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NHL Daily Odds & Picks (Thursday, April 15): Best Bets for Islanders vs. Bruins, Predators vs. Hurricanes & Stars vs. Blue Jackets

NHL Daily Odds & Picks (Thursday, April 15): Best Bets for Islanders vs. Bruins, Predators vs. Hurricanes & Stars vs. Blue Jackets article feature image

Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Esa Lindell, Denis Gurianov

  • Thursday's slate of NHL action features a bevy of big games.
  • Here are the four that our team of NHL analysts see the most betting value in.

There are some desperate hockey clubs in action on Thursday night.

The Rangers, Flyers, Stars and Blackhawks are all basically in must-win mode to keep their playoff hopes alive, while the Bruins and Predators need points to keep the chasing pack off their tail. Throw in a showdown between the teams at the top of the North Division and another featuring two teams tied for first in the Central and you’ve got yourself a jam-packed night of NHL action.

Here are our favorite bets for Thursday’s nine-game slate:

Michael Leboff: New York Islanders (-103) vs. Boston Bruins

Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

I think it’s pretty clear by now that these Boston Bruins are not “The Same Ol’ Boston Bruins” that we’re used to seeing over the past several seasons. When they were at the height of their powers, the Bruins were a defensive behemoth with good 5-on-5 numbers and a terrific power play. Boston’s 5-on-5 offense wasn’t prolific during that stretch, but it didn’t need to be thanks to the defense, special teams and goaltending.

That formula hasn’t paid off in the same way in 2021. After a blinding 10-2-2 start to the season the Bruins have gone 12-10-4 with a -7 goal differential and a 48.6% expected goals rate.

Despite a litany of injury issues, Boston’s defense has done an admirable job  limiting to just 2.06 expected goals per hour during this 26-game stretch, but some pedestrian goaltending has led to an average of 2.5 goals against per 60, which is basically a death sentence for an offense that ranks 28th in 5-on-5 scoring and 29th in creating expected goals.

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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.

Boston’s depth has been tested time and again this season and things haven’t been easy of later as the team has has been without Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Jaroslav Halak, Tuukka Rask and Kevan Miller in recent games. McAvoy is back in the lineup and Rask could be back in the blue paint on Thursday, but Carlo, Grzelcyk, Miller and Halak all sat out practice on Wednesday.

The Bruins did get deeper at the deadline by acquiring top-six forward Taylor Hall, checking-line center Curtis Lazar and middle-pair defenseman Mike Reilly at the deadline, but there are still holes at the bottom of this lineup. That isn’t great news against a well-balanced team like the Islanders, who have taken a significant step forward in Barry Trotz’s third season.

The Isles’ 5-on-5 numbers are elite as they fourth in goal share (57%), third in expected goals rate (55.8%), fourth in goals allowed per 60 (1.98), fourth in xG allowed per 60 (1.98) and first in high-danger chance rate (60.2%). It is very hard to poke holes in the Islanders this season and their well-drilled defense should be able to handle a meager Bruins’ defense.

The Islanders have proven to be the better team this season and come into this game in much better form than their opponents. Thus, I think the wrong team is favored and would play the Isles up to -120.

nhl betting picks-april 15 2021
Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Juuse Saros

Mike Ianniello: Nashville Predators (+155) vs. Carolina Hurricanes

Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

It worked as my best bet on Tuesday night so why not go back to it, I am riding with the Predators once again at another price too big for the way this team is currently playing.

Nashville has won 13 of its last 16 games, and is coming off a 7-2 drumming over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Carolina Hurricanes are coming off two straight losses to the lowly Detroit Red Wings.
Roman Josi (1G – 2A) and Viktor Arvidsson (2G – 1A) each tallied three points on Tuesday night, and Nashville is now 10-2 since Josi returned to the lineup on March 23. No team has more wins than the Predators over that span.

Nashville’s top line of Arvidsson, Johansen and Grimaldi has played the last seven games together to a dominant 70.3 xG% and they combined for seven points on Tuesday night against the Lightning.

