Leboff’s NHL Betting Picks: Best Bets for All 6 Qualifying Round Games on Tuesday (Aug. 4)

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Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images.

We’re starting to get into the business end of the Qualifying Round for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Three series are knotted, 1-1, one team is on the brink of elimination and Connor McDavid is scoring at will.

The excitement continues on Tuesday with six Qualifying Round games beginning at 12 p.m. ET and going deep into the night.


The point of this article is to give readers some quick-and-actionable tips on each game, in case you don’t have time to take a deep dive into my game previews. If you’d like to dig into each matchup in more detail, you know with numbers and stuff, you can find those previews here:

Florida Panthers vs. New York Islanders

12 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Despite New York’s well-earned victory on Saturday the market views Game 2 as a virtual coin flip with the Islanders at -121 (52.9% implied probability). Oftentimes oddsmakers and bettors overreact to Game 1 and that hasn’t seemed to happen here for one reason or another.

Part of the less-than-dramatic shift could have to do with the fact that the Islanders have been a tough team for models to figure out in Barry Trotz’s two seasons. The Isles don’t blow anybody away, especially offensively, but their commitment to structure makes them really hard to beat and that is not something that models can quantify.

I thought the prices in Game 1 were pretty fair for this matchup. The Islanders closed between -115 and -127 and I’d expect them to be in that range again for Game 2.

Like I said before Game 1, the Panthers are not all that appealing to me at these odds. Florida’s got enough starpower up top and potentially in goal to give the Panthers a high ceiling, but if I’m going to take a risk with a bet on a team like this in a tournament setup, I want to be rewarded.

I don’t think the Islanders will have that much value for this game but if you’re going to be watching this game and are looking for action, I’d back the Islanders at the current odds, but would try to find something closer to -120 than -130.

Pick: New York Islanders -120 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Nashville Predators vs. Arizona Coyotes

2:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network

A three-goal outburst by the Arizona Coyotes in the first period flipped the script in Game 1 on Sunday. The Yotes are not an offense to be feared, so spotting them three goals in the first 20 minutes doomed the Predators to a game of catch-up, needing to score at least four times against Darcy Kuemper, one of the NHL’s best goaltenders over the past two seasons.

Nashville came close to drawing even a few times, but Kuemper made the big saves Arizona relies on him to make to keep the game from going to overtime.

The expected goals report from the game shows that Arizona was a bit fortunate to get the win and that Nashville was the better 5-on-5 team. The Preds created 1.54 xG at 5-on-5 while the Coyotes only generated 0.92.

The Predators played a better overall game than the Coyotes but Kuemper played better than Juuse Saros, and in hockey that’s all you need sometimes.


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.


Kuemper is Arizona’s ace in the hole and the Coyotes were always going to need a big performance from him to have a chance in this series, but relying on goaltending is a dangerous game to play. Goalie play is incredibly fickle and just because Kuemper looked good in Game 1 doesn’t mean he’ll play well in Game 2. Vice versa for Saros.

The Coyotes closed between +115 and +120 in Game 1 and by the looks of it will close a bit higher in Game 2. I thought Arizona was the value side in Game 1, so I’ll take the bump in price for Tuesday’s matinee.

Pick: Arizona +115 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Toronto Maple Leafs

4 p.m. ET, NBCSN

As soon as this matchup was made official I knew the Jackets would be offered at good prices throughout the playoffs. Not only was Columbus underrated on a nightly basis, but the opposite was true of the Maple Leafs. Toronto has more talent than just about any other team in the league, but the Leafs could never put everything together and they showed flaws throughout the regular season, most specifically on defense.

Toronto is good enough to outscore its defensive mistakes in plenty of matchups but that task becomes a lot tougher against a team like Columbus, which doesn’t give up anything in its own zone.

That’s why it’s Toronto’s defense, not Columbus’ that is the great equalizer in this series. Columbus is relentless on the forecheck and the Jackets make their cookies by getting the puck deep and forcing opposing defenses into mistakes.

Luckily for the Jackets, the Leafs are a mistake-prone team and their high-risk, high-reward style can bite them if they can’t generate enough offense to blow the doors off a team.

Toronto is still the better team and more likely to win Game 2, but once again I’d think twice before backing the Leafs in this matchup. It’s a stylistic nightmare for the Buds.

