Thursday’s NHL Betting Preview: Blues-Lightning and Kings-Flyers
Gary A. Vazquez, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Ryan O’Reilly
The NHL schedule has been a little wonky the past few weeks but Thursday night should be a good one with 14 games on the docket.
Let’s jump right in, starting with an intriguing matchup between the surging St. Louis Blues and the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
(Season record: 33-38, +7.52 units)
St. Louis Blues (+165) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-190), 7:30 p.m. ET
The St. Louis Blues spent the first half of the season languishing near the bottom of the standings but are right in the thick of the playoff race in the mediocre Western Conference.
Over their last 25 games the Blues have really started to right the ship and the most encouraging part is that they have done it by playing well at 5v5.
Only the New York Islanders have posted a better Goals For percentage (GF%) than St. Louis’ 58.06% over that span. Additionally, the Blues lead the NHL in high-danger chances for and against per 60 over their last 25 games and their expected goals differential has soared.
St. Louis still has issues (goaltender Jake Allen is wildly inconsistent, for example) but the picture is a lot brighter than it was around Thanksgiving for Craig Berube’s charges.
Tampa Bay remains the best team in the NHL and are worthy Stanley Cup favorites, but they have hiccuped a little bit as of late. Over their last 10 games the Bolts are controlling just 50% of the shot share, allowing 12.7 high-danger chances per 60 while creating just 9.32 and have a GF% of just 45.8%.
There’s no reason to panic in Tampa but this is as good a chance as any to take on the Bolts and I would suggest playing the Blues at +160 or above.
The Bet: St. Louis Blues +165
Los Angeles Kings (+155) at Philadelphia Flyers (-175), 7 p.m. ET
Speaking of hot teams, the Philadelphia Flyers have won eight in a row and nine of their last 10 games. Rookie goaltender Carter Hart is on a personal seven-game winning streak and has been immense in keeping the Flyers somewhat relevant in the Wild Card race.
As good as Hart has been, the rest of the team still remains mediocre at best. In fact, the Flyers have owned just 43.7% of the shot share and 48.6% of the high-danger chances during their 10-game run.
The Flyers will still be the better team on the ice on Thursday night as the Kings are bad, but this game is closer than these odds suggest.
Los Angeles plays very low-event hockey — it ranks 31st in the NHL in expected goals pace — and will want this game to turn into a rock fight. If they can muddy the waters, this game will turn into a coin flip and from there who the hell knows.
I’m selling high on Philadelphia in this spot as its recent run has been propped up by shooting luck and stellar goaltending.
The Bet: Los Angeles +155