The Preds are playing with a ton of confidence right now and for the last month and a half you can argue Juuse Saros has been the best goalie in the NHL as he leads the league is GSAx since the end of February.

I am going to continue to ride him and the scorching Predators if they keep getting priced with lines this big. Back Nashville at +150 or better if Saros starts in net.

2020 nhl betting picks-odds-preview-sunday-feb 16
Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Elvis Merzlikins

Pete Truszkowski: Columbus Blue Jackets (+160) vs. Dallas Stars

Puck Drop: 8:30 p.m. ET

Ah, post-trade deadline NHL betting, how I’ve missed you.

At this point, the lines are drawn. We have just about 75% of the season in the books, and the standings are beginning to crystalize. We know which teams have something to play for and which clubs are just playing out the string.

More importantly, the general managers have spoken. The Columbus Blue Jackets traded away captain Nick Foligno, as well as defenseman David Savard and forward Riley Nash. MoneyPuck gives Columbus a 0% chance of making the playoffs, and it seems like Jarmo Kekalainen agrees.

Dallas sits with a 29.4% chance to make the playoffs, which tells you why Jim Nill stood pat at the deadline. The Stars general manager didn’t think it was worth adding to his roster, but also wants to see if this team can find some magic as they sit seven points behind the Nashville Predators with three games in hand.

Their expected level of desperation is definitely priced into the line in this game, as they are prohibitive favorites on Thursday night. However, Dallas is not the type of team I want to lay this kind of juice with.

That doesn’t imply the Stars are a bad team. In fact, their underlying metrics suggest they are quite unlucky to sit this low in the standings. Dallas has the sixth-best expected goal rate in the league and no team has a lower xG against per hour at 5-on-5 than the Stars.

The problem is Dallas ranks 29th in 5-on-5 scoring, besting just the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings, and its expected goals created ranks 26th, which suggests there isn’t a turnaround coming for this offense.

Dallas does a good job of turning games into low-scoring coin flips, which works for bettors when they’re an underdog or playing a more talented team.

The Blue Jackets aren’t that, as they rank 28th in expected goal rate, but they’re a middle of the road defensive team when it comes to expected goals against. If they can keep this a low-scoring affair, I think they have a chance to outlast the Stars.

The Jackets also have a coach that won’t tolerate anyone on the team mailing it in, so I expect them to continue to play hard. That might be a concern with other teams, but not one I have with John Tortorella behind the bench.

Dallas simply doesn’t have the firepower or offensive ability to be a favorite this large. Columbus is a pesky group, and for that reason I like them to play spoiler here at the +160 price.

Nicholas Martin: Stars (-180) vs. Blue Jackets

Puck Drop: 8:30 p.m. ET

Dallas comes into this game off two more great efforts that went unrewarded, losing 3-2 the surging Predators in a shootout Sunday, and 3-2 in OT to a very strong Panthers club on Tuesday. Dallas got the better of the chances in each game, finishing favourably on the expected goals side of things in each for a combined total of 4.72 to 3.54.

As Pete noted above, this is not a game where you can bank on Columbus losing a sense of urgency after conceding the season at the deadline. In fact, I think there is some fresh positivity around Columbus in that some players are now going to be given more of a chance to prove themselves. Lots of guys fighting for jobs, contracts, and regular roster spots will certainly keep Columbus competing hard.

However the fact is, this is a very weak Blue Jackets roster at this point, specifically with the loss of No. 1 defensemen Zach Werenski. The Blue Jackets own some of the worst underlying analytics in the league this year, and have worsened of late to an xGF% of 43.73% over their last 10 games.

This is still a strong Dallas club, with very positive play-driving numbers, disguised as a fringe playoff team mainly by a very weakened record due to their 12 losses past regulation, including a 1-6 record in shootouts. These teams sit just three points apart, but they really have not played at the same level this season.

The Stars can’t afford to drop winnable games from here on out if they hope to have any shot at the playoff and I think it has clearly been evidenced this year, and specifically of late, that the Stars are in much better form than this depleted Columbus roster. With that in mind, I am willing to lay the juice and bank on another desperate effort here from Dallas. This time I expect the Stars to get the job done.

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