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NHL Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Friday, December 23rd
Recap: Washington dominated the Senators for most of the game but they needed overtime to win and cash Thursday’s best bet.
Boston Bruins -115
Notes: I’m tracking all my plays on Betstamp: a third party bet tracking app. The bets reveal themselves after the games start. I keep my own personal records as well and they may differ slightly from Betstamp due to several factors, but for the most part, it should line up closely.
Wins: 46 Losses: 48 Units Won: -3.77 units ROI: -7.9 percent
All game lines via DraftKings Sportsbook and BetMGM Sportsbook, but I will sometimes use the consensus odds from the VSiN NHL Odds page if it is a better price and widely available. All recommended bets will be accompanied by recommended stake size. All stats via Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick.
Boston Bruins (-115) at New Jersey Devils (-105)
Bet: Boston Bruins -115
Boston got off to a slow start against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday, falling behind 0-2 early, but once again, they were victorious on home ice. The Bruins have yet to lose a game in regulation at TD Garden, but they’re 8-4 on the road, and my model sees them as a -127 favorite on Friday. Boston will be tired, but Linus Ullmark has had three days off and it’s the third game in four days for New Jersey.
The Devils are a good team, but it appears the book is out on them, and coaches have been able to adjust. New Jersey was the best team in expected goals for the better part of two months, but over their last 15 games they don’t even show up in the top-10. They’re still a top-three team in terms of generating shots, but they rank 12th in expected goals per 60 minutes and their defense is average.
Goaltending has also become a concern for the Devils, as Vitek Vanecek has reverted to being a below average goaltender and MacKenzie Blackwood, who just returned from a long absence, still has a lot to prove. Blackwood did help the Devils snap their six-game losing streak in Florida on Wednesday, though, so head coach Paul Maurice might choose to give him the nod on Friday.
New Jersey’s offense hasn’t produced much over its last handful of games, and while that likely won’t be the case for too long, the Bruins are one of the best defensive teams in the league and Ullmark has been virtually unstoppable and he's a big reason why I'm betting on the Bruins to win the game.
Philadelphia Flyers (+260) at Carolina Hurricanes (-320)
The Hurricanes won their seventh game in a row on Thursday in Pittsburgh, and they should beat the Flyers on Friday, but this marks their sixth game in nine days so they may not be at their best. Of course, the Flyers are playing their second game in as many days, too, and they’re in an even tougher spot because their starting goaltender, Carter Hart, played on Friday in Toronto.
Head coach John Tortorella might decide to start Hart again, but he could call on Samuel Ersson to make his NHL debut. Either way, the Hurricanes will have Pyotr Kochetkov in goal and that gives them a big advantage. Sebastian Aho still hasn’t returned to the lineup, but if he ends up suiting up on Friday, the Hurricanes’ odds should be around -340, but there’s no word on whether he’s going to play or not.
Winnipeg Jets (+120) at Washington Capitals (-140)
Washington is the best team in expected goals (all situations) over the last month, and with starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper returning on Thursday for a big win over the Senators, Charlie Lindgren finally had some time off to rest. Lindgren has emerged as a solid backup option for the Capitals, and if David Rittich start for the Jets, the home team will have an edge between the pipes. However, I don’t think it would be wise to assume the Jets are going to start Rittich. Hellebuyck had four days off prior to Thursday’s game against the Bruins and the team will be off until Tuesday. This will be Winnipeg’s sixth game in nine days, and Rittich has started the last two.
I also wouldn’t rule out Tom Wilson, who appears to be very close to making his season debut. Nicklas Backstrom is also nearing a return, but the expectation has been that he will be a little longer than Wilson and I don’t believe that has changed. Washington has a couple of other injured players that will return to the lineup sooner rather than later, but I’m not expecting any changes to their lineup, and it would be premature to put a price on this game due to all the moving parts.
Florida Panthers (-115) at New York Islanders (-105)
Aleksander Barkov will suit up for the Florida Panthers on Friday after being injured on December 17th. The Panthers have lost six of their last nine and their underlying metrics have taken a nosedive over the last month. Florida ranks 19th in expected goals (all situations) since November 21st and they have scored less than 50 percent of the goals. Their offense is still borderline elite, but they’re missing their best forward and they’re a bottom-10 team on defense.
The Islanders have lost eighth of their last 11 games after falling to the Rangers on Thursday, but they’ve got a good backup goaltender in Semyon Varlamov, and (unlike the Panthers) the Islanders grade out as a top-10 team on defense. The Panthers are more likely to win the game than the Islanders, but only slightly, as my model prices the road team at around -110.
Vancouver Canucks (+190) at Edmonton Oilers (-220)
Elias Pettersson returned to the Canucks’ lineup Thursday, scored five points, and potted the shootout winner to help Vancouver rally from a 3-5 deficit to beat Seattle 5-4. The buzz likely won’t get them very far against the Oilers on Friday, though, as American Hockey League call up Collin Delia is expected to start in goal. Spencer Martin has played every game in December so far, but Delia is a 28-year-old undrafted goaltender and he’s not going to put the team in a better position to win than Martin, even if the latter is tired.
Edmonton has a lot of holes in their game, but they have the most dangerous power play in the league and the Canucks allow more goals while shorthanded than any other team. There’s a chance Jack Campbell will be in goal for the Oilers, which would reduce their chances of winning the game, but either way, the home team deserves to be priced no worse than -190.
St. Louis Blues (+145) at Vegas Golden Knights (-165)
The latest update on Jack Eichel was simply that he would not play on Wednesday against the Coyotes, which leaves us guessing whether he will suit up on Friday when the Golden Knights host the Blues. He didn’t attend the team’s optional skate prior to the last game, which doesn’t seem like a good sign, if you ask me. The team is also missing defenders Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud, and neither of those players are expected to be in the lineup.
St. Louis is one of the streakier teams in the league, and lately, they’ve been streaking in the right direction, winning give of their last eight games. However, prior to that, the Blues lost six of eight, and their top scorer, Jordan Kyrou, might miss the game due to injury. Things could swing heavily in the Golden Knights favor if Eichel plays and Kyrou doesn’t, but my model sees the Golden Knights as a -155 favorite if things stay the same.
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