NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets for Capitals vs. Islanders and Blackhawks vs. Golden Knights (Tuesday’s Aug. 18)

Credit:

Jeff Vinnick, Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Crawford, Alex Tuch

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  • Our hockey experts are targeting three bets across three different games, including a player prop, team total and a series bet.
  • Check out the analysis and bets they are making for those games below.

It’s an elimination day in the NHL Bubble.

The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks could both be sent home with a loss on Tuesday and both clubs are underdogs in their respective matchup.

Monday was a great day for the chalk in the NHL as favorites went 4-0. Will the dogs bark on Tuesday?

Check out our favorite bets for Tuesday’s NHL action:

Michael Leboff: Montreal Canadiens to win series (+380)

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

The Montreal Canadiens are hanging with the Philadelphia Flyers. The Habs are down, 2-1, in the best-of-7 series and are +380 to advance (20.8% implied probability), but there is a lot to like about the way they are playing in this series.

Playing well but not getting results is par for the course for Montreal. Despite finishing with the 24th-best points percentage in the NHL, the Habs ended the regular season with the third-best expected goals rate in the league. Only five teams spent more time with a lead than the Canadiens during the regular season.

Poor goaltending and finishing doomed the Habs to a mediocre record, but this was a much better team than people realized over the course of the entire season.


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 good news is that the Habs are getting great goaltending from Carey Price so far. The bad news is that they still don’t have enough scoring talent to take advantage of their ability to drive play. Carter Hart’s heroics in goal for the Flyers aren’t helping, either.

Montreal has scored six goals in the first three games against Philadelphia but five of those tallies came via a five-goal outburst in Game 2.

I was skeptical of the Flyers going into this series and nothing I’ve seen so far has really changed my tune. Philadelphia is lucky to be up in this series, so I’ll take a shot on Montreal to pull off the comeback.

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

Pete Truszkowski: New York Islanders Team Total over 2.5 (-122)

  • Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
  • Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET

Which team has looked strongest thus far in the NHL’s Return to Play? It’s hard to argue against the New York Islanders.

New York made quick work of the Florida Panthers in the qualifying round and now has the Washington Capitals on the brink of elimination heading into Game 4.

It hasn’t been a fluke either for the Isles as they are fourth in expected goals percentage of remaining playoff teams. The only teams ahead of them are Vegas, Tampa Bay and Colorado; three of the NHL’s elite teams. The Isles are first in terms of high-danger scoring chance percentage.

In terms of actual raw numbers, the Isles are third in terms of expected goals scored per 60 minutes at 2.46, third in scoring chances per hour and second in high danger chances per 60.

The Isles have developed a reputation as a defense-first team that turns games into ugly, grind-fests. This is usually true, but so far in these playoffs the Isles are playing with the puck in the offensive zone, generating high-quality scoring opportunities and keeping other teams at bay.

The Islanders scored four goals in Game 1, five goals in Game 2, but were limited to just two in Game 3. However, a deeper look shows that their expected goals-for number in Game 3 (2.29) was actually their highest of the series. They also had 26 scoring chances which was an improvement on the 22 they had in the first two games.

The difference was that Braden Holtby actually performed well in Game 3, stopping 32-of-34 shots. Holtby had a .897 save percentage in the regular season and has a .902 save percentage thus far in this series. Those numbers are well below expectations for even an average NHL goalie.

In an elimination game, I expect Washington to take more chances than normal and they’re already allowing the Isles a tremendous amount of opportunities against a below-average goalie.

I would take the Islanders on the moneyline, but if Washington does stave off elimination, it’ll be in a higher scoring game. Either way, I see the Isles scoring some goals whether it’s in a 4-2 win or 5-3 loss.

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

Sam Hitchcock: Alex Tuch To Score (+225)

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

Alex Tuch on the Vegas Golden Knights is my guilty pleasure. I know his advanced stats were wretched this year. In 2019-20, he scored only eight goals in 42 games.

Considering Tuch was drafted in the first round and tore up both the Hockey East and AHL, it is slightly disappointing for him to be toiling in the Vegas bottom-six forward group in his prime.

But then I see what he can do on individual sequences and I’m left swooning. To be able to skate and handle the puck at his size; Tuch has spurts of play where he slices through defenses.

Against the Blackhawks, only Jonathan Marchessault has collected more shots and shot attempts. Tuch’s line with Nick Cousins and Nicolas Roy was absolutely buzzing in Game 4, generating nine shots at 5-on-5 and only allowing one.

They finished with the best expected goals of any Golden Knights’ forward trio. Tuch has yet to score in the series, but he has been finding the back of the net in the postseason, accruing three goals in seven games.

Vegas will have the last change in Game 5 but coach Peter DeBoer just rolls his lines. Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton will be focused on trying to stop the dynamic top-six forwards for Vegas, which means Tuch won’t be seeing the Jonathan Toews line.

Instead, Tuch will be used against Patrick Kane’s line or the pitiable Chicago bottom-six forwards. To spell it out, Tuch will have plenty of scoring chances. At +225 to score on DraftKings, the price makes sense to invest in an electric talent playing a vulnerable Blackhawks defense.

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

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