After closing between +135 and +140 for Game 1, the Jackets have caught a little bit of respect in the early betting for Game 2. Columbus is listed between +125 (bet365, PointsBet) and +135 (FanDuel) for Tuesday’s matinee. I do think that most bettors will back Toronto to even up the series, so I’m going to wait out the market and see where the Jackets line ends up before getting involved.

Even if the line doesn’t nudge up closer to +140 I’m going to back Columbus in this game and would say there’s value on the Jackets at +130 or better.

The Pick: Columbus Blue Jackets +130 or better

[Bet now at FanDuel. NJ, PA, CO, IN and WV only.]

Winnipeg Jets vs. Calgary Flames

6:45 p.m. ET, NHL Network

After posting the worst 5-on-5 metrics in the NHL during the regular season the Winnipeg Jets’ expected goals rate is above 50% in their series against the Flames.

Do I think that Winnipeg has suddenly figured it out? Absolutely not. But you can’t deny that the Jets have looked like an improved bunch through the first two games of this five-game set.

That improvement may not stick, but even if the Jets can keep things respectable at even strength, they are dangerous in this series. Winnipeg’s got a huge advantage in goal with Connor Hellebuyck, so any step they can take at evening things up in other areas of the game is a big deal in a tight matchup.

The odds for this series have ping-ponged a bit, though that’s partly due to the fact that the Jets lost two of their best players in the middle of Game 1. Mark Scheifele and Patrik Laine didn’t play in Game 2 and the Jets were coming off a 4-1 defeat, so it wasn’t surprising to see their price shoot up ahead of Monday’s win.

Winnipeg Jets Calgary Flames
Game 1 +105 -125
Game 2 +135 -160
Game 3 +125 -145

Even though the Jets are hanging around the +125 range at most sportsbooks on Monday night, I expect their odds to tick up closer to where they were ahead of Game 2.

I’d be patient and hope this price gets north of +130, but if it doesn’t I’ll stake a chance on Winnipeg at +125.

The Pick: Winnipeg Jets +125 or better

[Bet now at FanDuel. NJ, PA, CO, IN and WV only.]

New York Rangers vs. Carolina Hurricanes

8 p.m. ET, NBCSN

If you’ve watched the first two games of this series betting on the Rangers is probably the last thing you want to do, but the tough reality of betting is that you’re going to be betting on bad or out-of-form teams quite a bit. Get used to it.

As you’d expect, the price on the Rangers has ticked up with each game. I wouldn’t be surprised if it continues to soar as I don’t imagine many bettors will be rushing to the window to bet a team in disarray.

New York Rangers Carolina Hurricanes
Game 1 +120 -139
Game 2 +123 -141
Game 3 +125 -148

It’s certainly not a fun bet to make, but the Rangers look like they’ll be a good value in this game. I thought there was value on the Rangers at +125 on Monday, so there’s no reason not to go back to the well on Tuesday.

I wouldn’t blame anybody for walking away from this bet because there’s certainly a chance that the Rangers come out flat and wave the white flag, but I think the price is good enough to take that risk.

I’d advise being patient and waiting to see if this price goes up. Like I said, I don’t see the Rangers attracting much betting support on Tuesday, so there’s a chance we could see a +130 pop on the Blueshirts.

The Pick: New York Rangers +125 or better

[Bet now at DraftKings. CO, NJ, PA, IN and WV only.]

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

10:45 p.m. ET, USA

Stylistically, the Canucks are a team that relies on creating chances by establishing offensive zone time with their cycle game. Wear defenses down, get the puck to one of their snazzy playmakers and let him pick out the right pass or shot to create a scoring chance.

The bad news is that Vancouver doesn’t have the depth to have an effective Plan B. If Minnesota shuts down Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller the Canucks don’t really have an answer.

That’s why I thought Vancouver was a false favorite in this series. Game 1 was a virtual pick ’em but the Wild are favorites across-the-board for Game 2. That isn’t surprising since Minnesota was much better in Game 1 and there was a lot of movement toward Minnesota before the curtain-raiser.

I like the Wild at -115 (PointsBet, bet365) and would pay up to -120 in Game 2, but I would get those bets in ASAP as I expect Minnesota to get more expensive as we get closer to puck drop.

Pick: Minnesota Wild -120 or better

[Bet now at PointsBet. NJ and IN only.]

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