NHL Daily Betting Picks & Odds (Tuesday, April 13): Our Best Bets for Devils vs. Rangers, Predators vs. Lightning & More
John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Rem Pitlick, Andrei Vasilevskiy
With the NHL trade deadline in the rearview mirror, it’s now all systems go toward the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. There are several teams with postseason aspirations playing Tuesday who are in dire need of points.
The Rangers, Bruins, Flyers, Stars and Predators are all basically in must-win mode from here on out, with a few of those desperate teams featured in our favorite bets.
Let’s take a look at our top picks.
Michael Leboff: New Jersey Devils (+150) vs. New York Rangers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
The New Jersey Devils have been relegated to a spoiler role for quite some time, with Tuesday presenting them an opportunity to really do some damage to their biggest rival’s playoff hopes.
The New York Rangers enter into this game trailing the Boston Bruins by four points in the race for the East Division’s final playoff spot. Boston has two games in hand on New York, just made a trade for Taylor Hall and has a very easy schedule down the stretch.
In other words, this is basically a must-win game for the Rangers if they want to keep pace with the Bruins, who are in Buffalo to play Hall’s former team.
After starting the season 5-7-4, the Rangers have clawed back into the playoff picture with a 9-4-2 record over their last 15 games. The Blueshirts have been a force at 5-on-5 during this current stretch, averaging 3.57 goals for and just 2.24 goals against per 60 minutes over that span. There is reason to be skeptical New York can keep this up, though.
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.
At 61.4 percent, the Rangers rank second in the NHL in goal share (GF%) over the last month. However, their expected-goals rate is considerably lower at 49.4 percent.
With players like Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich in good form and the goalies playing well, the Rangers are always a good bet to beat their xG (they have a +10.43 Goal Differential Above Expected), but aren’t going to score on 12% of their 5-on-5 shots like they have been over this 15-game jolt.
Despite ranking 27th overall, the Devils have shown some promising signs. Playing in a tough division, the Devils are 13th overall in xG rate, 14th in High-Danger Chance rate and eighth in shot share. In other words, the Devils aren’t getting played out of the building on a regular basis and, on most nights, are basically splitting the scoring chances.
While New Jersey’s statistical portfolio is modestly encouraging, it isn’t good enough to be competitive in the East. The Devils just don’t have the scoring talent or depth to consistently win against the likes of the Islanders, Capitals, Penguins, Bruins or Rangers. However, they’re good enough to take any of those teams deep into games and provide value at a big price.
Stopping the Rangers when they’re buzzing like this isn’t an easy task, but the Devils have been just as good at driving play as their cross-river rivals this season, so it’s not out of the question New Jersey can hang around in this tilt.
With the Rangers playing well in a must-win situation, I’d expect bettors will flock toward the Blueshirts in this matchup and that could cause this number to rise even further. That said, you probably can hang around and wait for a better number on New Jersey, but I think +150 odds or better is a good price, especially if Nico Hischier draws back into the lineup for the Devils.
Matt Russell: Nashville Predators (+152) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
The Tampa Bay Lightning are just 4-5 in their last nine games. Even though they won the game before that stretch, it was a game where they were outplayed at even strength, contributing to a 9.2 to 8.3 average deficit in High-Danger Chances at even strength in their last 10 games.
The Lightning shut out the Nashville Predators on Saturday, thanks to a 36-save performance from Andrei Vasilevskiy, who bounced back after a pair of mediocre outings where he was unable to stop more than 90% of the shots against. The league-leader in Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA) was the key contributor in the win, a role that he’s played more frequently this season.
The loss was just the Predators’ third in their last 15 games, and they were just as good at even strength as they had been previously, in fact, even better. Nashville’s 14 HDCs at even strength weren’t just its highest number in that stretch, but its biggest output of the season.
The Predators weren’t able to convert any of the 14 HDC they had. That was a change of pace from their recent winning stretch, where they’d converted 17.4% of those chances. While that percentage was an outlier that was due for regression, the high volume of chances against Tampa Bay is the important part to focus on.
