One of the more interesting conversations to be had in regard to predicting the outcomes of hockey games is whether or not previous head-to-head matchups are a preview of things to come. We’re a little past the halfway point of the regular season and teams already have faced the other teams in their division anywhere from four to six times. While it’s important not to get overconfident based on a handful of performances, there is some insight to be drawn from analyzing previous games in a season series.
Take the Ottawa Senators, for example. The Senators had gone 3-2 in five previous matchups against the Calgary Flames, each time with Matt Murray in goal. For anyone who doesn’t know, Murray is arguably the worst goaltender in the NHL. The teams were matched up again Monday, but this time Murray did not suit up because of an injury, joining backups Marcus Hogberg and Joey Daccord on the shelf. It would be up to Filip Gustavsson to get the job done in his first game in the pros.
At plus-150, backing the Senators was an easy decision. I had backed Ottawa in quite a few of their previous matchups against the Flames and was satisfied with their performance each time. In three games, the Sens were clearly the better team, owning approximately 57 percent of the expected goals, according to Evolving Hockey. Even though the Flames did get the better of the Senators in a couple of games, the overall performance of the latter simply added to my confidence level.
The Senators jumped out to an early lead, and although they had to hang on for dear life through the second half of the game, they did enough to get the win and improved to 4-2 against the Flames. The teams will meet again Wednesday. Backing the Senators at + 150 or better, if it’s offered again, seems like a no-brainer.
In the East, the New York Islanders have had the Boston Bruins’ number. The teams have squared off four times and although the Bruins were able to salvage a point in a shootout loss the last time out, they have yet to beat the Islanders. According to Evolving Hockey, the Isles have had the better of the expected goals in all but one of the four matchups, but only once did they hold a significant edge. With half of the season series left to play, bettors will be tasked with separating the signal from the noise.
Four games isn’t a very large sample size and they’ve all been on the road. Will there be a buy-low opportunity on the home team in upcoming games? Maybe. The Bruins were still a small favorite on the road in the fourth meeting, and if I had to guess we’re going to see them priced somewhere in the neighborhood of -120 on Thursday. If the price is shorter than that, a play might be warranted. Of course, the Bruins just had a couple of games postponed after several players were added to the COVID-19 protocol list. If the team is not at full strength, that must be taken into account.
Over in the Central, the Columbus Blue Jackets and Carolina Hurricanes met for the sixth time Monday. The Blue Jackets entered the game with a 3-2 record against the Hurricanes this season, but the season series is all squared up at three games a piece heading into Thursday’s rematch. It’s one of two remaining games between the two teams. Despite injuries to forwards Vincent Trocheck and Teuvo Teravainen, the Hurricanes shut out the Blue Jackets 3-0. The Hurricanes have dominated every game, holding a significant edge in expected goals, according to Evolving Hockey. It’s hard not to see the team closing out the season series with two more strong performances.
That’s not to say they’ll come away with a win in either game, but don’t expect them to roll over for the Blue Jackets given what we’ve seen in the six previous games. The Blue Jackets don’t seem to enjoy any kind of home-ice advantage, so bettors should keep that in mind when the Hurricanes play in Columbus on Thursday. The price will be shorter than if the Hurricanes were at home, but the performance that the team puts forth will be just as strong.