83 delta shooting percentage (the difference between their actual shooting percentage and expected shooting percentage on unblocked shots) is the worst mark in the NHL. In fact, Carolina leads the league with a 6.97% expected shooting percentage on unblocked shots. They have been unlucky, again, this season.
The Capitals are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Washington ranks first in the NHL with a +2.02 dSH%. The next team is Tampa Bay at +1.58%. The Caps have elite offensive talents, but they are also benefiting from some good fortune.
This game is a lot closer than the odds suggest. At -170, the market is giving Washington about a 61.2% of winning this contest. That is overselling the Capitals, who are running hot again this season, against the Canes, who are running cold again this season.
The Bet: Carolina Hurricanes +150
Philadelphia Flyers (+180) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-210) | Over/Under:
The Flyers have picked things up a bit since firing Dave Hakstol and calling up top goalie prospect Carter Hart, but the truth is that Philadelphia has been pretty good throughout most of the first 35 games this season despite sitting in 14th-place in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia’s advanced stats suggest it should be in the thick of the race in the Metropolitan Division, so keep an eye on Gritty’s Guys going forward.
The Flyers will be up against it against Tampa Bay and the long odds aren’t surprising, but Philadelphia isn’t without a chance against the best team in the NHL.
Philadelphia is fifth in the NHL at preventing high-danger scoring chances, allowing 9.47 per 60 minutes at 5v5, and have allowed the seventh-fewest xGA/60 in the league. Tampa Bay’s offense is out of this world, but the Flyers have a puncher’s chance in this game and are a decent bet at this number.
The Bet: Philadelphia Flyers +180