Thursday NHL Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets for 4 Stanley Cup Playoff Games (August 13)

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Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images. Pictured: Mattias Janmark, Denis Gurianov

  • We've got four first-round NHL playoff games on tap Thursday, and our staff is attacking a prop, a regulation moneyline and a short moneyline underdog.
  • See our best bets for Thursday's NHL games below.

The NHL’s August Madness continues on Thursday with four games starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Each first-round series is through one game and there’s been only one significant upset, coming by way of Vancouver’s 4-2 win over St. Louis on Wednesday night. Favorites went 5-3 through the first eight games, which is a change of pace compared to the chaos we watched unfold during the Qualifying Round.

Will some big prices cash on Thursday? Here are our favorite bets for today’s Stanley Cup Playoff action:


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.


Sam Hitchcock: Mikhail Sergachev to score a goal (+550)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 3 p.m. ET

Picking out a worthy player prop is a bit like picking out fruit. You have to sift through a lot of duds but the payoff can be tantalizing.

In the current heap of player props, one leaps off the screen and begs for attention. How in tarnation is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Mikhail Sergachev +550 to score a goal on DraftKings?

True, betting against Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo feels a bit like going into a lion’s den with nothing but a spoon at the moment, but observe: During the regular season, Sergachev finished with 10 goals, one short of Victor Hedman and ninth on the Lightning. At all strengths, Sergachev had a slightly better expected goals than Hedman.

Sergachev benefits from coach Jon Cooper playing him on the first unit of the power play where he can unleash either a blistering slapshot or a piercing wrist shot. The Blue Jackets don’t commit many penalties, but when they do, Sergachev will be in position to exploit them.

The Lightning exhort their defensemen to activate and I suspect that in Game 2 Tampa Bay will double down on shooting from everywhere since Korpisalo has been locked in. A shot from Sergachev from the point, or on the second wave of the rush, has as good a chance as any to go in.

During the postseason, Sergachev has 13 shots in four games, seven of which were posted in Game 1 against Columbus.

Context here matters. Inexplicably, Mathieu Joseph, who won’t even suit up, has lower odds than Sergachev. Hedman, who has a worse shot and is arguably less dangerous offensively, is at +420. Forward Mitchell Stephens is, like Sergachev, at +550, and while Stephens is tenacious, he played the fewest even-strength minutes of any player on the Lightning against the Blue Jackets.

I’ll take the guy who recorded more shots against Columbus than any teammate other than Hedman and Brayden Point.

Sergachev oozes talent, something that most players in this price range do not.

[Bet this prop at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Pete Truszkowski: Vegas to win in Regulation (-125)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 5:30 p.m. ET

The opener of the series was weird in many ways; Vegas certainly didn’t play its best game, Patrick Kane’s line was a detriment for Chicago and Corey Crawford gave up two extremely soft goals.

That last part is most startling since the Blackhawks have no chance to be competitive in this series unless Crawford has a tremendous series. If he’s simply average, this might still be a sweep. If he gift-wraps two goals to Vegas like he did in Game 1, this series will be a laugher.

The Golden Knights did what the Golden Knights do in Game 1; they had 57.1% of the shot-attempt share, 63.6% of high danger chances, and 55.9% of expected goals. They outshot Chicago 34-20.

The Golden Knights top line of Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Mark Stone were monstrous. Despite not getting on the scoreboard, but they had an impressive 85% of the expected goals rate while on the ice.

Pacioretty’s return to the line-up is a huge addition as he’s likely their most talented finisher and adds elite goal-scoring ability to the top of their line-up.

On defense, Vegas used the pairing of Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore against Patrick Kane. They did a masterful job against him as Kane posted under a 30% shot-attempt rate when on the ice against those two.

The expected goals were 0.71 to 0.09 in favor of Vegas when this matchup was on the ice. In terms of real results, Vegas outscored the Blackhawks 2-0. Shutting down Kane is paramount.

I think Vegas wins this game but I’m not laying -200. I don’t think Vegas will need overtime so I’ll bet the Golden Knights on the 60 minute/regulation time market up to -130.

[Bet the Golden Knights at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

Michael Leboff: Dallas Stars (-108)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 10:30 p.m. ET

It’s not a lot of fun to go right back to a team after a deflating loss but that’s often where the value lives. I think that’s the case for Thursday’s nightcap.

Even though Dallas hasn’t put things together during the tournament it was a defensive force during the regular season. Only one team allowed fewer goals per hour at 5-on-5 and the Stars were the fifth-best team in terms of expected goals against per hour at event strength.

Add in that Dallas has the league’s best goaltending partnership and you’ve got yourself a really tough team to beat.

Dallas Stars 5-on-5 Stats Result Rank
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 1.99 2nd
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 2.17 T5

Even though Calgary has an edge in scoring talent over Dallas, I still think the Stars are the better overall team. The edge in defense and in goaltending makes up for their shortcomings on offense, especially against the Flames.

Calgary’s defense struggled to contain teams during the regular season, ranking 20th in goals against and 17th in expected goals against, so I’m confident Dallas will get enough opportunities to allow its defense do what it does best and close out a game.

I thought the betting market was too low on Dallas for Game 1. The Stars stumbled in the seeding round and the Flames looked good in a 3-1 series win over the Jets, so it was no wonder that bettors kept the price down on the Stars.

That same thing is happening again in Game 2. After closing at -113 at DraftKings in the series-opener, the Stars are at -108 for Game 2 (as of 12:30 a.m. ET) and I think that’s a great number, considering that Dallas is the better team. I see value on the Stars at -120 or cheaper for Game 2.

[Bet the Stars at DraftKings and get a $1,000 sign-up bonus.]

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