NHL Daily Odds & Picks (Thursday, May 6): Our Best Bets for Devils vs. Islanders, Bruins vs. Rangers, Leafs vs. Canadiens & More
Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Darnell Nurse
Things have gotten quite spicy in the NHL this week. We’ve seen on-ice shenanigans, front office overhauls and a game that featured 100 penalty minutes in just one period.
Let’s jump into our favorite bets for Thursday night:
Pete Truszkowski: New Jersey Devils (+225) vs. New York Islanders
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
On paper, this seems like a mismatch. The listed odds for this game imply a significant disparity between these teams. The New York Islanders are headed to the playoffs while the New Jersey Devils are amongst the worst teams in the league.
However, at this point of the season it’s important to gauge teams’ motivation levels and what they’re playing for. After clinching a playoff spot on Saturday, the Islanders lost back-to-back games against the Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders had two goal leads in both games and Buffalo was starting a career ECHL goaltender.
Not only did the Islanders perform poorly, but they decided to rest superstar Mat Barzal in Tuesday’s matchup. Barzal is the Isles’ most impactful player and him being a healthy scratch with a week to go in the season shows how much the Isles are valuing these games.
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 and advanced stats cited from Evolving Hockey, MoneyPuck and Natural Stat Trick.
The Isles have almost no chance of securing home-ice advantage, so they’re simply gearing up for the playoffs. Coach Barry Trotz has expressed confidence that his team will be able to flip the switch come playoff time. He’s also indicated he will continue to rest key players over the last week of the season.
The Isles weren’t playing well before this stretch, either. Since April 6th, the Isles have three regulation wins with all three coming against the New York Rangers. Over that time, they have posted a 46.8% expected goal rate which is in the bottom third of the league.
I’m not saying the Devils are a good team, but they have played hard down the stretch. They are 4-1-1 in their last six games. Players are fighting for roles and jobs for next season.
At this point, I’m not convinced the Islanders care about the results of their games. I think they already have one eye on the playoffs. In addition, they’re a team that struggles to score even when on top of their game. The Devils are definitely worthy of a shot at this price.
Matt Russell: Toronto Maple Leafs to win in regulation (-125) vs. Montreal Canadiens
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
It’s the NHL’s version of week 17, only instead of trying to play amateur psychologists for one game per team, we have 3-4 to head shrink. This game shouldn’t be too tough to figure out though (famous last words, I know). Simply put, the longer the season goes, the better the Leafs’ 5-on-5 metrics get, and the worse the Canadiens’ metrics get.
As much as the Leafs’ early season 75% win percentage was a mirage, they’ve been much better than their 15-13 record in their last 28 games. One of those ‘L’s that should have been a ‘W’ came in their last game, on Monday at Montreal when the Habs mustered just one High-Danger Chance at even-strength but stole a win with a tying goal late, and an OT-winner. This was after Montreal stole a win over Ottawa on Saturday, after stealing one on Friday against the Jets. Can you see a theme here?
The Habs didn’t even bother for dramatics in Ottawa last night, getting dominated by a depleted Senators team. Now they hop on a flight for a quick-turnaround in Toronto where the Leafs wait, still bitter about letting one slip early in the week. On top of that we’re likely going to see Cayden Primeau in net for the Canadiens. He hasn’t quite stopped 90% of the shots he’s seen in the two games he’s played this year. Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews and company shouldn’t be a piece of cake for the young man.
What’s your favorite angle? Schedule spot… Backup goalie… Revenge… Two teams heading in the opposite direction… They’re all pointing one way, and it just happens to be to the much better, well-rested team at home.
Nicholas Martin: Boston Bruins to win in regulation (-125) vs. New York Rangers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
There were plenty of eyes on the Rangers-Caps game on Wednesday night as it was expected that New York would look for some retribution after Tom Wilson injured Artemi Panarin on Monday night in yet another controversial incident. The game didn’t disappoint from that standpoint as it featured 100 penalty minutes in the first period, but the Rangers fell flat with regards to the actual playing of the game and lost 4-1.
New York was without several key players like Panarin, Chris Kreider, Jacob Trouba and Ryan Lindgren on Wednesday and will now face the NHL’s toughest schedule spot by win percentage this season as they play a rested home team on the second night of a back-to-back.
Not only that, but they are catching the Bruins at a tough time. The B’s have gone 10-2-1 with a 61.8% expected goals rate since the trade deadline and now find themselves with an outside chance at gaining home-ice advantage in Round 1.
The Bruins are the better team, in a great schedule spot and are taking on a Rangers team that will be missing plenty of key players. I think there’s value backing Boston to get the job done in regulation.
Mike Ianniello: Edmonton Oilers -1.5 (+102) vs. Vancouver Canucks
Puck Drop: 9 p.m. ET
It is no secret the Vancouver Canucks are not a very good hockey team. They have lost six games in a row and now sit 19-25-3 with a -33 goal differential. The Canucks rank 29th in the league in xGF% and 27th in high-danger chance rate.
The Edmonton Oilers are second in the North Division with a 32-17-2 record and a +32 goal differential. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games, including back-to-back wins over Vancouver.
Connor McDavid continues to be a human highlight reel, and with 93 points in 51 games, he has a legitimate chance to put up 100 points in a 56 game season. In the two games against the Canucks at the beginning of the week, McDavid put up six total points. He is averaging 2.0 points per game against Vancouver this season.
Edmonton won Monday’s game against the Canucks 5-3 and took Tuesday’s contest 4-1. In the Oilers last nine wins, they have won by at least two goals and covered the puck line in all nine.
The Oilers are 28-23 on the puck line this season and are the third most profitable team in the league to lay -1.5 with.
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