NHL Odds & Picks (Friday, Dec. 27): How to Bet on Wild vs. Avalanche, Kings vs. Sharks & More

NHL Odds & Picks (Friday, Dec. 27): How to Bet on Wild vs. Avalanche, Kings vs. Sharks & More article feature image

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: San Jose Sharks right wing Timo Meier (28).

The NHL’s three-day holiday break is over and that means the stretch run can begin in earnest, starting with Friday’s 11-game slate.

There are a few games that piqued my interest, the first of which being a Central Division showdown between the Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche.

NHL Odds & Picks (Friday, Dec. 27)

Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche Odds

  • Wild odds: +165
  • Avalanche odds: -195
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET

Odds via PointsBet, which pays out all NHL moneyline bets when your team gains a two-goal advantage (first $100 staked).

The Minnesota Wild have a reputation. The Wild are considered to be one of the league’s more boring teams, relying on structure and good defense to grind out results. It’s not pretty on the eyes, but it’s a strategy that makes sense considering Minnesota lacks the talent to trade scoring chances with its opponents.

In a funky twist, Wild games have actually featured a lot of scoring this season. Minnesota games average 6.37 total goals per game, which is the eighth-most in the league. Even though Minnesota is giving up plenty of goals, the defense is still pulling weight. The goaltenders, on the other hand, are not.

The Wild allow the second-fewest expected goals (1.98) but the 11th-most goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Minnesota’s defense is making life easy on its goaltenders, but Alex Stalock (-15.4 Goals Saved Above Expectation) and Devan Dubnyk (-11 GSAx) have not returned the favor.

This is a familiar problem for the Wild, who boasted one of the NHL’s best defenses in 2018-19, too. The difference between this season and last is that the Wild are scoring enough to provide some cover for their issues in goal.

Goaltending and goal-scoring are volatile, but one thing seems to remain constant with this bunch: They limit scoring chances as good as any team in the league at 5-on-5.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

It will be strength vs. strength on Friday night as the Avalanche score more goals on 5-on-5 than any other team in the NHL.

Colorado averages 3.27 goals per 60 minutes but only produces 2.36 expected goals per 60 on the season. The Avalanche have elite scoring talent, so they will always outscore their metrics, but they should regress a little bit at some point.

While Colorado’s offense is its calling card, the Avalanche also play sturdy defense, allowing just 9.6 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. Both of these defenses are stellar at clogging things up and that’s a recipe for a low-event game.

The Wild will need this game to stay predictable if they want to contend with Colorado’s high-powered offense. Minnesota is banged up and Colorado is the superior team, but I’ll take these odds on a team that excels at turning games into coin flips.

Pick: Wild +165

Around the League

Once again, I think the Columbus Blue Jackets (+185) are in range for a play against the Washington Capitals. Columbus is missing several key players, but the Jackets are in terrific form and have been dominating teams 5-on-5.

The Jackets lead the NHL over the past month with a 58.3% expected goals rate and are allowing just 1.92 expected goals against per 60 in that span. The Capitals have been absolutely buzzing this season, so this isn’t an easy bet to swallow, but the number is too high.

The Los Angeles Kings (+130) are another team outside the playoff picture with really strong underlying metrics. The Kings have the fourth-best expected goals rate (55.4%) in the league over the last 30 days. Los Angeles can’t finish or get a save, but it certainly is having its way at 5-on-5.

The same can’t be said of the San Jose Sharks, who are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games and have earned less than 47% of the expected goals in their last 15 games. The odds suggest the Sharks win this game 58% of the time, which is pretty steep considering their current form. I like Los Angeles at +125 or better.

The Pittsburgh Penguins (+120) have drifted high enough where I think they are in range for a bet on the road against the Nashville Predators. The Penguins have turned themselves into a dynamic defensive team in 2019-20, allowing just 1.97 xGA/60 on the season. This game should be a clinic in defensive structure as the Preds have the fifth-best defense going by expected goals. Even though the Penguins are on the road and without Sidney Crosby, I think  this game is pretty close to a coin flip, so I’ll take Pittsburgh at +120.

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