Saturday NHL Slate Breakdown: Expert’s Top Bets (March 11)

Saturday NHL Slate Breakdown: Expert’s Top Bets (March 11) article feature image

Photo by Tim Spyers/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jakub Vrana.

Let's dive into my favorite widely available plays from Saturday's monster NHL slate. I'm focusing on a player prop in Blues vs. Blue Jackets and a moneyline play on Senators vs. Canucks.

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Jakub Vrana Anytime Goalscorer (+310; DraftKings)

7 p.m. ET

Despite possessing an elite offensive skillset, it has been a very tumultuous couple years for Vrana.

He was traded out of Washington at the end of the 2021 campaign, and fought through significant injuries throughout the early part of his tenure with Detroit.  In October, Vrana was placed in the NHL's player assistance program, and ultimately ended up being traded to St. Louis at the trade deadline. 

A fresh start could be exactly what Vrana needs to get what was once an extremely promising career back on track.

When in top form, Vrana has proven he can be one of the most potent goal scorers in the NHL, and has regularly ranked among the top in goals per 60 minutes of play.

Often times a lack of ice time has sheltered that fact, but his usage in St. Louis seems promising, especially considering he is still settling back in.

Vrana has registered 10 shots on goal over the last two outings, and broke through with his first tally with St. Louis last time out versus San Jose.

He is skating on the Blues' top power-play unit, and alongside a quality playmaker in Pavel Buchnevich on the team's second even strength line.

The Blues get an excellent matchup tonight against the Blue Jackets, who have allowed 3.72 goals against per game this season. That sky-high average includes a number of strong starts from Joonas Korpisalo, however, who was shipped off to Los Angeles at the deadline.

Journeyman Michael Hutchinson is likely to start tonight for Columbus, and he has played a below .898 save % throughout his last 35 starts at the AHL level.

Senators (-130) vs Canucks 

10 p.m. ET

Vancouver will enjoy an edge in goal with Thatcher Demko facing off versus Mads Sogaard. That is about the only case to be made for Rick Tocchet's Canucks, and I make the Senators a heavier favorite here.

Ottawa has been one of the better teams in the league for what has now become a meaningful sample size, and if we lopped off the early part of the season, it may be viewed in an entirely different light.

The Senators have gone on a 13-4-1 tear since Jan. 25, with an impressive +21 goal differential in that span.

Ottawa's underlying metrics have always been quite positive this season. Their early struggles mainly came down to simply losing close games and an an inability to finish.

As you would expect, considering the dangerous scorers littered in the Sens' top six, the finishing has come around at five-on-five and now Ottawa looks to be an offensive powerhouse.

Over the last five matchups, Ottawa has generated 4.08 xGF/60. It ranks sixth in that metric looking at a sample of the entire season,  which shows Ottawa's elite chance creation is not simply a flash in the pan.

With Jakob Chychrun in tow, Ottawa's defensive core is greatly solidified, and overall the roster has looked extremely well rounded in recent outings.

Vancouver seems to be getting a lot of credit for its three game win streak entering this matchup, which has come in contests versus two very poor sides in Anaheim, Nashville, and a brilliant game from Thatcher Demko versus the Leafs.

Many prominent flaws still remain among the Canucks roster, and it seems like the market is giving too much respect to Vancouver here considering Ottawa has been one of the best teams for a meaningful sample.

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