Leboff’s NHL Betting Guide: Picks For Monday’s Four Qualifying Round Games

Credit:

Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Sidney Crosby

Sunday was another good day for underdogs in the NHL Bubble and none were more impressive than the Columbus Blue Jackets, who shut out the Toronto Maple Leafs as the night’s biggest underdogs. Columbus held Toronto without a shot on goal for the final 6:12 en route to a 2-0 win.

Monday brings with it four more qualifying round games. More chaos, anyone?


The point of this article is to give readers some quick-and-actionable tips on each game, in case you don’t have time to take a deep dive with me in my game previews. If you’d like to dig into each matchup in more detail, you know with numbers and stuff, you can find those previews here:


New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes

12 p.m. ET, NBCSN

A smart way to approach betting, especially in the NHL playoffs, is to take advantage of knee-jerk reactions. The Rangers were certainly second-best on Saturday, but there’s no reason that the odds should have jumped this high.

The Rangers closed at +115 at most sportsbooks ahead of Game 1, and even though the Canes may get Dougie Hamilton back for Game 2, I wouldn’t say a spike like this is warranted.

It’s simple: Oddsmakers know that casual bettors saw the Rangers struggle in Game 1, so they can get away with inflating the price on Carolina for Game 2. That should present a good opportunity for a punt on the underdogs on Monday afternoon.

While I will be betting the Rangers at +125 or better, the addition of Hamilton can’t be understated. The Hurricanes were a force to be reckoned with at 5-on-5 when Hamilton was healthy during the regular season but they were largely pedestrian without him.

The Rangers may have missed their best chance.

Stat With Hamilton (47 games) Without Hamilton (21 games)
xGF/60 2.79 2.68
xGA/60 2.43 2.68
xGF% 53.4% 50%
GF/60 2.46 3.02
GA/60 2.34 2.95
GF% 51.2% 50.6%

The Rangers still have a path to success in this game and series but they will need to do a better job in their own zone if they want to get going. New York’s biggest strength is its wealth of game-breaking talent up top, and if Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and their buddies are chasing the puck in their own zone all night, the Rangers will probably lose.

New York still has the game-breakers and goaltender(s) to hang with a very deep Carolina team, and this time around the price is right on the Blueshirts. I’d play the Rangers down to +125.

Pick: New York Rangers +125 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames

2:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network

The market reacted about how you’d expected after Game 1: The Flames were the better team and the Jets are likely going to be without Laine and Scheifele, so it isn’t surprising to see Calgary’s price jump 10 cents or so from closing on Saturday.

It may sound weird to say about a team that lost 4-1, but I was actually kind of impressed with the Jets in Game 1. Winnipeg had the worst 5-on-5 metrics in the NHL during the regular season, so it was a little encouraging to see the Jets win the expected goals battle (1.56 to 1.28) at even strength in Game 1. It was just one game and I wouldn’t expect that trend to continue, but it also makes Winnipeg a tad more appetizing for a bet in Game 2, especially because I think these odds may continue to climb.

Nobody is going to want to bet Winnipeg coming off a loss while missing two of its best players, but the cruel reality of betting is that these conditions usually lead to value.

The prospect of betting on the Jets doesn’t excite me one iota. In fact, I think it will be a terrible time. But everything in betting comes down to price, and we’re pretty close to the point where the Jets are in range for a bet.

I’m hoping the line clocks up a bit more before puck drop, but I’m going to be in at +125 or better.

Pick: Winnipeg Jets +125 or better

[Bet the Jets at FanDuel. NJ, PA, CO, IN and WV only.]

Montreal Canadiens vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

8 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Unlike in other Game 2s, the betting market held pretty firm from Game 1 for Pittsburgh-Montreal. Oddsmakers saw the Habs get a little lucky and didn’t want to lower the price on the Pens and risk getting pummeled with Pittsburgh money from bettors.

Since I liked Montreal at a similar price in Game 1, I’m going to back them again in Game 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Penguins take some money before the game in the form of there’s-no-way-Pittsburgh-will-go-down-two-nothing bets, so you may be able to wait it out and get a better number.

Price may not be as crisp, but I expect a better overall performance from the Habs on Monday night. And if the Habs improve their 5-on-5 play, they won’t need their goalie to stand on their head, especially since Pittsburgh’s goaltending situation is a bit murky.

The listed odds imply that Pittsburgh has a 60.5% chance of winning on Monday. I’ve been higher on Montreal than the market for most of the season but think this number still sells the Habs short and would play them at +140 or better.

Pick: Montreal Canadiens +140 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Edmonton Oilers

10:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

I thought this series was a lot closer than the odds made it out to be. The Oilers are better, but these are two deeply flawed teams that rely on their best players carrying them over the line. One night, Chicago’s stars will show up. On the other, it could be Edmonton’s.

A comprehensive performance like the one Chicago put forth on Saturday will often skew the market for the next game, especially in a playoff series. Bettors are what-have-you-done-for-me-lately creatures and won’t want to back a team that was defeated in the fashion that Edmonton was on Saturday.

After opening in the +130 range for Game 1, the Blackhawks took some late money and closed between +112 (DraftKings) and +125 (bet365, FanDuel). Unsurprisingly, they opened lower than that for Game 2 and actually were sitting at +100 at FanDuel at 12:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. That number was a bit preposterous and the market has since corrected and pushed Chicago back up to +120 at FanDuel, bet365 and PointsBet and +111 at DraftKings.

I’d be pretty surprised to see Chicago jump much higher than +120 between now and puck drop, but I’m going to keep an eye on it because I’m closer on the Blackhawks than I am on the Oilers. I don’t think +120 provides all that much value and I’m hoping we can get a +125 on the Hawks, but if it doesn’t pop I’ll just bite the bullet and take +120 for action on the game.

Pick: Chicago Blackhawks +125 or better (or reluctantly at +120)

[Bet now at FanDuel. NJ, PA, CO, IN and WV only.]

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