Welcome to VSiN’s NHL Best Bets page. Your source for comprehensive and dynamic hockey betting analysis. Read on for odds, predictions and best bets for December 17th. Follow me on Twitter to stay up to date.
NHL Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Saturday, December 17th
Saturday offers up plenty of betting opportunities with a huge 13-game card.
Today's Best NHL Bets:
New Jersey Devils -135
Winnipeg Jets -105
Note: 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: 43 Losses: 46 Units Won: -4.42 units ROI: -9.3 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.
Bet: New Jersey Devils -135
New Jersey has lost its last four games in a row, but I don’t think the Devils are running out of steam just yet. They haven’t been dominating teams to the level that they were earlier in the season, and they do seem to be more susceptible to playing poorly now, but the Panthers are 6-10 straight up on the road this season and they aren’t very hot themselves. In fact, last season's regular season champions are struggling.
Florida has lost 12 of their last 17 games going back to the middle of November and their underlying statistics don’t paint a pretty picture. The Panthers rank 19th in expected goals and have scored just 50 percent of the goals. New Jersey hasn’t been playing great (52 percent expected goals in last 10 games combined) but my model sees them as a bigger favorite than the market at around -150.
Maybe that has something to do with Spencer Knight likely making his return to the crease, but he hasn’t played since December 6th and bettors should worry about rust rather than give the Panthers an edge due to rest. Illness has taken several of Florida’s players, including Knight, out of the lineup, but the latest victim, Matthew Tkachuk, is the most important player to come down with the bug yet.
Tkachuk has not been ruled out, but fact the team is travelling (the Panthers will play the Bruins on Monday before heading home) and they might have to leave their leading scorer in Florida while he recovers. The Devils are a good bet whether Tkachuk plays or not, but they’ll be a great bet if he doesn’t and I’m willing to take a chance on the Devils getting back in the win column.
Bet: Winnipeg Jets -105
This is the first half of back-to-back for the Jets, which (in my opinion) is the main reason that my model sees them differently than the market. Winnipeg is one team that the market is very hesitant to move on when there is a chance that the starting goaltender will be someone other than Connor Hellebuyck, and rightfully so. Hellebuyck is a world-class goaltender and the team’s odds of winning a given game drop off significantly anytime David Rittich is announced as the starting goaltender.
Hellebuyck typically starts the first half of back-to-back situations, though, and the Winnipeg media seems to think that will be the case here, projecting that he will start on Saturday and Rittich will start on Sunday. If that’s the case, my model sees the road team as a -125 favorite, and I don’t want to pass up on what could end up being a great number. The Canucks have been winning lately, but they’ve been outplayed despite playing a mix of struggling and/or injured teams.
I’ve regretted my last two bets on the Jets, but they were battling a flu bug but if Hellebuyck is between the pipes, they’ll have the edge on defense, and on offense, which is Vancouver’s only real area of strength. Starting Rittich would nerf any perceived expected value, though, so I’m scaling my bet size down to just one unit due to the uncertainty. I’d like to be able to place a bet twice the size of this one but playing it safe feels like the right thing to do here.
Notes: Canucks’ forward Brock Boeser is regarded as day-to-day, as is Jets’ defender Nate Schmidt.
Injuries make this game tough to handicap. Tim Stutzle and Tyler Motte are both out for Ottawa, on top of defender Artem Zub, but the Red Wings aren’t healthy, either. Detroit has been playing without key players off and on for a while now, but they’ve lost both Dylan Larkin and Filip Hronek to injury earlier this week and the former will be a game-time decision on Saturday according to head coach Derek Lalonde.
Larkin is Detroit’s best player (he leads the team in goals, assists, points and shots) and if he doesn’t play, it will tip the scales in Ottawa’s favor. The Senators are the superior team, and the odds should basically flip if Detroit’s captain isn’t able to return to the lineup. The Red Wings should remain the favorite if Larkin returns, but -120 is too high to begin with, so there might end up being value on the road team regardless. I guess we’ll see.
