NHL Daily Odds & Picks (Thursday, April 22): Our Best Bets for Panthers vs. Hurricanes, Devils vs. Penguins, Canucks vs. Senators & More
Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Brady Tkachuk
Thursday night’s 10-game NHL slate has something for everyone. Looking to back a big favorite to throw in your “can’t-lose” parlay? The Boston Bruins are here for you. Looking to take a flier on a big underdog? Perhaps the Devils, Red Wings or Sabres suit your fancy. Looking to watch two evenly-matched teams jockey for playoff position? Try the Islanders-Caps or Canes-Panthers on for size.
Here are our favorite NHL bets on Thursday night:
Nicholas Martin: Carolina Hurricanes (-110) vs. Florida Panthers
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
This ultra-talented and deep Carolina Hurricanes team took things to the next level over the past few games. The Canes went 3-0-1 and posted a 61.15 expected goals rate against the surging Predators and defending champion Lightning in the last week and now find themselves tied with the Florida Panthers (with two games in hand) at the top of the Central Division.
Carolina has continued to get better in every season under Rod Brind’Amour and 2021 is no different. Considering their depth and high-end talent I don’t see any reason to believe that the Hurricanes will be slowing down anytime soon.
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.
Florida is certainly a realistic contender with some of the league’s top talent up front and a good supporting cast in behind, but I think that this Canes defense is significantly stronger than what the Panthers are rolling out, specifically more so now with Aaron Ekblad out for the year and the immensely underrated Mackenzie Weegar likely to sit again.
Carolina took two games from the Panthers in early April with a combined score of 8-2 and while I love to point out that previous results such as these often mean very little in hockey, the fact that it was so recent and were such dominant results that I do believe they hold some relevance in this spot.
Considering their recent form and deeper roster, I believe there is plenty of value of Carolina at this price.
Mike Ianniello: Pittsburgh Penguins -1.5 (-112) vs. New Jersey Devils
Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET
If you took the Penguins -1.5 on Tuesday, you deserve a hug, because that was an ALL TIME bad beat. Pittsburgh took a 6-0 lead and you were probably online shopping with the fat stacks of cash you thought you had coming your way. Then the Devils inexplicably score six goals in the third period to end up with a 7-6 loss.
Despite earning the two points, I’m guessing things were not pleasant in the Penguins locker room after that one. That is why I am banking on them keeping their foot on the gas for 60 minutes in the rematch on Thursday night.
New Jersey has been a mess as of late. In the last 12 games, New Jersey is 1-9-2, with the only win coming against Buffalo.
That is the worst record in the NHL over that time. Promising young goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood started the year off great, but has now lost his last eight starts. Blackwood has a -10.22 GSAx over that stretch, the worst in the league.
Scott Wedgewood is the other option and he has gone 3-6-3 this season with a .899 save percentage. Wedgewood got the start against the Pens on Tuesday but was pulled after allowing four goals in the first period.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are 10-3-2 over their last 15 games and as has become tradition in Pittsburgh, have two great goalies to rely on. Tristan Jarry has gone 19-8-3 with .906 save percentage and Casey DeSmith has a record of 10-6-0 with a .911 save percentage. Jarry is 4-0-1 in his last five starts.
The Devils are very top heavy, with the line of Janne Kuokkanen, Jack Hughes and Yegor Sharangovich being the only one to consistently drive play. The Penguins have gotten terrific play from the defense this season, with all three pairings posting a expected goals rate above 50%.
The Pens have been a different team with defenseman Brian Dumoulin in the lineup this year going 21-7-3 in the 31 games with him on their top pairing with Kris Letang.
Pittsburgh is 4-1-1 against the Devils this season and has won by at least two goals in three of their four victories, with Tuesday being the one exception. I am willing to bet they learned from that game and will make sure it doesn’t happen again on Thursday and will back the Penguins on the puck line -1.5.
Pete Truszkowski: Dallas Stars (-114) to win in regulation vs. Detroit Red Wings
Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. ET
This will be the third straight meeting between the Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings. The Stars took the first two games in Texas but now the series shifts to Detroit, where Dallas can climb into a playoff spot with a win.
Despite a slow start, Dallas has actually been one of the league’s most consistent 5-on-5 teams throughout this season. The Stars have the seventh-best expected goals rate in the NHL at 53.6% and also rank eighth in shot attempt share and fourth in high-danger chance rate.
