NHL Daily Picks & Best Bets (Tuesday, April 27): How We’re Betting Panthers vs. Predators, Blackhawks vs. Lightning & More
Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Victor Hedman
There are some desperate hockey clubs in action on Tuesday night. The New York Rangers basically need to win out to keep their hopes alive. The Chicago Blackhawks are in the same boat. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators are neck-and-neck in the battle for the final spot in the Central Division. And at the same time you’ve got all four of the teams in the playoff spots in the East Division playing one another in a pair of pick’ems.
Here are our favorite bets for what should be a terrific night of NHL action:
Michael Leboff: Detroit Red Wings (+123) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are both headed to the draft lottery. They both traded away key contributors at the deadline. And they both have top-of-the-roster players out for the season through injury. In other words, this is an ugly game.
While I doubt that Red Wings-Blue Jackets will break any ratings — or betting handle — records, I do think there is some value on this game.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been a huge disappointment in 2021. A saga off the ice and a bad team on it, the Jackets have skated to a league-worst 44.2% expected goals rate at 5-on-5 this season and only the Buffalo Sabres sport a worse 5-on-5 goal differential.
Over the past few seasons the Jackets have built a reputation of a team that overachieves by playing well-structured, defensive hockey. That style of play kept them in games against much more talented opposition and allowed them to pull off some very notable upsets. That structure has completely abandoned the Jackets this season as they rank 26th in goals against, 28th in 5-on-5 goals against and 20th in expected goals against.
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.
Those kind of defensive numbers make the Blue Jackets a vulnerable favorite, no matter the opposition. The Red Wings, who rank 30th in 5-on-5 scoring and 30th in expected goals for, are not an offense to be feared but I won’t count them out against this unmotivated and struggling Columbus defense, even without Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi. Plus, the Jackets are the only team in the NHL that creates fewer expected goals per 60 minutes than the Red Wings, so I don’t think we’ll see the Jackets run away and hide in this one.
These two teams are pretty much equals at this point in the season and I’d actually make Detroit a favorite on neutral ice considering the extenuating circumstances. I like the Wings at +120 or better on Tuesday night.
Pete Truszkowski: Red Wings-Blue Jackets Under 5.5
On a night with marquee matchups such as Isles/Caps, Stars/Hurricanes and Bruins/Penguins, we’re going to the wonderful city of Columbus, Ohio for our best bet.
After selling off at the trade deadline, the Columbus Blue Jackets have lost nine straight games. Detroit has been more competitive, but they’ve also been losing more than they are winning.
Both teams are struggling in the standings, and the main reason for that is their lack of ability to put the puck in the net. Both Detroit and Columbus rank in the bottom three in goals scored per hour at 5-on-5 and you can’t say they’re getting unlucky, as both clubs also rank inside the bottom three in expected goals per hour.
At all strengths, Detroit is scoring just 2.28 goals per game, while Columbus narrowly edges them out at 2.38 goals a night. Only the Anaheim Ducks are scoring fewer goals. Special teams aren’t helping these teams as both teams are converting under 15% of their powerplays into goals. This puts both teams squarely in the bottom five of the league.
While neither team is great defensively, both clubs find themselves more towards the middle of the pack than the bottom of the league in key defensive metrics. Thomas Greiss has rebounded after a poor start between the pipes for Detroit while Jonathan Bernier is coming off a 50-save performance on Saturday. Elvis Merzlikins has been average for the Blue Jackets, but it’s hard to see Detroit taking advantage.
Both teams have also shut down key offensive contributors as the Red Wings will be without Dylan Larkin for the rest of the season while Columbus has announced Gustav Nyquist will not return this season. There’s not much else in terms of offensive firepower on these rosters.
These teams have struggled to score all season and I expect that to continue on Tuesday. I’d make sure to get in while the total is at 5.5 because I can easily see this total closing at a flat 5 goals.
