NHL Best Bets: Our Favorite Picks for Monday, Including Sabres vs. Flyers and Hurricanes vs. Predators (Jan. 18)

NHL Best Bets: Our Favorite Picks for Monday, Including Sabres vs. Flyers and Hurricanes vs. Predators (Jan. 18) article feature image
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Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Andrei Svechnikov.

  • Monday's NHL slate kicks off at noon ET and runs all day.
  • We're backing a few favorites in regulation, one underdog and one small favorite.
  • Get our best bets for Monday's NHL action below.

Normally, Mondays tend to be pretty slow in the NHL. But not this week. With the United States celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the National Hockey League scheduled a deep slate of games starting at 12 p.m. ET that rolls deep into the night.

Here are our favorite bets on the ice for Monday:

Sam Hitchcock: Blue Jackets To Win in Regulation (+100)

I don’t know if the Columbus Blue Jackets arrived in Nashville and proceeded to break a bunch of mirrors, but explanations for their two losses to the Predators remain mysterious. For most of Game 2 and for stretches of Game 1, Columbus was the better team. Yet, the Blue Jackets leave Nashville with consecutive regulation-time losses.

In an abridged 56-game season, three straight defeats would be damaging to their postseason hopes. I am sure that Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will adequately convey to his players the desperation to win that should infuse their efforts Monday afternoon against the Detroit Red Wings.

In the Red Wings, the Blue Jackets get an opponent they should be able to impose their will on. Entering Monday, Detroit ranks last in the NHL in expected goals — by a lot. The Los Angeles Kings rank second-to-last and still manage to muster four percentage points better than Detroit.

The Red Wings struggled on their breakouts and were leaky in transition defense against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Blue Jackets will likely emulate the Hurricanes’ strategy of activating their defensemen and spreading their opponent out. Aping Carolina, the Blue Jackets will pepper Detroit with shot attempts and lean on their forecheck to control territorial advantage.

The Red Wings’ first line of Tyler Bertuzzi, Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha is by far their most formidable forward trio, as the second, third and fourth lines struggled to generate much offense against Carolina.

How Tortorella approaches line matching when he is on the road is one of the nerdy, fascinating subplots when Columbus faces Detroit.

Against Nashville’s Filip Forsberg line — in Game 2 much more than Game 1 — Tortorella hewed toward matching his top-pair defensemen of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski and the Pierre-Luc Dubois trio against the Predators’ top scoring threat.

The Blue Jackets lost back-to-back games to Nashville due to poor puck management and bad luck. With regard to the former, Tortorella, ever a stickler for details, will impress on his roster that their decision-making needs to simplify.

This is so important because the Blue Jackets have the third-worst PDO in the NHL. Meanwhile, the Red Wings PDO sits at 1.047 at all strength, placing them inside the league’s top 10.

The contrast for the Red Wings from last season is significant because they ranked last in the league in PDO then. Now, they are momentarily ensconced in the upper echelon. A reckoning is coming.

The 60-minute line for a Blue Jackets victory is +100 on DraftKings. Not crazy value, but if you are feeling adventurous, I’d also subscribe to the alternate total goals (includes OT and a shootout), which has under 4.5 total goals at +235.

I have much more confidence in the 60-minute line, but I foresee this being a game with only three or four goals. So, for those seeking a thrill, you might want to consider the other wager as well.

[Bet the Blue Jackets now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Jeremy Pond: Maple Leafs To Win in Regulation (+100)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [BET NOW]
  • Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. ET

Life has been the definition of busy for one team thus far, while the other has played just once and already missed a practice due to a COVID-19 scare.

That said, Toronto is in a much better position than visiting Winnipeg entering this all-Canadian affair taking place on the shores of Lake Ontario. The Maple Leafs (2-1) enter this contest off a two-game road split against Ottawa, with the tonight’s host earning a 3-2 victory last time out.

On the other side, the Jets make the journey east after Friday’s 4-3 overtime win over Calgary. Patrik Laine scored twice, including the game winner, for Winnipeg in a game where it trailed 3-1 after the first period.

Winnipeg suspended training sessions Saturday after concerns of possible exposure to COVID-19 prior to Sunday’s trip to Toronto. The Jets did get back on the ice before their trek east, but missing a day of practice right out of the gate really puts them up against it against the high-flying Maple Leafs.

Statistically, Toronto has an edge over Winnipeg in the Fenwick advanced metrics, which I rely on heavily in my handicapping. The Maple Leafs boast 42.68 FF/60 to 36.68 FA/60 for a +6.0 differential, which is better than the Jets (34.47 FF/60 — 35.27 FA/60 = -0.8 differential).

