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Sunday NHL Betting Odds & Pick for Flyers vs. Capitals: Couturier’s Return Boosts Philadelphia (Feb. 7)

Sunday NHL Betting Odds & Pick for Flyers vs. Capitals: Couturier’s Return Boosts Philadelphia (Feb. 7) article feature image

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Jakub Voracek (left) and Sean Couturier.

  • The Philadelphia Flyers head south to take on the Washington Capitals in a Sunday NHL matinee.
  • The Flyers, who are off to a great start, are getting a big boost with the return of center Sean Couturier.
  • Sam Hitchcock breaks down the matchup and explains why there is betting value with Philadelphia.

Flyers vs. Capitals Odds

Flyers Odds -112
Capitals Odds -105
Over/Under 6
Time 12 p.m. ET
Odds as of Saturday night and via DraftKings.

When we’re young and our mother says don’t touch the flame, we impulsively touch it. In our teenage and college years, most of us make decisions that we know are ill-advised, even in the moment, but we succumb anyway.

This brings us to the present and the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers matinee.

Both teams are talented but highly impulsive, able to win or lose a game in short intervals. With the hockey world tuning in for these two fickle teams, the temptation to bet on this game is irresistible. But the red flags with Washington are too visible to dismiss, making the suddenly healthier Flyers the pick.

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Philadelphia Flyers

Assuming this is center Sean Couturier’s first game back, the arrival of last season’s Selke Trophy winner can’t be overstated. Couturier’s return pushes Scott Laughton down to the fourth line, with the top-nine being centered by Couturier, Claude Giroux and Nolan Patrick. That is serious depth down the middle.

Couturier was second only to van Riemsdyk in expected goals percentage last season and trailed only Travis Konecny and Giroux in shots per hour. Despite extremely difficult usage, Couturier allowed only 27.31 shots per 60 minutes.

In the Flyers’ last game, they allowed two quick goals in the final eight minutes of the third period to lose to the Boston Bruins, 2-1. In their first game against New York at the end of January, they had a 2-0 lead, which they forfeited in the second period. Philadelphia squeaked out a victory in overtime despite being nearly doubled in shots at 5-on-5.

The Flyers are not going to turn into analytics fiends like Montreal or Carolina any time soon, but Couturier’s presence injects stability, something Philadelphia sorely needs.

Goaltender Carter Hart is returning between the pipes, but thus far his play has not lived up to his reputation. He has a -5 GSAx, placing him just outside the five worst in the league. He has had a big workload this season and has been suffering from back spasms. But if the Flyers are going to win on Sunday, they need the sterling Hart from 2019-20.

The Capitals rolled out seven defensemen with 11 forwards against New York, and it will also be interesting to see how much coach Peter Laviolette leans on Ovechkin and Backstrom to keep the Flyers in a defensive posture. Moreover, since Washington is at home and will have the last change, what matchups Laviolette identifies as advantageous as he distributes the defensive minutes is also intriguing.

Washington Capitals

Defense has been a struggle for Washington. Perhaps man-to-man defense doesn’t suit its personnel. Or the forwards don’t provide sufficient aid to a rickety defensive group. Whatever the reasons, the numbers are bad.

At 5-on-5 the Capitals are allowing 36.56 shots against per hour, worst in the NHL. They have a bottom-ten expected goals against per 60 minutes. Thrust into an extremely difficult situation, goaltender Vitek Vanecek has been the Capitals’ best player for stretches. But the aggregate isn’t great: Vanecek has a -2.61 GSAx (Goals Saved Above Expected).

The Capitals are a heavy team that is hellbent on forechecking and cycling, while also activating its defensemen. But if the Capitals defensemen are pinching, their forwards need to cover over the top and provide back pressure on counterattacks.

That has not happened consistently. When Zdeno Chara pinched in the Capitals’ last game, against the New York Rangers, Washington forwards, with the exception of Richard Panik, didn’t even make an effort in transition defense. This led to a Ryan Strome goal that would prove to be the game-winner.

In the Capitals’ meltdown against the Bruins, their defensive coverage was a comedy of errors. It led to four unanswered goals before Boston potted the empty net.

So how does this impact Sunday?

On paper, the Flyers would seem to pose a problem for a struggling defense because their putative third line from Friday consists of two forwards in a tie for the team lead in goals. But that is partially thanks to Philadelphia’s league-high shooting percentage of 12.04.

Puck luck has helped conceal the fact that the Flyers have the worst shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 and rank in the bottom five in expected goals. The Capitals can’t stop anyone at 5-on-5, and Philadelphia can’t consistently get scoring chances. Something has to give!

In fairness, Washington has been deluged with injuries, albeit some self-inflicted. With Lars Eller and Evgeny Kuznetsov absent from the lineup, the Capitals are robbed of two talented puck-handlers who help them keep possession. It sounds like Eller could be in the lineup on Sunday, which would be hugely helpful.

Washington’s most interesting offensive stat is not 34.6 percent, which is their success rate on the power play. Rather it is three stats: 1.04, 1.21, and 1.3. Those are the expected goals per hour of Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. In terms of generating quality scoring shots at a consistent clip at 5-on-5, the first line has the worst record on the team.

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Flyers vs. Capitals Best Bet

The days of the Flyers committing egregious penalties and playing rough toe-the-line hockey are over. Today’s Flyers are among the top-10 least penalized teams per 60 minutes.

Since the Capitals are second in fewest penalties drawn, the possibility of Washington capturing a win thanks to their power play seems remote.

At even strength, the Flyers have the advantage, and at -112 on DraftKings, they are the bet to make.

Pick: Flyers -112

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