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NHL Betting Odds & Picks for Penguins vs. Bruins: Can Boston Find the Back of the Net? (April 3)

NHL Betting Odds & Picks for Penguins vs. Bruins: Can Boston Find the Back of the Net? (April 3) article feature image

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

  • The struggling Bruins take on the Penguins on Saturday afternoon in hopes of getting their season back on track.
  • Pittsburgh has been red-hot of late, though, winning 18 of its last 25 games.
  • Michael Leboff breaks down why the Pens should not be underdogs in this game.

Penguins vs. Bruins Odds

Penguins Odds +100
Bruins Odds -115
Over/Under 5.5 (+108 / -132)
Time Saturday, 1 p.m. ET
TV NHL Network
Odds updated Saturday at 11 a.m. ET and via DraftKings

I’m not too sure we’ve seen the end of the slide for the Boston Bruins yet.

The B’s came into the season as the deserving favorites for the East Division, but there were skeptics out there who questioned whether the team would be able to excel without Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. Krug and Chara were both effective players in their individual roles, but the issue was more about the team’s depth on the back-end than anything else. That depth will continued to be tested as Brandon Carlo is day-to-day with an upper-body injury and looks like he will miss Saturday’s game.

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While Boston’s defense has held up its end of the bargain by allowing just 2.39 goals against per game and 2.03 expected goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5, the offense has been invisible. Boston ranks 29th with an average of 1.96 expected goals per 60 at 5-on-5 and 28th with an average of 1.96 goals per hour at 5-on-5. The goals have dried up so much that Bruce Cassidy has broken up The Perfection Line and moved David Pastrnak to the second line to balance the scoring.

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.

On the other hand the Penguins have been on a roll. Pittsburgh is 18-6-1 with a 60% goal share at 5-on-5 over its last 25 games. While not dominating at 5-on-5, the Penguins have an expected goals rate over 50% over their last 10 games. When you have players like Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Evgeni Malkin (who is injured now), and Kris Letang at the top of your roster you don’t need to tilt the ice to get wins. You just need to avoid getting shelled and hope that your stars do what they’re paid to do.

What’s more encouraging for Pittsburgh is that its defense has started to rise to the occasion since Brian Dumoulin returned from injury on March 6. In the 15 games since Dumoulin returned to the lineup, the Pens have allowed 1.15 goals and 1.96 expected goals per hour at 5-on-5. In their previous 15 contests without Dumoulin they allowed 2.26 goals and 2.3 xG per hour.

I still think the Bruins will find their game at some point and could be a real thorn in the side in the postseason, but going up against a stifling defensive team in good form is not what you want for an offense that can’t find the back of the net.

I think Pittsburgh should be slight favorites in this one and would play the Pens to -115.

Pick: Penguins +105 (play to -115)

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