That said, I am backing Toronto to get the job done at home in regulation as my best bet on the holiday card. Three more factors also contributed to this play, which I believe give the Maple Leafs a major edge. Take a look:

  • Ice Time: Toronto has played two more games than Winnipeg at this early stage of the season. Yes, we’re talking a 120-minute edge in action. That alone gives the host a distinct advantage when it comes to getting the opportunity to gel across all its lines.
  • Too Much Time Off for Winnipeg: Having a day off this early in the season is one thing. Having three days off is completely different animal, which is what the Jets face walking into Scotiabank Arena. Historically, Winnipeg has been off the mark when playing in this situation, going 3-8 in their last 11 games on this amount of rest.
  • Laine’s Status: The Winnipeg star was brilliant in that win over Calgary, but left Sunday’s practice early with an undisclosed injury. Even if Laine does dress, you would have to assume he won’t be at 100 percent. And if he can’t go, that creates a massive hole the Jets simply can’t fill at the right-wing position.

For obvious reasons, the Maple Leafs are a -162 favorite on the moneyline at DraftKings. Needless to say, that’s simply too chalky for my liking and will instead jump on Toronto to win in regulation at reasonable +100 odds.

[Bet the Maple Leafs now at DraftKings and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Michael Leboff: Sabres (+150) vs. Flyers

  • Odds available at BetMGM [BET NOW]
  • Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. ET

Two wins from two games and the Philadelphia Flyers are on their way to proving me wrong this season. That said, two games isn’t enough for me to change my mind about this team, especially since it was the beneficiary of some suspect goaltending by the Penguins in both games.

The Flyers ended the series with a +6 goal differential, but they were actually in the red in terms of expected goals and high-danger scoring chances. The Flyers generated 2.22 xGF per 60 minutes but surrendered 2.59.

This is a team that has made a habit of punching above its metrics, though, so maybe I am underrating the fact that Philadelphia has enough skill to turn relatively pedestrian metrics into good results. The Flyers also have a big edge in goaltending in this matchup as long as Carter Hart gets the nod.

I think this is a good price on the Sabres, especially with Sean Couturier out. Shutting down Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall is priority No. 1 against the Sabres, and that job would have fallen on Couturier’s shoulders for this matchup.

Even though the Flyers ranked sixth in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in 2019-20, they were in the middle of the pack in expected goals and were even worse in The Bubble.

In other words, I don’t expect the Flyers to overwhelm a strong Sabres defense. Whether or not Buffalo generates enough offense and receives a solid goaltending performance is another question entirely, though.

Despite concerns about Buffalo’s goaltending and its ability to create offense, I like a bet on the winless underdogs in this matchup.

Consider this — the Sabres closed at +115 and +108, respectively, in their two games against the Capitals. Should the odds be swinging this much for a game against the Flyers just a couple of days later?

At +148, you need the Sabres to win this game above 40.3% of the time to start seeing value. I think they hit that mark and would bet them at +145 or better on Monday night.

[Bet the Sabres now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

Pete Truszkowski: Hurricanes (-110) vs. Predators

  • Odds available at BetMGM [BET NOW]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

The Carolina Hurricanes are one of my favorite teams to bet on almost every year.

The Hurricanes profile analytically as one of the best teams in the league, but they never truly get that respect from the oddsmakers. It might be because they aren’t a huge market, or they don’t have that one household name superstar, but we might as well take advantage rather than try to figure out the reason.

Carolina split its opening series against the Detroit Red Wings, and I’m sure part of the reason why the Hurricanes are underdogs in this game is that they just fell flat as a -235 favorite on Saturday night against a team that was historically bad last season.

Hockey results are volatile, so it’s important to examine what’s going on under the hood, especially this early in the season.

From that perspective, there should be no reason to worry about the Hurricanes. Carolina had 67.28% of the expected goals in its first two games. Obviously, the quality of competition was low, but the Hurricanes deserved to win both games.

One thing is for certain. Carolina will have the puck in the offensive zone most of the night against almost any team it plays, and it’s proven that over the past four or five seasons.

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On the flip side, Nashville won its first two games of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they looked a lot less impressive doing it. Juuse Saros stopped 71 of Columbus’ 74 shots over the two games to help mask any potential issues the Predators were having.

In their first two games, Nashville had just 40.85% of the expected goals, losing the race 2.34-1.61. Nashville also had less than 40% of the high-danger chances compared to the Blue Jackets.

Saros is a big piece to the puzzle for the Predators this season. Last year, Nashville underperformed compared to their expectations, but a big reason for that was the poor play of Pekka Rinne and the slow start from Saros.

It appears the crease now belongs primarily to Saros, so Nashville will need him to continue his hot start.

I do think Nashville has the ability to get back to being a very good team in the league this season, but I think Carolina is a tier above it. Nashville might have the advantage in goal, but I expect the game to be spent primarily in the Predators’ defensive zone. As an underdog, I would play the Hurricanes here every time.

[Bet the Hurricanes now at BetMGM and get an INSTANT $500 deposit match.]

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