Thursday NHL Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets for Feb. 24 Including Predators-Red Wings & Blue Jackets-Blackhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan Bernier
- Thursday night's NHL slate is 10 games deep and features plenty of intriguing matchups, including Dominique Ducharme's coaching debut for Montreal.
- Our staff breaks down their favorite bets of the night below.
There’s nothing quite like a busy night of NHL action to get the juices flowing.
Thursday night’s slate features 10 games, including seven at 7 p.m. ET. That should make for a pretty sweaty couple of hours.
Here are our favorite bets for Thursday night’s NHL action:
All odds as of 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
Matt Russell: Blackhawks-Blue Jackets Over 5.5 Goals (-110)
- Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
One thing we’ve always known about the Blackhawks is that they can score. If Patrick Kane is on your team, that’s probably going to be the case. However, the Blackhawks have actually dipped recently when it comes to 5-on-5 High-Danger Chance creation. They’ve gone eight straight games without cracking double digits in that key category. What we couldn’t have seen coming is the arrival on the scene of Kevin Lankinen, who leads the league in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) at 9.07.
Elvis Merzlikins has outperformed Joonas Korpisalo by a great deal this season. The problem is, Merzlikins and his 2.52 GSAA is back on the injured list, and Korpisalo hasn’t shown anything to bring confidence in the idea that he can be a No. 1 goaltender posting the 55th-ranked GSAA at -6.39.
In fact, the wildest statistical metric that came out of the 6-5 Blackhawks win was that the Expected Goals (XG) was just 1.55 to 0.87 in favor of Chicago. Five of the 10 goals scored were on the power play, but that still leaves five other goals to be accounted for at even strength, with just two of them coming from High-Danger Chances. Two of the three “unexpected” goals came from situations where Korpisalo was out of position on relatively innocuous even-strength plays.
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.
The Blue Jackets’ struggles in the crease have made them a sneaky valuable over team with Merzlikins out. Columbus games have been 6-2 to the over in games that Korpisalo has started since Merzlikins first got hurt. This game will be at the usual low-end of 5.5, and I think that’s a mistake. While I don’t see any value in either team given the expected moneylines of CHI +105/CBJ -125, the total is a more viable bet and I’ll take the over 5.5.
Michael Leboff: Detroit Red Wings (+135) vs. Nashville Predators
- Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. ET
Betting the Detroit Red Wings is not fun. That may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. Detroit is bad, perhaps the worst team in the league, but the Nashville Predators aren’t anything to write home about right now, either.
Nashville has completely underwhelmed relative to its expectations, posting an 8-10-0 record to go along with a -16 goal differential through its first 18 games. Things aren’t as bleak under the surface for the Predators as they sport a 50.7% expected goals rate, but it’s hard to be impressed with what Nashville is doing at 5-on-5. The Preds rank 30th in 5-on-5 scoring, 27th in expected goals for and are tied — with Detroit — for 26th with a -0.48 goal differential per 60 minutes.
Nashville’s biggest flaw is its inability to create offense. The Predators rank 29th in goals per game, 30th in 5-on-5 goals per game and 27th in expected goals for per 60 minutes. The Predators have done a good job limiting scoring chances and are a top-five team in terms of expected goals against, but their lack of scoring oomph and suspect goaltending has doomed them in the early going.
My hope here is that Nashville’s lack of firepower opens a door for the Red Wings to pull off the upset. Detroit’s offense is even more disquieting than Nashville’s, but the Wings have actually played strong defense this season. Detroit is the fourth-best team at limiting high-danger scoring chances and are also a top-10 team in terms of expected goals against.
Those defensive numbers, coupled with Nashville’s flawed offense and spotty goalie play make me confident that the Red Wings can hang with the Predators and turn this game into a coin flip.
There’s a good chance that this number rises, so I’m going to wait to see if I can get north of +140 on Detroit, but I think there’s some value fading the Predators at +135 or better.
Pete Truszkowski: Montreal Canadiens (-122) vs. Winnipeg Jets
- Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
After considerable offseason hype, the Montreal Canadiens opened the season with a 7-1-2 record. Long a darling of the analytical community, the number-lovers felt vindicated that the Habs were finally getting the results they’ve deserved for a few years now.
