NHL Betting Odds and Picks (Saturday, March 7): Capitals vs. Penguins, Sabres vs. Flyers and More
Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Flyers mascot Gritty.
- The Capitals and Penguins will meet for a matinee matchup and the Pens are favored on their home ice (-130).
- Michael Leboff previews Saturday's matchup as well as the rest of the NHL slate, assessing where to find the best betting value.
- Find his analysis and picks below.
A few weeks ago, I was feeling really good about my Pittsburgh Penguins +2500 Stanley Cup future. The Pens were playing lights out hockey, especially on defense, and they were missing several key players — including Sidney Crosby. They were surging and it looked like they had only one way to go.
Then the wheels fell off.
Pittsburgh closed out February by losing six straight games in regulation, including losses against doormats like Buffalo, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim. What was more alarming was that Pittsburgh, a team that had sparkling 5-on-5 metrics for a long time, was getting caved in at even strength. Somehow the Penguins posted the second-worst expected goals rate (44.1%) in the NHL during the month of February.
It made very little sense.
At the beginning of February it looked like the Penguins would run away with the Metropolitan Division. Now, they will need to catch both Washington and Philadelphia if they want to grab the top seed in the Metro.
The Penguins, who have won two in a row over Ottawa and Buffalo since their six-game skid, host the Capitals in a matinee on Saturday.
Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
Capitals odds: +110
Penguins odds: -130
Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: NHL Network
February didn’t treat the Washington Capitals all that well, either.
The Caps, who scorched their way through the first half of the season, have been a pedestrian bunch over their last 25 games, going 12-11-2 with a 49.3% expected goals rate in that span. The Caps are always a threat because of their immense talent, but there is some cause for concern in D.C.
Washington’s most immediate problems are on defense, where the Caps allow 2.52 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. The Capitals can outscore their defensive issues, but Pittsburgh’s defense grades out as the seventh-best unit in the NHL this season by expected goals.
The Penguins have been scuffling, but I’d still consider them a better team than Washington and would make them a slight favorite over the Caps in a vacuum. These odds imply the opposite. I see value on Pittsburgh at -130, but I wouldn’t go any deeper than that.
Around the League
Fading the Philadelphia Flyers (-230) has not worked out for anybody lately. Not only are the Flyers riding an eight-game winning streak, but they have been lights out at 5-on-5 since the beginning of February. The Flyers boast a 55.9% expected goals rate and are scoring 3.54 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in their last 16 games.
Philadelphia’s winning streak should continue on Saturday night, as the Flyers are big favorites to beat the Buffalo Sabres (+190).
There were plenty of good times this season to fade the Sabres. Their hot start was a mirage and inflated their price in the first quarter of the season, but lately the Sabres have been undervalued. Buffalo doesn’t create offense, it averages 2.05 xGF/60 (29th), but the Sabres are solid defensively.
Stepping in front of a red-hot team isn’t ever fun, but it’s especially terrible when you are doing it by backing a bad team like Buffalo. Still, I think the Sabres win this game more than 33.1% of the time, so I see some value on the Sabres.
The Montreal Canadiens (+115) have been out of the playoff picture for quite some time and it looks like the Florida Panthers (-135) are hellbent on joining them. The Cats were neck-and-neck with the Maple Leafs for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division up until the Trade Deadline but since then they’ve fallen off the path.
Montreal has the third-best expected goals rate in the NHL this season and the Habs have only been trending up with a 57.1% xG rate over their last 17 games. The Panthers, on the other hand, have earned 48.2% of the expected goals this season and are operating at 46.1% in their last 18 games.
Even if they have a little less to play for, I would make the Habs a favorite on neutral ice over the Panthers but these odds suggest the opposite. I like Montreal at +110 or better.
The price on the New Jersey Devils (+155) could also get to the point where it interests me. The New York Rangers (-180) are flying high and their offense has been on fire for the past month, but the defense remains a bit of a question mark.
This could be a good spot to sell-high on the exciting Rangers.