Bruins’ backup goaltender Jeremey Swayman will be back in the crease at some point, and there’s a chance it will be on Saturday. Boston has four games (including a back-to-back) before the league breaks for the holidays, and while I do expect Swayman to start one of the back-to-back games, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Linus Ullmark get a night off here. Either way, Columbus is a bad hockey team that has allowed at least four goals in six out of their last seven games and this should be an easy win. Of course, it’s tough to find value betting on a -400 favorite, though. Even if you think the line should be -450, your edge is still relatively small, and my model is only in that range if Ullmark is guarding the cage.
Washington is getting healthier and soon they’ll be back to full strength. That’s bad news for the rest of the league, especially the Eastern Conference, but right now, the Maple Leafs are bad news. Toronto is coming off a loss, but the team won nine of their last 10 games prior to Wednesday’s game against the Rangers in New York.
Ilya Samsonov will start in goal, and while a win is important, I’d guess not being the goalie that allows his former teammate, Alex Ovechkin, to tie, or possibly pass, Gordie Howe (currently No. 2 with 801 goals) on the all-time goal scorer list. That’s easier said than done, though, and Ovechkin has scored 41 goals in 54 career games against the Maple Leafs.
The Capitals have played well, if not great, recently, and if they were healthier wouldn’t be an underdog in this game. However, until Tom Wilson, Nicklas Backstrom and some of the other injured players return, they’re going to have a hard time keeping up with the league’s more dangerous teams.
Hurricanes’ star Sebastian Aho, who hasn’t played since December 6th, will not play this weekend, according to the team. The ‘Canes are set to play the Stars and Penguins this weekend, and not although they have won seven of their last eight, they haven’t played a team like the Stars since losing Aho to injury.
Carolina ranks first in expected goals over the last month, and their defense is arguably the best in the league. But I still have concerns about their offense, which has been below average this season, and taking their leading goal scorer out of the lineup only magnifies the concerns I have. Dallas has been decent offensively, and goaltender Jake Oettinger has been outstanding, but if Pyotr Kochetkov starts for the home team, the Stars will be in tough.
There’s a good chance we’ll see Antti Raanta in goal, though. as the Penguins are a divisional opponent and starting Kochetkov against them seems like the right move. My model prices the Hurricanes quite differently depending on who is in goal, and I don’t feel strongly enough about it one way or the other to try and get in Rod Brind’ Amour’s head. If Raanta starts, I’ll consider betting the Stars to win the game.
The Sabres were lucky to overcome an injury to Owen Power in Thursday’s game against the Avalanche. Power tweaked something in warmup and was scratched shortly before puck drop. It sure gave me a scare, as someone who had a lot invested in the Sabres that night, but like I said, it worked out in the end.
It looks like Power might be out again on Saturday, though, as the team recalled a defender Jeremy Davies from the American Hockey League, and that’s a big blow to this team. The last time the Sabres’ blue line was shorthanded, the team lost 10 of 12 games, and while they will likely beat the Coyotes, I do think it’s something to be cognizant of.
Arizona is scrappy, but Connor Ingram will likely start in goal, and he’s been absolutely brutal this season. The game line isn’t currently available for this game right now, but depending on how Buffalo’s lineup shakes out, there might be some value betting on them to win at Mullet Arena. This isn’t necessarily the type of spot that I want to bet on a team like the Sabres in, though, and I’m curious to see how the market reacts if it is announced that Power will indeed miss the game.
This is another game that’s hard to handicap thanks to a slew of injuries on the home side. The Golden Knights have been without Jack Eichel, Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo for a little while now, and there are several other players on the shelf as well. Eichel, Theodore and Pietrangelo could all be back in the lineup on Saturday when the Golden Knights host the Islanders, but the team has not put out a statement and until they take the ice for morning skate, all bettors can do is guess.
New York lost to the Coyotes on Friday, and they’ll likely fall in Vegas on Saturday, but the game odds are hugely dependant on the status of the Golden Knights’ three big stars. If they play, the home team should be priced around -185. If they do play, then Vegas bettors should only be concerned about whether the team can score on home ice. The Golden Knights have scored two or fewer goals in 10 out of 15 home game so far this season.
Note: Semyon Varlamov is expected to start in goal for the Islanders.
Follow me on Twitter to stay up to date.