NHL Betting Picks for Thursday, Jan. 14: Our 4 Favorite Bets Including Jets-Flames, Wild-Kings
Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Dustin Brown
The 2021 NHL season got off and running on Wednesday night, but Thursday brings us an even deeper slate of games. There are 10 games for bettors to dive into on Night 2, but our team of NHL writers have their eyes on a trio of games out West for their favorite bets of the night.
Let’s dive in:
Jeremy Pond: Jets (+107) over Flames
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- Puck Drop: 8 p.m. ET
Clubs that met in last season’s qualifying round of the playoffs open their respective seasons in this intriguing showdown.
Winnipeg, which will be looking to exact a bit of revenge after getting bounced by Calgary in the best-of-5 series, has to improve offensively if it’s going to have any chance of contending in the North Division. The Jets were the worst in expected goals across the entire league last season, but should get a boost from arrival of center Paul Stastny.
The veteran center left the desert for a return to the Canadian cold when the Vegas Golden Knights traded him to Winnipeg for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick. Stastny finished with a respectable 17 goals and 21 assists in Sin City last year, so his addition will surely provide line depth and strength to the Jets’ offensive attack.
On the flip side, Calgary is hoping to bounce back from a campaign where it finished fourth in the Pacific on just 79 points in 70 games. That subpar effort came on the heels of a Western Conference-leading 109 points two seasons back.
Historically, the favored side has dominated this series and gone 13-5 outright (72 percent) over the last 18 meetings. The defenses have also shined in recent affairs, with the total going under the number in six of the last seven confrontations.
With that in mind, I am backing the Jets to triumph in this spot. Expect Vezina Trophy winner Connor Hellebuyck, who led all NHL goaltenders with a +19.86 Goals Saved Above Expectation in 2019/20, to be up to par behind what should be an improved defense in Winnipeg.
The Bet: Jets +107
Sam Hitchcock: Connor McDavid to score a goal (+130)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
- Game: Vancouver vs. Edmonton
- Puck drop: 9 p.m. ET
I refuse to allow the second leg of a back-to-back between the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks pass without lobbying for Connor McDavid to score his first goal of the season.
Consider: On DraftKings, Auston Matthews was -112 to score against Montreal and Alexander Ovechkin is currently -108 to score against Buffalo. So, in this light, +130 for McDavid almost seems like value.
It was a slow start for McDavid last night. As Thomas Drance of The Athletic noted on Twitter, Vancouver’s Bo Horvat line didn’t surrender a 5-on-5 shot to McDavid in the first frame. But then the second period began, and the snow globe shook.
McDavid sprinted past Alexander Edler and nearly snuck a shot in on the near post. Shortly after, he toe-dragged Travis Hamonic and forced a big save by goaltender Braden Holtby. On a sequence that would draw a penalty, McDavid swooped into the offensive zone unchecked and nearly registered a goal on his backhand on a pretty pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. And all of that occurred in the first ten minutes of the period.
In many ways, the Oilers’ performance in the first contest was utterly predictable. Edmonton’s bottom-six forwards combined to generate three shot attempts at 5-on-5 and allowed three times as many shots as they manufactured. Folks, hold onto your seat, but secondary scoring may be an issue for Edmonton this season!
Edmonton’s defensive group may be not just wobbly, but an insurmountable liability. The Oilers’ submitted a 3.19 expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 last night, creating distance for themselves at the bottom from any other team who played.
The dots connect and form a familiar narrative: Victory in the subsequent 55 games will be catalyzed by McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. On Wednesday night, the Oilers doubled Vancouver in power-play opportunities, with four chances. So, in spite of the fissures in this team’s roster construction, possibility abounded. At least in the immediate term.
On Thursday night, Edmonton will be home again, which means they will have the last change. Oilers coach Dave Tippett would be wise to move McDavid away from Horvat and match his superstar center against Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes and Hamonic defensive pair, whom McDavid had success against.
McDavid was not gun-shy last night. He led the game with nine shot attempts. For a player of this caliber, being held scoreless in two straight games against the same opponent seems highly unlikely. A huge statistical night is written in the stars, and you deserve to profit from it.
Michael Leboff: Kings (+125) over Wild
- Odds available at PointsBet [Bet Now]
- Puck Drop: 10 p.m. ET
I think the Los Angeles Kings could be a sneaky team for bettors to keep an eye on in 2021. The Kings are in the middle of a drastic rebuild and are coming off a terrible season in 2019/20, but there’s a lot of promising young talent coming through the ranks in Hollywood and they’ll provide a boost to a team that played better than people realized last season.
Despite finishing 27th with a -0.36 goal differential per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, the Kings had the 12th-best expected goal (xG) differential per 60 minutes and generated the ninth-most xG per 60. In other words, the Kings were creating scoring chances, they just weren’t finishing them off, nor were they getting good goaltending.
On the other side, I think the Minnesota Wild could be in for a wobbly 2021. Most bookmakers have Minnesota pegged as the fourth-best team in the West Division, but I think the gap is pretty close between them and the projected chasing pack, which includes Los Angeles.
Minnesota’s defense is quite a strength, but their offense figures to be a pretty big issue as the Wild are without a true No. 1 center. Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov and Zach Parise certainly can score, but I don’t expect scoring will come easy for an offense that is this deficient down the middle. That should, at the very least, keep this game in range for the Kings to scratch out a result.
We have Minnesota projected as a -118 favorite in this game and, while early-season projections should be handled with care as we get more current data on teams, I tend to think that number is appropriate. I like Los Angeles at +125 or better on Thursday night.
The Bet: Los Angeles Kings +125 or better
Pete Truszkowski: Kings vs. Wild Under 5.5 (-110)
- Odds available at FanDuel [Bet Now]
- Puck Drop: 10 p.m. ET
Minnesota and Los Angeles are not on most people’s radar going into 2021. However in the new West Division, both teams have reasons to believe they can make the playoffs.
These two teams are a pain to analyze, as both actually had some impressive underlying metrics last season. The Wild finished second in expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 last season. Despite that, they finished in the bottom-ten of goals against per game. Meanwhile, the Kings were a top-10 team in terms of expected goals scored per hour, but their actual results put them near the bottom of the NHL in 2019/20.
Minnesota did their part in trying to fix their shortcomings. Devan Dubnyk posted an .890 save percentage last season which explains why the Wild drastically underperformed their expectations. He had the worst goals saved above expectation in the league last year, posting an unruly -27.49 mark in just 30 starts. Dubnyk has since been traded and Cam Talbot has been bought in.
Talbot posted a .919 save percentage for Calgary last season and has posted better than a .917 save percentage in five of his seven NHL seasons. If the Wild can maintain their defensive prowess from last season, Talbot should be more than adequate between the pipes. In turn, their goals against numbers will be much improved.
On the flip side, I’m not as positive as Leboff on Los Angeles regressing towards the mean. The Kings have an aging core without much proven talent behind them. Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty, Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown are all into their 30’s now and have a lot of miles on their bodies. The Kings might rebound slightly with more shooting luck, but I would be shocked if their offense wasn’t in the bottom third of the league.
I also expect the Wild to struggle to score due to their issues down the middle. The team traded Eric Staal, let Mikko Koivu walk in free agency and lost Marco Rossi to injury during camp. Their top two centers are now Nick Bjugstad and Nick Bonino. With the lack of center talent, even talented wingers like Kevin Fiala and Kirill Kaprizov will be capped in terms of their production.
I expect both of these teams to struggle to score all season long and therefore I’m playing the under in this matchup.
The Bet: Under 5.5