NHL Tuesday Betting Picks: Best Bets for Islanders-Capitals & Bruins-Penguins (March 16)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images. Pictured: Semyon Varlamov
- The NHL has an eight-game schedule on Tuesday headlined by a pair of huge games in the Eastern Division.
- Find out which games our experts are betting by reading below:
Things change quickly in the NHL. A few weeks ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in cruise control in the North Division, the Boston Bruins looked like a lock in the East and the Buffalo Sabres … well, not much has changed there.
Keeping up with this league is not easy — especially this season — but it sure is a fun ride. Let’s see where the NHL takes us on Tuesday with an eight-game slate headlined by a pair of huge games in the East Division.
Here are our favorite bets for Tuesday, March 16:
Michael Leboff: Pittsburgh Penguins (-115) vs. Boston Bruins
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
The Boston Bruins are going through something right now. The B’s have lost four of their last five games and have dropped to fourth place in the East Division, just one point ahead of the Flyers. There were question marks surrounding Boston heading into the season, but a hot start quieted the skeptics and it seemed like the Bruins were on their way to another big season. Not so fast.
Those skeptics are now back and for the first time in a long time there seem to be some real cracks in Boston’s armor. Not only do the Bruins sport the fourth-worst points percentage over the last month (13 games), but their expected goals rate is also fourth from the bottom in that span. That is quite distressing for a team that has made its lunch money driving play over the last five seasons.
Every part of the Bruins’ game has suffered, but it’s their lack of offensive oomph at 5-on-5 that is currently sinking the ship. Only Arizona has generated fewer expected goals per 60 minutes than Boston over the last month. Boston’s “Perfection Line” is still dominating, but the rest of the lineup has gone ice cold.
While the Bruins are scuffling, the Penguins have started to soar. The Pens are 12-4 in their last 16 games and have put a skiddish start behind them to firmly plant themselves in a playoff spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s 46.7% expected goals rate over that span is a little bit of a red flag, but the Pens have improved that number to 48.2% over their last 10 games
This may scream buy-low/sell-high, but I think the projected goaltending matchup in this game puts Pittsburgh in range for this game. Jaroslav Halak played on Monday, so Boston is expected to hand Dan Vladar his first start of the season in Tuesday’s tilt. Vladar has played well in an AHL stint this season, but the team in front of him is scuffling and I don’t think +100 is a good enough number to back the rookie in this one. Instead, I’ll lay some slight juice (I wouldn’t go above -125) and see if perhaps we haven’t seen Boston bottom out yet.
Pete Truszkowski: New York Islanders (-105) vs. Washington Capitals
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
First place in the East Division is up for grabs on Tuesday night as the Washington Capitals host the New York Islanders.
During his first two seasons on Long Island, Barry Trotz was given a lot of credit for getting his players to outperform their talent level as well as their play-driving metrics. While the Isles have been one of the best teams in the NHL for the past two-and-a-half seasons, their performance in 2021 has finally silenced the doubters.
The Islanders rank fourth in expected goals rate, second in high-danger chance rate and their defense is top-6 in preventing expected goals and high-danger opportunities. The goaltending has also been sound — as it usually is for a Trotz-coached team — as Semyon Varlamov ranks fourth in the league with a +6.04 Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx).
While it’s no surprise that the Isles are good in their own end, their offensive numbers are head-turning. New York is averaging the eighth-most goals and seventh-most expected goals per hour at 5-on-5 this season.
The loss of captain Anders Lee is a tremendous blow, but Kieffer Bellows has filled in with three goals in two games and fellow rookie Oliver Wahlstrom has been terrific in a third-line role. Wahlstrom and Bellows round out a steady group that includes Mat Barzal, Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson, Anthony Beauvillier, Josh Bailey and J-G Pageau. The Islanders have a deep team.
Washington’s story has been similar for a few seasons now. They are an average team when looking at their analytical profile, but they have the talent to vastly outperform their metrics.
Alex Ovechkin remains one of the most feared scorers in the league. TJ Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom and Jakub Vrana add pizzazz throughout the forward core and John Carlson is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league.
Under new coach Peter Laviolette, the Capitals have renewed their commitment to team defense. Washington ranks fifth in expected goals against and sixth in high-danger chances against per hour at 5-on-5. Unfortunately, their goaltending has not been great as Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov have combined for a -12.6 GSAx.
I think the Islanders are the better team in this matchup. Not only are they ahead in the standings, but they do a better job driving play and generating offense. The Isles also have an edge in goal and should benefit from the fact that Washington played in Buffalo on Monday night.
With the scheduling advantage for New York, I’ll grab what I think is the better team as a slight underdog.