Nicholas Martin: New Jersey Devils (+112) vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
Against some tough competition, New Jersey has managed 10 straight losses, with five coming against a scorching hot Penguins club and four versus a Rangers group that has really found their stride and are in excellent form. Despite the results, New Jersey’s underlying numbers remain positive, with an 52.05% expected goals rate during the 10-game snafu.
The Devils had a good chance to break their schneid against some more manageable competition on Sunday. New Jersey was the better bunch overall and controlled play for much of the first 58 minutes against the Flyers, yet managed a shocking collapse as Claude Giroux scored twice in the final two minutes to tie the game en route to an eventual 4-3 shootout win for Philadelphia. The Devils ended the game with a +0.86 xG differential and a +4 differential in terms of high-danger scoring chances.
The Flyers have managed a solid 3-2-1 record over their last six, but I am not chalking it up to improved play, they have simply managed better results as is the nature of hockey. The Flyers have still been outscored, 17-13, over that span and have skated to a 47.86% xG rate.
The young Devils certainly have a long way to go in terms of learning the intricacies of winning, but at this price I am willing to take a chance that they will control the play similar to Sunday’s matchup and find a way to finally close out a win.
Mike Ianniello: Florida Panthers-Nashville Predators Over 5.5 Goals
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
The Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators will play the back-end of a back-to-back on Tuesday night, which means we will likely see a pair of backup goaltenders.
Both of these teams have seen a big drop off between their two netminders this season. Chris Driedger started Monday but was forced to exit the game in the second period with a lower body injury. Sergei Bobrovsky entered the game for Driedger and allowed two goals on his first four shots. He is expected to get the start on Tuesday. Bobrovsky has a .908 save percentage and -5.3 Goals Saved Above Expectation on the season. He has a 2.83 goals against average and has allowed three or more goals in four of his last five starts.
Juuse Saros has been fantastic for the Predators, but he started on Monday which means we likely see Pekka Rinne in net Tuesday. The longtime veteran has a 9-12-1 record this year and a .902 save percentage. Rinne has a 2.97 goals against average and -11.9 GSAx, the seventh-worst in the league. He allowed five and six goals in his last two starts against Florida.
The Florida Panthers rank eighth in the league in goals per game and both of these teams sit in the top 10 in xGF. In last night’s game, these two teams combined for 67 shots on goal (40 for Florida, 27 for Nashville) and 22 high-danger scoring chances (14 for Florida, 8 for Nashville).
With two good offenses, and each team starting their weaker goalie in net, I will back the Over 5.5 up to -125.
Matt Russell: Chicago Blackhawks (+175 ) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
Who feels like getting a little loose on a Tuesday?! As someone who has focused this season on the North (idle tonight) and Central Divisions, there’s four games to choose from when it comes to selecting a “Best Bet”. My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, (somewhat thankfully) doesn’t show any value on either the Blue Jackets or Red Wings. The other two games are rematches from Monday night so there’s not much in the way of value there as the market has had some extra time to pound those prices into place. So, as they say, we live here now.
The Lightning’s chances for first place have taken a hit in the last few weeks as they’ve gone 8-8 in their last 16 games. Again, good enough for a playoff team, but not upper echelon. In that time, the Lightning’s rating in my model has dropped from better than 13% above-average at even-strength to slightly worse than 9%. That’s a result of this 16-game stretch where they’ve only been 2.2% above-average compared to the rest of the division.
The Chicago Blackhawks metrics are the scariest part about them, and not in a way that strikes fear in their opponents. At even strength this season, my model sees Chicago as almost 13% below average thanks to surrendering nearly 100 more High-Danger Chances (HDC) than their opponents. A HDC difference of 94 and an Expected Goal Share of 46% doesn’t grade out well.
Once we throw all those numbers together with market pricing averages, the LDTH model makes the implied probability of Chicago winning this game at 41.7%. That translates to a true moneyline of +140. As something of a rule, I’m looking for at least a 3% edge when backing an underdog and it looks like we’ll get that here, as anything better than +160 qualifies as a bet on the home underdog. Let’s get weird, Windy City!