NHL Daily Betting Picks: Thursday Best Bets for Rangers vs. Flyers, Golden Knights vs. Avalanche & More (March 25)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images. Pictured: Mikko Rantanen
- Thursday's NHL slate features 11 games including a heavyweight tussle between the Avalanche and Golden Knights.
- Our experts have a quartet of best bets, including one on the aforementioned matchup.
- Continue reading for our four best bets for Thursday.
Every team in the NHL is now at, or beyond, the halfway mark of the 2021 season. The playoff picture is starting to take shape, the trade deadline is approaching and there is plenty of drama all around the league.
The world’s coolest soap opera will continue on Thursday night with an 11-game slate. Here are our favorite bets on March 25:
Michael Leboff: New York Rangers (-105) vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
If ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Things have really taken a turn for the worse for the Philadelphia Flyers over the last three weeks. The Flyers were booed off the ice during a 4-3 loss to the Devils on Tuesday, they’ve lost six of eight games with a -17 goal differential in that span and they are now two points adrift of the playoff picture in the East Division. That isn’t an insurmountable gap, but Philadelphia has played three more games than the team it is chasing and looks more likely to continue its tumble than to turn things around.
While Philadelphia’s 5-on-5 play has been fine during the last month, the goaltending has completely crumbled. Goalie-play can be quite volatile, so a turnaround for Carter Hart and/or Brian Elliott isn’t out of the question, but this is a team that was reliant on strong goaltending to succeed. Hart was expected to be the player who led the Flyers to lofty heights in 2021 but that just hasn’t been the case as the 22-year-old has been the worst netminder in the league this season with a -22.05 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx).
It won’t help that Hart will be going up against Igor Shesterkin in goal for the Rangers. Shesterkin is back from an injury and will look to continue another strong season. The Russian rookie has a +3.79 GSAx in 15 games this season and a .927 save percentage through the first 27 games of his career.
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.
Shesterkin gives the Rangers a big edge in goal but there’s more to like from this bunch as they’ve posted a 59.96% goal share and a 51.76% expected goal rate at 5-on-5 over their last 15 games.
At the risk of buying high and selling low, I think the Rangers are worth a bet up to -120 in this game.
Pete Truskowski: Rangers (-105) vs. Flyers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
While the Rangers haven’t met preseason expectations, they certainly have a laundry list of excuses if they need them.
Through the first half of the season, New York has dealt with issues that would slow down any team. Tony DeAngelo was one of the league’s top offensive defensemen last season, but the Rangers basically kicked him off the team. Artemi Panarin was the victim of a hit piece in Russia and needed to take a leave of absence to deal with protecting his family. Mika Zibanejad had an inconceivable slump to begin the season. Young star goalie Igor Shesterkin got injured. Their whole coaching staff had to quarantine due to COVID.
Most of these issues are now behind the Rangers and it’s no surprise to see them winning games at a more regular clip. Despite being just one game over .500, the Rangers have a +14 goal differential on the season. Winning a game 9-0 helps that, but it shows New York has lost a lot of one-goal games as well. They rank above average in expected goal rate as well as high danger chance percentage.
Shesterkin will make his first start in three weeks on Thursday as he returns from a groin injury. Shesterkin’s return should give the Rangers a boost as the highly talented goalie has a +3.9 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) while stopping over 92% of the shots he’s faced.
The last time the Philadelphia Flyers saw the New York Rangers, the Blueshirts beat them 9-0. Since then, Philadelphia has lost three of four games. In its lone win during that time frame, it blew a 3-0 lead in the third period.
The Flyers rank in the bottom third of the league in most analytical categories, including expected goal rate, high danger chance percentage, scoring chance share and expected goals scored per hour.
Through the first part of the season, the Flyers were able to overcome their subpar analytical profile due to an abnormally high shooting percentage. As their shooting percentage has fallen, the wins have dried up. Philadelphia still has the second-best shooting percentage in the league at 5-on-5, so there could still be more regression to come.
Despite their ability to score goals, the big issue for Philadelphia has been keeping the puck out of its net. The Flyers are about average in terms of expected goals against per hour at 5-on-5, but their goaltenders have been brutal. Carter Hart grades out as the worst goalie in the league with a GSAx of -22.1. His backup, Brain Elliott, has been better but still posts a poor -5.5 GSAx.
When you have a team like the Flyers who are in a free-fall, you have two ways of betting their games. You can attempt to time when the streak ends, or you can fade them until the money stops being green.
It’s hard to process seeing a team as talented as the Flyers struggling this badly for an extended period of time, but there are valid reasons for their struggles. They don’t do well in terms of driving play and playing in the offensive zone. Additionally, their goaltending has been downright awful.