Since that start, the Habs have gone 2-4-2 and after back-to-back losses to the lowly Ottawa Senators, the front office pulled the plug on head coach Claude Julien and replaced him with interim coach Dominique Ducharme.
This turn of events really illustrates how fickle this sport can be. Montreal was the better team in almost every game of this recent eight-game slide, losing the expected goal battle just once, and the honest truth is that if Carey Price was stopping more than 89% of the shots he’s faced and wasn’t allowing nearly seven goals below expectation, the Canadiens would be winning more and Julien would still be employed. Price is still considered by many to be one of the better goalies in the league, but his inconsistent play to begin this season has been Montreal’s biggest problem.
The coaching change might serve as a wake-up call, but I’m not entirely certain this team needs to play much better. The Habs lead the league in expected goal rate (xGF%), high-danger chance percentage (HDC%) and are second in shot share (CF%). And it isn’t just the offense or defense carrying the water, Montreal is great at both ends of the ice, ranking sixth expected goals scored per hour at 5-on-5 (xGF/60) and first in expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60).
Montreal is basically the polar opposite of the Winnipeg Jets, who boast the second-worst xGF% in the NHL. The Jets are a calamity on defense, allowing 2.65 expected goals and 13 high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes.
Despite the ugly numbers, the Jets are 11-6-1 to begin the season. They are vastly outproducing their metrics due to the combination of high-end talent and goaltending. With a top-six featuring names like Mark Scheifele, Nikolaj Ehlers, Kyle Connor, Blake Wheeler and Pierre-Luc Dubois, the Jets can score goals. In addition, Connor Hellebuyck has been solid to follow up his Vezina trophy-winning performance from last season, posting a +2.8 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx).
With that being said, I’ll choose to back the league’s best team in terms of driving play against one of the worst. Hopefully the coaching change helps to solve Montreal’s goaltending conundrum.
Jeremy Pond: Edmonton Oilers (+120) To Win in Regulation vs. Vancouver Canucks
- Puck Drop: 10 p.m. ET
When you have a dominant, red-hot team up against it right out of the gate, you have to finish off your opponent. Well, Vancouver failed to take out Edmonton after grabbing a 3-0 lead in the opening period of Tuesday’s game and wound up suffering a gutting 4-3 loss.
The Oilers scored three unanswered goals in the third period of that game, en route to an eighth win in their last 10 contests. Now, Edmonton will go for another victory over Vancouver in Thursday’s affair at Rogers Arena.
When it comes to the advanced metrics, Edmonton and Vancouver are pretty much a wash in the Fenwick statistics despite having very different records. The Oilers boast a respectable 40.65 FF/60 and disappointing 42.45 FA/60, resulting in a subpar -1.80 differential. What is the most cause for concern is the FA/60, which ranks seventh worst among all teams.
In contrast, the Canucks maintain a solid 42.0 FF/60 and 44.73 FA/60, resulting in a mediocre -2.73 differential. Vancouver is ninth in the league in FF/60, but a dismal second-to-last in FA/60 and only have lowly Ottawa (44.89 FA/60) keeping it from last place.
As for the xGF/xGA comparison through 60 minutes, Edmonton holds the slight advantage. The Oilers hold flat numbers of 2.53 xGF/60 compared to 2.50 xGA/60, generating a +0.03 differential. As for Vancouver, the franchise sits on 2.6 xGF/60 and 2.92 xGA/60 for a -0.27 differential.
Bottom line, this is a big game for both outfits. Edmonton, winner of four in a row, continues nipping at North Division leader Toronto in the standings. In contrast, Vancouver is in dire straits, having lost four on the bounce.
For me, this game comes down to one thing and that’s current form. The Oilers, who lead the league in goals scored (76), are just better than the Canucks, who have gone 1-5 in their last six contests on home ice.
That said, I am backing Connor McDavid and Edmonton at +120 to get the job done in regulation. The Oilers, who have won their last five road games, simply have too much firepower for the Canucks’ porous defense to handle.