NHL Daily Betting Picks: Our Best Bets for Saturday, March 13, Including Maple Leafs-Jets, Predators-Lightning & More
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point
There has been lots of news in the NHL this week. The league signed a new broadcast deal with ESPN, the 2021 Draft was all but confirmed for July and Commissioner Gary Bettman said that next season would see the circuit return to its normal format with Seattle moving into the Pacific Division and Arizona going to the Central.
That is all for another time though. For today we’ve got 12 games and plenty of betting opportunities:
Michael Leboff: Washington Capitals (+100) vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
I’ll hop right back on the Washington Capitals as slight underdogs against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.
While the Flyers have improved their 5-on-5 numbers of late, their season-long numbers are still below average. Philadelphia ranks 18th in expected goals rate, 20th in shot share and 23rd in high-danger scoring chance percentage. Those numbers paint a picture of mediocrity, so it’s no wonder that the Flyers have skated to a pedestrian 5-5 record over their last 10 games and now find themselves with the fifth-best points percentage in the East Division.
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.
Perhaps most concerning for the Flyers is that Carter Hart has been abysmal this season. Hart, 22, was supposed to take a leap forward into stardom this season. Instead, he has the third-worst Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) in the NHL and is in danger of losing his starting gig to Brian Elliott. Elliott has been a great fall-back option for Alain Vigneault, but it’s hard to rely on a 35-year-old goaltender who is coming off back-to-back poor seasons.
While I think the Capitals are also a bit overrated, I think their high-end talent separates them from the Flyers. Washington has never been an analytical darling, but the Caps’ expected goals rate is above 50% on the season and sits at 55.6% over their last 14 games.
With players like Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, John Carlson and Jakub Vrana, the Capitals won’t have many issues scoring. What did them in last season was their defense. That has been rectified under Peter Laviolette as Washington leads the NHL in expected goals against (5-on-5) since Feb. 9.
These two teams met in Philadelphia on Thursday night and the Flyers closed at -124. I’d be surprised if this line gets that high for Saturday (unless Washington starts Vitek Vanecek). I’d bet Washington at -115 or better if Ilya Samsonov gets the start in goal for the Caps.
Pete Truszkowski: Penguins/Lightning Parlay (+103)
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
Some days, there might be a loaded card but nothing pops off the page to you. On Saturday’s slate, we have 12 games which should usually cause us to rejoice. However, there’s quite a few large favorites as well as some games that are complete toss-ups.
Consistently betting parlays on a sport as random as hockey is not a good idea, but I think there’s value in parlaying two of Saturday’s large favorites to get plus-money odds.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are finally making a push up the standings after a very mediocre start. They’ve won four straight games and 11 of their last 14 to put themselves in a playoff position in the ultra competitive East Division.
Pittsburgh’s analytical profile is nothing to write home about, but as long as the Pens hang around league average they have the talent to outperform their metrics. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust and Kris Letang can all change a game in the blink of an eye.
Goaltending was a big reason for Pittsburgh’s slow start. Tristan Jarry stumbled through the first month of the season but he’s turned things around since then. Jarry has stopped 92% of the shots he’s faced since mid-February and it’s no coincidence that Pittsburgh has started to climb since Jarry started to make more saves.
There’s really nothing positive to say about the Buffalo Sabres at this point. The Sabres have lost nine in a row, Jack Eichel is hurt and the rest of their top players have been invisible this season. Not to mention their goaltending has been subpar, their expected goals numbers are terrible and the team seems to have quit on coach Ralph Krueger.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in the NHL so they are often out of range for a bet but by parlaying them with Pittsburgh we can reduce the juice.
You might not have noticed, but the Lightning just had a nine-game point streak snapped in their last game. It says a lot about a team when that kind of streak goes widely unnoticed because it doesn’t surprise anyone.
The Lightning are doing it all this season, but it all starts in goal with Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is the best goalie in the NHL this season. The former Vezina Trophy winner leads the league with a +14.8 Goals Saved Above Expaction through 20 games.
The Bolts are a juggernaut offensively, too. Tampa might be without Nikita Kucherov but it is still scoring plenty of goals due to the talent of guys like Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point as well as the depth through their lineup.
On the other side of the ice, Nashville Predators have been one of the biggest disappointments in the NHL this season. Many expected the Preds to bounce back after an average season in 2019-20, but they’ve actually regressed.
The Predators’ statistical portfolio isn’t horrible but their offense has really struggled. Outside of Filip Forsberg and the now-injured Roman Josi, nobody on the team is scoring over a half-point per game. They rank second worst in terms of goals per hour at 5-on-5.
The goaltending hasn’t helped either as Juuse Saros and Pekka Rinne have combined for a GSAx of -17.7. Puck possession doesn’t matter when you can’t score and your goalies can’t help you at all.
Throw in injuries to Ryan Ellis, Matt Duchene and Roman Josi and you can see why I think Tampa should skate to an easy win on Saturday.
Jeremy Pond: Toronto Maple Leafs To Win in Regulation (-117) vs. Winnipeg Jets
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
If the rubber match of this three-game set is anything like the first two affairs, we are in for a doozy at Scotiabank Arena.
The Jets and Maple Leafs have played two scintillating affairs so far in The Six, with each scratching out a 4-3 victory heading into the series finale. You shouldn’t expect anything less from the top teams in the Scotia Division.
After blowing a 3-2 lead in the third period of Thursday’s game, Auston Matthews scored the winner 59 seconds in overtime with this nasty flick-of-the-wrist backhand gem to help the hosts snap their three-game losing skid.
Auston Matthews (@AM34) called game with a BEAUTY in overtime.
— NHL (@NHL) March 12, 2021
Once again, Connor Hellebuyck stood on his head to give Winnipeg a chance to earn its second consecutive road triumph. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner stopped 34 of the 38 shots he faced, including several highight-reel saves in the setback.
When it comes to the xGF/xGA comparison through 60 minutes, Toronto has 2.62 xGF/60 compared to 2.17 xGA/60, generating a +0.45 differential. As for Winnipeg, the outfit is at 2.19 xGF/60 and 2.6 xGA/60 for a -0.41 differential.
Getting a win like Toronto did Thursday, via that absurd goal from a player who missed practices this week due right hand and wrist injuries, has to give the division leader plenty of momentum coming into this game. And even with Hellebuyck in the midst of another monster campaign for the Jets, you have to like the Maple Leafs’ chances of coming out on home ice.
That said, I am backing Toronto to win in regulation at fair odds. Expect another big effort from Matthews, Mitch Marner and goaltender Frederik Andersen against Winnipeg in this latest showdown.