Saturday NHL Odds, Picks, Prediction: Hurricanes vs. Predators Betting Preview (May 8)
John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images
- With a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the line, will the Nashville Predators' motivation be high enough?
- NHL betting analyst Matt Russell previews their matchup against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night.
- Find his full analysis of the odds and his pick on the moneyline below.
Hurricanes vs. Predators Odds
|Time||8 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of noon ET on Saturday and via BetMGM.|
The cliche we’ve all heard for actors preparing for a scene is: “What’s my motivation?” Not being an actor myself, I don’t really know what that means in a literal sense. How does that change your behavior when the director yells “action”?
Before the puck drops in Music City on Saturday, we find ourselves at the peak of “motivation week” in the NHL, with the brightest light of our collective amateur psychology convention shining on the Carolina Hurricanes and the Nashville Predators like they’re the keynote speakers.
Normally in this space, we like to make the case for one team or the other using various analytics and win probability comparisons to market prices — all the good stuff. What we never do is just look at the standings … until today. The answer for this bet is right there in front of us, in the most basic of all team analysis places — though it’s not that simple as there just happens to be an analytics component as well.
The Hurricanes wrapped it up in a nice, tidy bow on Friday night and they never had to even step on the ice.
With the Lightning’s loss to the Stars, the Central Division title that has seemed more and more inevitable the last two weeks was officially clinched for Carolina with Tampa Bay’s loss. And what better place to celebrate than on Broadway? So the easy question to ask is: “What’s left to play for?” But as they say on the internet, that consideration is “tired” — what’s “wired” is instead asking: “What’s not left to play for?”
Here’s where the analytics come in, and it’s not what we know about these teams. it’s what the Hurricanes know. It’s no accident that they have been one of the better teams in the NHL over the last few seasons according to the analytics. They are built that way. They are very self-aware. That means they’re also likely quite aware of how their opponents stack up in the same categories that they value so highly in themselves.
As a result, they’re probably aware that there’s a discrepancy between the two teams that they could face in the first round, and that given they’re playing one of those teams in the season’s final two games, they have an opportunity to effectively pick their playoff opponent.
Let’s get into their heads, and see which team you would rather play next week when the Stanley Cup Playoffs start.
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.
In door No. 1, you have the Nashville Predators.
They’re rated slightly above average at even-strength this season, according to my “Let’s Do That Hockey” model, as heard on THE WINDOW: Sports Betting Podcast. This is in line with their preseason projection, both from my model and the market’s assumption with regard to their season-long point total.
The market decided that the Preds would be a 64.5-point team. I had them a shade higher at 66.5. Now that we have 54 games of play, my model says they’ve played this season like a 63.5-point team, and their actual point total with four points still available is 60 points. So while the under will cash on the Predators, with three or four points in these last two games, they will have gotten everything out of their season that they should have.
Then there’s door No. 2: The Dallas Stars are two points back of the Predators with two games to go thanks to the aforementioned win over the Lightning on Friday night.
The Stars’ season stays alive, as they hope to get a chance to make another run to the Cup final. The analytics show that this shouldn’t be the sweat for Dallas that it has turned into: The Stars rate as 8.6% above-average at even-strength in my model. Their preseason expected point total in the betting market was 65.5. My model projected them lower than that at 63.5 points, but while an under bet will cash no matter what this weekend, it will do so with an element of luck.
The Stars have played this season at the level of a 68-point team — a full 10 points better than their current standing of 58 points. This is thanks to an abnormally bad record when the game goes to everyone’s favorite coin-flip contest: 3-on-3 overtime and the shootout. Also, up until Friday night, they had gone 1-6 against the Lightning despite creating one full 5-on-5 Expected Goal than the Lightning in their matchups.
Any statistical regression to the mean would put the Stars in the playoffs, instead of hoping that a weekend in Nashville doesn’t end up with them left passed out in an alley.
Here’s the difference between the two teams in a tidy chart:
|Point Total / Rating||Nashville Predators||Dallas Stars|
|Preseason LDTH Model||66.5||63.5|
|Actual Point Total||60||58|
|LDTH Rating to Average||+1.3||+8.6|
So while the Stars are actually the better team, the Predators are the team in the starring role. With a pair of home games in front of a crowd that has been the most boisterous in this relatively quiet season, the Preds are fully capable of beating the Hurricanes if nothing was on the line. But in this case, they’ll be ready to capture the final spot that they’ve been fortunate enough to hold onto this late into the season.
Betting Analysis & Pick
So which opponent would you rather face if you were the Hurricanes? The defending Western Conference champion Stars, who the Canes have gone 6-2 against, but two of those wins were in the shootout and the Stars otherwise have even-strength analytics not much worse than your own? Or would you prefer to face a team that you know is the lesser squad as defined by the same analytics that you yourself value highly in your own team, that you have swept all six matchup with this season, out-scoring the Preds 23-9 in those games?
The players on the ice are never going to just roll over in the midst of a game as intense and often violent as hockey, but how those players can be deployed can be manipulated.
The first clue to Carolina’s disinterest in winning may come when we see who starts in goal. If James Reimer gets the call, that’s a clue that the Canes will be going through the motions. Any other rest days would make it exponentially more obvious.
Even if there are no clear signals, the Predators’ desperation levels should be enough to score them this must-win at a short underdog price that isn’t far from where it would be on a Tuesday in March.
Finally, if you want to get a little extra spicy, can I interest you in a correlated parlay? If the Preds wins this game, they’ll clinch that playoff spot via the tiebreaker over the Stars (due to Dallas’ inability to get regulation wins, going to overtime so frequently). That should result in a mega-deflated Stars team playing on Sunday in Chicago.
If your sportsbook is already offering odds for that game, they’re likely making the Blackhawks a considerable underdog in the range of +150. That price is likely to fall with the Stars’ elimination, so there’s some value to putting the Preds and Hawks moneyline together at a juicy +430.
Pick: Predators ML (+100 or better)