The Rangers are beginning to show why so many people had them as a potential playoff contender prior to the season. They’ve dealt with a lot of shenanigans through the first half of the year, but it appears things have calmed down and they’ve been able to settle in and play better hockey.
The return of Shesterkin should only help their cause. Shesterkin has now played 27 NHL games and is stopping nearly 93% of the shots he’s faced. The Rangers will have the advantage in goal in this contest.
With the Flyers in the form that they’re in, I can’t back them in this spot. I’ll take the Rangers, who have been playing much better over the past few weeks.
Matt Russell: Detroit Red Wings (+150) vs. Nashville Predators
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
The Predators were -145 home favorites on Tuesday night when the Red Wings came to Music City. This is in stark contrast to a month ago when the Predators were -160 favorites on the road in Detroit. Two weeks before that, Nashville was -200 at home in a pair of games with the Red Wings. Since then, the Predators have been beset by injuries to their blue line and inconsistency between the pipes, which has dropped their rating in the market.
This drop in the Predators market rating comes after they’ve won three of four games. They made it four of five with a 2-0 win at home on Tuesday. Now Nashville is back to -175 as its opening price just two days later. Now, if we look deeper into this Nashville hot streak, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. In their last five games, the Predators have created 40 High-Danger Chances (HDC) at even-strength and have allowed their opponents 45 HDCs 5-on-5. From an Expected Goals standpoint, the Predators have been given credit for an average of 1.57 XGF, but 2.01 Expected Goals Against. Given that ratio, the Predators would be lucky to get out of this stretch with two wins, let alone four.
The Red Wings had their own fortunate stretch recently, with wins against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Dallas – the three highest rated teams in the Central Division in my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast. The Red Wings play a tight-checking brand of hockey, which keeps them in the vast majority of games. Given this style of play, they’re often an attractive value play priced at or above +200. Imagine my surprise when they were just +125 underdogs on Tuesday night.
If the Red Wings’ offense wasn’t among the worst in the NHL, you could make the case that after getting shutout twice, they’d be due for a few goals on Thursday. While that might be assuming too much, at least Jonathan Bernier is more reliable in what could be another low-scoring game. A more encouraging sign might be that in the previous two instances where the Red Wings lost the first game to Nashville, they got immediate revenge scoring nine goals in two games. Either way, the Wings at +150 or better are back in range to bet in Music City.
Jeremy Pond: Colorado Avalanche (+115) To Win in Regulation vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Puck Drop: 9 p.m. ET
Talk about a heavyweight affair.
The West Division’s top two teams will tussle in the Mile High City when the Vegas Golden Knights go up against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Separated by just two points in the standings, these franchises are two of the NHL’s hottest teams.
So, how even are they? Let’s take a look at the tale of the tape:
|Last 10 Games||7-1-2||7-3-0|
Colorado enters this contest off a rare loss, suffering a 5-4 overtime shootout defeat against the Arizona Coyotes in Tuesday’s affair. Arizona rallied for two goals in the third period to force the extra session, en route to the win.
On the other side, the Golden Knights delivered a 5-1 thumping to the St. Louis Blues in Monday’s tilt. Even at 1-1 entering the third period, Vegas erupted for four unanswered goals in the home victory.
Mark Stone (two goals/one assist) and William Karlsson (one goal/two assists) paced the Golden Knights, who also saw Keegan Kolesar score his first NHL goal in the rout.
Right on the doorstep and Keegan Kolesar (@kkolesar28) drives home his first NHL goal!
Welcome to the Show!
— NHL (@NHL) March 23, 2021
It was surely a bittersweet moment for Kolesar, who lost his father — former Major League Baseball scout Charles Peterson — to complications from COVID-19 back in September, but a moment he will likely never forget.
When it comes to the xGF/xGA comparison through 60 minutes, Colorado has 2.61 xGF/60 compared to 1.78 xGA/60, generating a +0.83 differential. As for Vegas, it sits just behind its fellow combatant in both categories at 2.53 xGF/60 and 2.3 xGA/60 for a +0.23 differential.
For me, this is going to come down to goaltending and I think Colorado has an edge. Philipp Grubauer and Marc-Andre Fleury had the night off last time out, so they’ll come in fresh. Grubauer and Fleury are among the league’s elite, but I think the Avalanche have a distinct edge between the pipes.
Grubauer, who has a solid 19-7-0 record, boasts a paltry 1.71 goals against average and .930 save percentage. He leads the NHL in games played and GAA, plus he’s tied for second with (you guessed it) Fleury in save percentage.
That said, I am taking a swing on the Avalanche to win in regulation at +115 odds via DraftKings to win this battle of juggernauts as my top pick. This number is just too good to pass up on a team that’s won six in a row (12-4-1 overall) on home ice.