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NHL Saturday (Jan. 4) Betting Odds and Picks: The Kings Are Flying Under the Radar

NHL Saturday (Jan. 4) Betting Odds and Picks: The Kings Are Flying Under the Radar article feature image

Juan Ocampo/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Anze Kopitar

Nashville Predators at Los Angeles Kings odds

  • Predators odds: -135
  • Kings odds: +115
  • Over/Under: 5.5
  • Time: 10:30 p.m. ET

Odds as of Friday evening and via PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.

Almost every team in the NHL will be at, or beyond, the halfway point of their season by the time Saturday ends. We’re at the top of the stretch and teams are beginning to get serious about getting themselves set up for a run at a playoff spot or a tanking for the draft lottery.

One unintended consequence of separating the league into contenders and tankers is that mediocre teams often get overlooked. But as a bettor, you can give yourself an advantage by keeping tabs on squads that casual bettors and on-air experts ignore. Most people won’t want to bet on bad teams and that can lead to a less efficient market, which in turn creates good betting opportunities.

One team that fits that bill this season are the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings are in second-to-last place in the Western Conference, but that only tells a fraction of the story.

LA comes into Saturday’s game with the seventh-best expected goals rate in the NHL thanks to an offense that is generating the fourth-most expected goals and seventh-most high-danger scoring chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

Creating chances is all well and good, but the Kings lack the scoring talent to make good on these opportunities. The Kings have the third-worst shooting percentage at 5-on-5, which goes a long way in explaining why the Kings are only scoring 2.1 goals per 60 despite averaging 2.56 expected goals per hour.

The Kings aren’t as impressive in their own zone as they are going forward, but there’s a lot to like about this team defensively. It has the eighth-best xGA/60 and allows the 11th-fewest high-danger chances at 5-on-5 in the league.

The Kings aren’t bad, they just don’t have enough good players. Also, their goaltending has been terrible.

According to Evolving Hockey’s Goals Saved Above Expectations statistic (GSAx), Jonathan Quick (-10.3) and Jack Campbell (-6.4) have cost the Kings nearly 17 goals this season. With just average goaltending and shooting, LA could be in the mix for a playoff spot.

Heatmap via

The Nashville Predators are a weird group. The Preds have pretty strong defensive metrics, but they typically play in high-scoring contests. Games involving the Predators average 6.72 total goals, which is the third-highest mark in the NHL.

Even so Nashville profiles as a defense-first team and is the seventh-best team in the league at preventing expected goals and eighth-best at preventing high-danger scoring chances.

Like the Kings, the Predators have received zero help from their goaltenders, which is surprising considering how strong Pekka Rinne has been for Nashville over the years. This season has been an entirely different story, as Rinne owns the second-worst GSAx of any goaltender this season.

You’d expect Rinne’s play to regress towards the mean over the season, but the Predators are also shooting hot, scoring 3.1 goals per 60 minutes on just 2.37 expected goals per 60 minutes (5-on-5).

The odds imply that the Predators defeat the Kings 44.7% of the time. When you adjust that for home-ice (4.9% in NHL), you’d get the Predators as roughly -165 favorites on neutral ice. And that’s without top-pair defenseman Ryan Ellis.

Even though Nashville has a significant skill advantage, these teams aren’t too far apart in terms of 5-on-5 play. I think the Kings are worth a shot at +110 or better.

Around the League

I’ve loved betting on the Columbus Blue Jackets (-150) over the past couple of weeks but the price on the Jackets against the struggling San Jose Sharks (+130) is too high. The Jackets are masters at turning games into defensive showdowns and boast a much better expected goals rate than the Sharks, but Columbus isn’t good enough to be this short against a team with more talent.

I suspect the price on the New York Islanders (+140) will climb a bit against the red-hot Toronto Maple Leafs (-165). The Leafs are in terrific form under Sheldon Keefe while the Isles have been inconsistent over the past month and just lost top-pair defenseman Adam Pelech for the season.

At their best, the Islanders muddy things up and turn games into coin flips with solid structure. That style gives the Isles a fighting chance against better teams like the Leafs, who are comfortable in track meets.

Toronto is still a bit leaky on defense, so the Islanders should have a few opportunities in this game. If the Isles can make good on them and get a good defensive effort, they should be in this one.

Betting is all about price, but I always like backing strong defensive teams at these type off odds and think the Islanders are already in range at +140. However, I’m going to see if I can wait out the market and hope more money comes in on the Leafs.

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