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NHL Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Saturday, December 31st
Recap: It’s not often you get information that leads to a big edge but learning that Leon Draisaitl would be out for the Oilers before everybody else did resulted in a whack of closing line value. Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ended, as the Kraken were blown out 7-2.
Saturday: If I was going with my gut, I would say I don't like today's card at all. There are a lot of mismatches. But, my model is showing a couple of edges, so I’m hoping to close out 2022 with a couple of wins.
Washington Capitals -1.5, -105
Ottawa Senators -120
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.
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: Washington Capitals -1.5, -105
Montreal has lost eight of its last 10 games and they’ve scored two or fewer goals in nine of those games. The Canadiens rank 29th in goals and 31st in shots (per 60 minutes) since the start of December. Goaltending hasn’t been as big of an issue as some would think, but the Habs still ranks among the bottom-10 teams in the league in goals against and only one team has allowed more shots against (per 60) over the last month.
Meanwhile, the Capitals have been winning games (10 of their last 12) and only four teams have scored more goals over the last 30 days. But, what’s even more impressive, is that only two teams allowed fewer goals during that stretch (Boston and Carolina). The Capitals are coming off an overtime loss to the Senators and have vowed to clean things up against Montreal, who is playing their third game in four days, on Saturday.
Washington should hold Montreal to two goals or less on average, and the Caps should be able to put up four or five themselves. They’ve been a top-five team in categories like shots, expected goals and goals for the better part of two months now, and their chances of covering the puck line are better than the odds (-105) suggest.
Bet: Ottawa Senators -120
Red Wings’ goaltender Ville Husso missed Thursday’s game against the Sabres due to an illness but was back at practice on Friday and it looks like Magnus Hellberg will start against the Senators on Friday. Detroit has allowed at least four goals in six straight games and Hellberg was lit up by the Sabres on Thursday. This is the third game in four days for the Red Wings and the Senators should be priced around -135.
Ottawa is coming off a come-from-behind win over the Capitals, and a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins. They might have been lucky to get both wins, but they’ve won six of their last nine games and one of those wins was a 6-3 victory over Detroit. The Senators generate a lot of shots (sixth in the league in the month of December) and Hellberg’s workload will be heavy. I was able to bet the Senators around at -115, so shop around if you decide to tail.
It would be unwise to look past Buffalo here, even if they are playing the best team in the NHL. The Sabres are one of the best offensive teams in the league and they’re on the rise. Buffalo has a winning record this season and they’re currently on a five-game win streak. It’ll probably end on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean the Bruins are a good bet.
Depending on the shop, the current odds might be somewhat attractive if Linus Ullmark starts, but on the off chance that Jeremy Swayman gets the nod, it’s not a good bet. Even if Ullmark is in goal, the edge that my model sees is borderline, and intuitively, I could see the Sabres giving the Bruins some trouble. They’re sort of unsuspecting because they grade out in the middle of the pack when it comes to shot attempt percentage, but their scoring touch is real.
Update: Jeremy Swayman will start for the Bruins.
Carter Hart could technically play on Saturday if the Flyers back date his injury, but we are talking about a concussion here so maybe the organization wants to handle their star goaltender with extra care. After all, it’s not like the Flyers are playing meaningful games. These are glorified exhibition games that serve as auditions for players that hope to be on the team next season.
If Hart is in goal, I don’t have much interest in this game, but if it’s Ersson, I’ll bet on the home team to cover the puck line. The Kings have won six of seven and they’ve really picked it up on offense over the last 10 games. The Flyers are a bad team that ranks among the bottom-10 in the NHL in shots against. Without Hart in goal, the Kings should be able to make good on the chances they’re surely going to generate.
This will be the third game in four days for the Lightning since the league resumed play and starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy played the last two games. Brian Elliott could make his first start since December 21st, and if that happens, Tampa Bay’s odds won’t be -360. But my model sees them as a -390 favorite if Vasilevskiy is in goal and, although Elliott is huge downgrade, my model doesn’t see any value betting on the Coyotes at +295.
Tampa Bay has won 15 of its last 20 games and they’ve done a good job beating up on the league’s weaker teams. They’ve also played well in front of Elliott this season (7-2) and they should still win the game more than 73 percent of the time with him between the pipes.
Nathan MacKinnon’s return has been teased, and there’s a chance that he’ll be in the lineup on Saturday when the Maple Leafs come to town. If that’s the case, it’s obviously a big boost for the home team, and the Avalanche should be priced around -105. I personally think MacKinnon will play. Bednar said the only thing that the team is waiting on is the player to say he’s ready to play. The team also made a roster move this morning, sending a player to the AHL, which suggests they’re making way for their best player to return.
Notes: Alexandar Georgiev will start in goal for the Avalanche.
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