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Tuesday’s NHL Betting Odds & Picks (Jan. 21, 2020): Best Bets for Golden Knights vs. Bruins & More

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Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Keegan Kolesar, Paul Stastny

If you’ve been following along with our hockey coverage at The Action Network, you know that my NHL betting strategy is pretty heavily slanted towards underdogs. Most seasoned hockey bettors would agree with that approach.

Yesterday, the Detroit Red Wings closed as +330 underdogs in Colorado. It may be a flaw, but I almost always show value when a price gets that high in the NHL. The sport is just too volatile and random to look past a price that long; no matter how bad the Red Wings are, they at least warrant a deeper dive at that number.

I’ve been asked a few times this season why, if I’m willing to bet the Red Wings at +335, I wouldn’t want to play them on the puckline, which would give me Detroit +1.5 goals at +140.

It’s a logical question and I wouldn’t discourage anybody from landing on the puckline if they find an edge there, but my reasoning is that if an underdog — especially a big one — plays well enough to keep the game close, wouldn’t you want the extra value on the moneyline?


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Everybody has a different approach to betting, but that’s how I look at it. Plus, ignoring the other derivative markets — pucklines, over/unders, team totals, etc. — over the past two seasons has helped me hone in on what works for me in the NHL, which is playing moneylines (mostly underdogs) at a pretty high volume. That’s why even though I am 55 games under .500 betting (329-384) on the NHL, I’ve still returned 41.3 units since the beginning of last season (current as of Monday).

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at Tuesday night’s five-game slate.

Vegas Golden Knights at Boston Bruins

  • Golden Knights odds: +125
  • Bruins odds: -145
  • Over/Under: 6
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET

This could be a potential Stanley Cup preview. There are plenty of other contenders, but the Bruins and Golden Knights are definitely on the shortlist as we approach All-Star Weekend.

On the surface everything checks out with Boston. The B’s have been in first place in the Atlantic Division all season, they have the fourth-best points percentage in the league and they have only allowed 81 goals at 5-on-5 this season (tied for second-fewest).

Everything looks fine for Boston under the hood, as well. Even though Boston’s 51.3% expected goals rate (xG%) is a little lower than usual, the Bruins are still allowing a league-best 2.01 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and their expected goals rate has steadily climbed since the holidays. Over the past month, the B’s boast a 55.1% expected goals share.

In other words, it looks like another trademark Bruins’ regular season.

Things are a bit more hectic in Vegas. The Knights are just one point off the Pacific Division lead, but are also only three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and Chicago Blackhawks, who are tied for ninth-place in the wide-open Western Conference.

Vegas was expected to be one of the elite teams in the West again in 2019-20, but some unfortunate circumstances has kept the Knights from running away from the pack in the relatively weak Pacific Division. Those bad breaks ended up costing Gerard Gallant, the only head coach in Golden Knights’ history until last week, his job. Letting go of Gallant was a rash move even if the Knights were not getting the results they were expecting. All of Vegas’ predictive stats look promising.

Not only do the Knights have the second-best expected goals rate in the league at 54.9%, they generate more expected goals (2.84) and high-danger scoring chances (12.1) per 60 minutes than any team in the NHL. Vegas grades out as above average defensively, and that should be enough for a team with such a potent offense.

Heatmap via HockeyViz.com

Of course creating opportunities and scoring goals are not the same thing, which is why the Knights aren’t further up the ladder. The Knights are shooting just 7.5% at even strength, which explains why Vegas is averaging 2.47 goals per 60 this season.

The good news is that Vegas is already starting to see some more biscuits hit the basket. Over the past month (13 games), the Knights are averaging 2.82 goals on 3.02 expected goals per 60 minutes and have the second-best expected goals rate (57.4%) during that span. Unfortunately, the Knights are still not getting any help from their goaltenders.

For years, Marc-Andre Fleury has been among the most reliable goaltenders in the NHL. This season has been different for “Flower.” The 35-year-old netminder owns a -8.7 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) and .906 save percentage in 35 games this season. Malcolm Subban hasn’t been as bad as Fleury, but his -2.7 GSAx isn’t providing much cover for Fleury’s poor play. There’s a saying in hockey, “show me a great coach and I’ll show you a great goalie.” Poor Gerard Gallant.

By the numbers, these are two of the best five or six teams in the entire NHL and I don’t think there’s really all that much that separates them. This will be a strength vs. strength matchup between one of the league’s best offenses and perhaps its best defense. No matter how you shake it, there’s really not that much that separates these two teams so I think the odds, which imply Boston wins this game 57.1% of the time, are a little too wide.

Pick: Golden Knights +125

Around the League

The Winnipeg Jets (+150) have the worst expected goals rate in the NHL by a wide margin and are playing one of the league’s best 5-on-5 teams, the Carolina Hurricanes (-180), on Tuesday night. The Jets have plenty of skill to make up for poor play at 5-on-5, but they’ve been found out over the past few months and have dropped out of a playoff spot.

That being said, the Hurricanes have hit a bit of a rough patch over the last month. Not only does Carolina have the 22nd-best xG% in that span, it also is allowing the second-most expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. The only team allowing more is Winnipeg. I’m hoping to see the price on the Jets climb towards +160, but I will likely take a stab on the Jets at anything north of +155.

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