NHL Betting Picks: Our Favorite Bets for Bruins vs. Lightning & Canucks vs. Golden Knights (Sunday, August 23)

Credit:

Elsa, Getty Images. Pictured: Brayden Point

Sunday’s NHL slate features two very different games.

Boston and Tampa Bay get things started at 8 p.m. ET in a pick ’em between the two strongest teams in the NHL. The Bruins and Lightning were the preseason favorites, so it’s no wonder that the odds for this game — and series — are so tight.

The odds for the nightcap are not nearly as close as the juggernaut Vegas Golden Knights take on the exciting-but-flawed Vancouver Canucks.

Here are our favorite bets for Sunday night’s NHL action:

Michael Leboff: Tampa Bay Lightning (-108)

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

The Boston Bruins are a stylistic nightmare for almost every team in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning are one of the few teams equipped for the challenge that Boston presents.

The Bruins are the best defensive team in the NHL. They make it difficult to get through the neutral zone, and if you do happen to get a puck in deep, the B’s have plenty of puck-movers to escape trouble quickly and start a counterattack.

Creating offense against Boston is hard. Just ask the Carolina Hurricanes, who mustered just 1.62 expected goals per 60 minutes against the Bruins in Round 1.

Creating offense against the Tampa Bay Lightning is also hard. The Lightning are known for their offensive sizzle, but their defense can’t be overlooked.

Tampa Bay ranked sixth in goals allowed per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the season, and their expected goals suggested they deserved even better than that.

The numbers show that this matchup is pretty close to a wash.

5-on-5 Stat Boston Tampa Bay
Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.56 2.96
Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 1.88 2.21
Expected Goals For Per 60 Minutes 2.22 2.44
Expected Goals Against Per 60 Minutes 1.98 2.02
Shot Attempts For Per 60 Minutes 56 57.8
Shot Attempts Allowed Per 60 Minutes 51.81 50.4
High-Danger Chances For Per 60 Minutes 9.73 11.2
High-Danger Chances Against Per 60 Minutes 8.97 9.1

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 Bruins have shown they can beat just about anyone by playing their game, but I think the Lightning have more paths to success in this one. This is a versatile bunch that can adapt to any style of play.

The Bolts can stand up to the B’s in a defensive battle, but if the game goes off the rails, that favors the Lightning. Tampa’s offense is deeper and creates more scoring chances than Boston’s at 5-on-5. That could be the difference.

I like Tampa at -110 or better for Game 1 and -112 or better to win the series.

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Sam Hitchcock: Boston Bruins (-108)

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

One way to view this series is in terms of matchups. The Lightning will have the last line change in Game 1, which spotlights how their two best scoring forwards will fare against Boston’s best defensive pairing, which hermetically seals everything. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy will do everything in his power to make sure Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug are on the ice at the same time as the Point line.

Asserting dominance against Carlo and Krug is a tall task. In the 34 minutes that Carolina’s Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen played against Carlo and Krug, they were outshot 13-11. The Bruins achieved a 56.52% expected goals when their shutdown pair played against the Hurricanes’ top line.

Another matchup to consider is the Anthony Cirelli line against Boston’s Patrice Bergeron trio. Bergeron and Brad Marchand finished the series against Carolina with a 58.54% expected goals. When the duo was on the ice, they outshot Carolina by 20.

But one aspect bears mentioning. In the 25 minutes David Pastrnak played with Bergeron and Marchand in the Carolina series, the production for the line was diminished — Boston had a 46.80% expected goals when these three played together, and Carolina collected more shot attempts.

If Steven Stamkos were healthy, I think a very convincing case could be made for the Lightning. But without the captain, the argument can be boiled down to three questions. Can Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov create offense against Carlo and Krug? Will the Anthony Cirelli line stall the Bergeron line? Is Andrei Vasilevskiy capable of swinging this series?

When framed that way, I like Boston’s chances. As important as the Lightning’s Yanni Gourde line was against Columbus, the Bruins will be very capable of smothering their forechecking game with their surgical breakout and heavy backpressure. For my mind, Boston being priced at -108 is a gift to bettors. Enjoy the spoils.

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

Pete Truszkowski: Vancouver/Vegas over 5.5 goals (-113)

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

The Vancouver Canucks have had to run a defensive gauntlet to get to this point of the NHL Playoffs. Both the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild ranked inside the top-10 in expected goals against during the regular season. Guess what? Vegas finished ninth in xGA/60.

Vancouver has succeeded so far by surviving long spells in its own zone and then punishing its opponents on the counterattack. The Canucks’ speed and skill shines through on the rush, while Vegas is more determined to play a half-court offense.

In addition, the Canucks had a top-five power play during the regular season and are converting on over 26% of their opportunities in the postseason. Vegas also had a top-10 power play during the regular season. If the refs get involved in this story, both units are capable of posting a crooked number.

We know Vegas will find its fair share of chances and spend a lot of time throwing rubber at Jacob Markstrom. That’s what Vegas does. Vancouver doesn’t have much of a prayer of changing that.

However, the Canucks are coming off a gutsy victory over the Blues, while the Knights coasted past the Blackhawks. Don’t be surprised if Vancouver pushes the pace and opens up the game up by grabbing an early lead.

There are a lot of signs pointing the Over 5.5 here. Two strong power plays. Two teams that can light it up in different ways. And the potential of the underdog opening up the game by grabbing an early lead.

I think we are going to get goals in this game.

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