Just like we saw last season during their trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the Stars’ defense is driving this bus. No team allows fewer 5-on-5 goals per 60 than the Stars, who also pace the league in terms of expected goals against.
The Stars are still struggling offensively, but they do have players who can get them on the scoresheet. Joe Pavelski is proving that age is just a number, while Roope Hintz is producing over a point per game and Jason Robertson has entered the Calder Trophy picture with 35 points in 40 games.
On the other side, Detroit is improved from last season but still not very good. The Red Wings rank 25th in expected goal rate, 30th in shot attempt share and 22nd in high-danger chance percentage. Detroit’s offense remains a problem as it is tied for last with Buffalo in terms of 5-on-5 expected goals. The Sabres are also the only team that has scored fewer 5-on-5 goals this season. Dylan Larkin is the Wings’ best point producer, but he has a measly 23 points in 44 games.
Dallas has won four straight games, eight of their last 12 and they have points in 11 of their last 13. This is a team that needs every point it can get in a heated playoff race. Compiling points against bad teams is their best chance at success.
Rather than lay -182 on the Stars moneyline, I’ll look towards Dallas to win in regulation to get the price down to -114 and hope the Stars get the job done in regulation.
Michael Leboff: Ottawa Senators (+124) vs. Vancouver Canucks
Puck Drop: 10 p.m. ET
One of the cold-hard truths of betting is that there can, on occasion, be value in throwing on a black hat and betting against the good guys. The Vancouver Canucks are the nicest story in the NHL right now. After missing some 25 days because of a team-wide COVID outbreak, the Vancouver Canucks came back on Sunday night to beat the first-place Maple Leafs in overtime. Two nights later, the Canucks beat the Leafs again. All of a sudden Vancouver, which has basically been out of the playoff picture, is eight points back of Montreal of the final playoff spot and the Canucks have four games in hand.
While it is a nice little story, the Canucks were incredibly fortunate to beat Toronto as the Leafs won the xG battle 5.97 to 2.95 across the two contests at 5-on-5. Those kind of numbers are not all that uncommon for the Canucks, who rank 27th in the NHL with a 45.5% expected goals rate and are last in the NHL in expected goals allowed at 5-on-5.
Vancouver’s porous defense should leave the door open for a plucky Senators team that has some high-end skill at the top of their roster. Ottawa isn’t an offensive juggernaut, but does rank 16th overall in expected goals for per hour so it’s not like this offense will make life easy on the Canucks on Thursday night.
The goaltending battle could be a bit of a mess for the Sens with Thatcher Demko and his +9.57 Goals Saved Above Expectation set to take on Matt Murray and his -17.22 GSAx, but if the Canucks defense continues to bleed scoring chances that edge may not matter all that much.
It’s hard not to get caught up in the hype when a story like this unfolds (and if you want to go ahead and ride with the Canucks for the joy, by all means go ahead), but as bettors it’s best to separate yourself from the narrative and look at the numbers in a vacuum.
I don’t think there’s really that much that separates these two teams at the current moment. I like the Senators at any number better than +120, but I think there’s a chance this number will climb as people hop on the Canucks bandwagon.
Matt Russell: Senators (+124) vs. Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks two wins over Toronto and the subsequent league-wide mocking of the Maple Leafs, certainly feel like the highlight of an otherwise lost season. Which given the underlying metrics in the two wins, might set up nicely for a spot to fade the Canucks on Thursday night.
The Senators have had five tries to knock off the Canucks, and they’ll get four more this week as the two teams meet for two in Vancouver and two more in Ottawa. It’s the closest either team may get to a playoff-format series.
While the Senators win over the Flames wasn’t their best performance, my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast, is still kinder to them than the market. While the Senators are literally never favoured against anyone, the model only makes them 4% below average at even-strength. When they get league-average goaltending, they’re capable of knocking off any team in the North Division.
The Canucks take a major change in role, going from the “how can they possibly win this game?” heavy underdog position that they had against the Leafs, to having the big ‘minus’ next to their price against the Sens. Don’t be fooled by the wins over Toronto, the Canucks rate at 8% below average at even-strength by my model, and while the consideration of home-ice still makes them a slight favorite, not by the price that the market is asking us to pay. If we want to add in the narrative element of a possible letdown spot here for the Canucks, to the much higher price we’ll have to pay to back them, I think the Senators are worth a shot as underdogs.