NHL Betting Picks: Our Best Bets for Tuesday’s Round 1 Games (August 11)
Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images. Pictured: Joe Pavelski #16 of the Dallas Stars.
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Round 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET with Game 1 between No. 2 Tampa Bay and No. 7 Columbus in Toronto. If the “Playoffs Proper” play out similarly to the Qualifying Round you’re going to want to hold on to your hat.
Will we saw more chaos? Or will the chalk start to come through now that the playoffs are truly starting?
Here are our favorite bets for Tuesday’s NHL games:
Sam Hitchcock: Columbus Blue Jackets (+155)
- Odds available at bet365 [Bet Now]
- Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
A forward’s access to opportunities is dependent on his defensemen. When Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman left the game against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday, it should have been a clarion call to bettors that the Columbus Blue Jackets have a good chance of upsetting the Lightning. Again.
Coach Jon Cooper had saddled Hedman with Jan Rutta and Zach Bogosian, hoping the former Norris Trophy winner could help mask the deficiencies on the right side. To Hedman’s credit, he did.
Hedman and Rutta finished with an expected goals of 63.78% in 12 minutes of ice time. In just under 18 minutes, Hedman managed to post an expected goals of 51.82% with Bogosian.
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 kludgy options if Hedman doesn’t play are Braydon Coburn or Luke Schenn. With such unappealing players as his third-pair defensemen, Cooper will be forced to rely heavily on Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh, Erik Cernak and Kevin Shattenkirk.
Unfortunately, neither Sergachev nor Shattenkirk were very good in the round robin, as they are second and first in expected goals against respectively.
All this turmoil stirs trouble when facing a Columbus Blue Jackets team that doesn’t allow much. The Blue Jackets are second in the postseason in goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, and as demonstrated against Toronto, they eke out wins by not beating themselves.
They don’t take penalties. They bring a heavy forecheck and carefully manage the puck and backcheck. They also have a defensive pairing in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski that will cause fits for Bolts star forwards Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point.
With captain Steven Stamkos’s health in doubt, along with uncertainty around Hedman, the Lightning are ripe for a rude awakening in Game 1.
Believe in John Tortorella and wait for the cannon.
Michael Leboff: Dallas Stars (-112)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
These close odds make a ton of sense. The Stars are a strong defensive team that lacks scoring teeth while Calgary is good-but-not-great at every part of the game.
I am always skeptical about betting a team because of goaltending but there are exceptions to the rule. The reason I am bullish on the Stars at this price is not just because I believe in Bishop and Khudobin, but because I believe in Dallas’s defense to give its goalies every chance to be the difference in this series.
I tend to think good defensive teams are undervalued in the betting market but most of the time those defense-first clubs are underdogs. In this case, the stingy Stars are a short favorite but I still think they are a good price. If this game was played a week ago I think Dallas would be in the -130 range. Recency bias can be a boost for a savvy bettor.
I’d play Dallas to win Game 1 at -120 or better and I’m also interested in the series price up to -125.
Pete Truszkowski: Dallas Stars (-112)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
Recency bias. A smart gambler’s best friend.
The Calgary Flames made quick work of Winnipeg. Winnipeg was arguably the worst team in these playoffs even before they lost two of their best players in game one of that series.
Dallas struggled in the round-robin, needing a shootout to pick up their only win. Thankfully for them, Calgary is not the Colorado Avalanche nor the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Stars were a top-5 team in expected goals percentage throughout the regular season, coming in at over 52.5% according to Natural Stat Trick.
They were a top-seven team in expected goals against per 60 minutes and a top-10 team in expected goals scored per 60. Calgary on the other hand was near the middle of the league in these stats, hovering around 50%.
Cam Talbot had a great series for the Flames in net against Winnipeg, posting a .945 save percentage and a 1.51 goals against average. Those numbers are obviously due for regression, but Flames fans are hoping that it holds off for another few weeks.
In the other crease, there is some uncertainty as Ben Bishop has only started one of Dallas’ three games. Bishop has practiced over the past few days so he’s inching closer to a return.
If he’s still deemed unfit to play, Anton Khudobin is likely the best back-up goalie in the league. Khudobin actually finished slightly higher than Bishop in goals saved above average according to Evolving Hockey.
Dallas has the advantage in terms of puck possession, has the better goaltender, the difference in special teams is negligible, and Dallas has the last change as the defacto home team.
Some might point to the fact that Calgary has been off since Thursday, but at this point after a four-month break, I almost feel like that’s a disadvantage.
By game three of this series, this number will be much closer to -130 than where it is now. Dallas is criminally underrated in this spot and they are my pick at anything up to -120.
Steve Petrella: Blackhawks-Knights 1P Over 1.5 (-139)
- Odds available at BetMGM [Bet Now]
- Time: 10:30 p.m. ET
That epic Blackhawks first-period streak from last season didn’t quite carry over to this year. Vegas helped take their place, going over the first period total in more than 62% of games while finishing second in goal pace in the first period behind only the Rangers.
Despite quieter first periods, this Blackhawks team still played at the highest expected goal pace in the NHL this season at 5-on-5. Vegas was fifth and boasts a deep group of forwards that was a little snakebitten based on its underlying metrics.
I don’t think this line at -139 is reflective of a full-season sample size, and is instead baking in too much “bubble slowdown” — whether that’s the poor ice or sloppy offensive starts we saw in a lot of qualifying round games.
Chicago didn’t fit that mold anyway. Despite advancing in four games against Edmonton, Chicago gave up a porous 3.09 xGoals per 60 minutes in that series. That’s almost half a goal more than any other team in the qualifying round. I don’t put too much stock into that; but the season-long metrics tell the same story.
I think this line will close north of -150, which is where I’d bet it too if you can’t grab -139 at BetMGM. We often see one-sided over action in the first period for full-game totals at 6.5.. I’ll play the 1P over for one unit to win about .71 and sprinkle a little on alternate over at 2.5 (+240 or better).