My “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, rates the Lightning as 11% above average at even strength, while the Predators are still just right at average relative to the rest of the division. However, this current 10-game stretch has Tampa Bay playing at just a +6% rate, and the Predators are playing closer to +4% in their last 15 games.
This tighter discrepancy, and the game being played in Nashville adds up to a nice edge on the Predators as a big home underdog. I’d like to get as close to +160 odds, but it’s clear the Predators are the value side in this matchup.
Mike Ianniello: Nashville Predators (+152) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
Look, betting against Tampa Bay is never fun. The defending Stanley Cup champion is 28-11-2 this season, boasting a +40 goal differential that’s second best in the league.
Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is likely to win his second Vezina Trophy, has a stellar 25-6-1 record, .932 save percentage and 2.00 GAA. He leads the NHL with an incredible 25.7 GSAx this season.
As good as the Lightning are, and as scary as betting against them is, I think we’re getting value on a surging Nashville team. Tampa Bay is just 5-5 in its last 10 games, while the Predators have ripped off an 8-2 stretch in their last 10 contests. Going back even further, Nashville is 12-3 in the last 15 games.
Vasilevskiy might be the best goalie in the league, but Juuse Saros is not far behind him. Saros, who has won four consecutive games, sports a 14-7-0 record with a .929 save percentage and 2.17 GAA. Since the end of February, it’s actually Saros who leads the league in GSAx with 11.76.
These two teams met Saturday, which resulted in a 3-0 victory for the Lightning. However, it was actually the Predators who won the 5-on-5 xG battle by a 2.75-1.63 margin. The Predators had 14 HDCs at 5-on-5, compared to just five for Tampa Bay. Nashville’s top line of Rocco Grimaldi, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson skated to a dominant 89.4 xG% and 80% Corsi. Pekka Rinne was in net for that contest, so ideally we will see Saros here.
After fighting back into a playoff position in the Central Division, the Nashville management decided not to be sellers at the trade deadline and showed its faith in this team by keeping the roster intact. The Predators also added Erik Gudbranson for depth on defense.
Expect Nashville’s locker room to rally behind that vote of confidence and keep up its much improved play. The Lightning are still the better team, but the Predators have closed the gap in the last six weeks more than this line indicates.
I like Nashville at +145 or better (+155 if Rinne starts) in this showdown.
Nicholas Martin: Florida Panthers (-117) vs. Dallas Stars
Puck Drop: 8:30 p.m. ET
While I do believe it’s likely the Stars post better results down the stretch, because of their strong underlying numbers and the eventual returns of Tyler Seguin and Alex Radulov, I am willing to back a very strong Florida side to snap their three-game slump in this game.
With elite scoring talent and strong play-driving numbers, the Panthers have been one of the league’s most consistent teams. In Saturday’s game against Dallas, Florida came out sloppy and got behind the 8 ball early thanks to some defensive miscues. The Panthers were able to right the ship from there, out-chancing Dallas by a considerable margin for the rest of the game, albeit chasing the game because they were down by multiple goals.
Florida’s biggest problem during its recent slump is a cold offense. That said, the Panthers have not gone without chances, as they have scored -5.07 Goals Below Expected over their three-game malaise. With the talent this group has up front, I will certainly take a chance they can regress positively toward their norm and find some offense even against a very stingy Dallas squad.
Head coach Joel Quenneville has already announced Chris Driedger will start for the Panthers, and he’s been considerably better than supposed No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Driedger sits with a .930 save percentage and 3.1 GSAx and certainly adds some value here.
Writer’s Note: I’d to recommend keeping an eye out to see what prices are offered for Hall to score or get a point in his Bruins’ debut against his former team in the Buffalo Sabres.
It’s certainly an obvious narrative, but the former MVP is sitting -6.7 goals below expected so far and the hockey world realizes he’s painfully due for positive offensive regression. A fresh start on a contender could be a good way to kickstart things.