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NHL Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, December 15th
Thursday’s Bets: Pittsburgh Penguins EVEN, Buffalo Sabres +160
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: 41 Losses: 46 Units Won: -7.01 units ROI: -14.8 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: Pittsburgh Penguins EVEN
1 unit To Win:
Home ice nearly as much to the Florida Panthers as it did in 2021-22 when they went 34-7. This season, they’re 8-6 straight up, and their opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are winning at about that same clip on the road. In fact, the visitors have won their last seven road games in a row, and they haven’t lost yet (six-game win streak) in December in the month of December.
Pittsburgh ranks among the top-five teams in goals and expected goals over the last month, compare that to Florida’s average ranking (16th) in both categories, and the gap between these teams is bigger than most would assume. The Panthers might score goals at a higher rate than the Penguins, but they rank 20th in goals against. Pittsburgh ranks fourth in that category, and there’s a small chance that Florida could be without their leading goal scorer, Carter Verhaeghe.
Verhaeghe was a late scratch prior to Tuesday’s game versus the Blue Jackets due to the same illness that has taken out several of his teammates over the last week. I’ve got him pencilled in, though, as I feel it’s better to be on the safe side in situations like this where there aren’t very many details. The Penguins are dealing with a couple of injuries as well (Jeff Petry and Jason Zucker), but they have a next-man-up mentality, having played well without important players in the past.
Spencer Knight should be ready to return to the Panthers’ crease, but Paul Maurice might be keen on riding Sergei Bobrovsky, you never know. It’s not clear who the Penguins will start in goal, as well, but my NHL betting model sees the road team as -113 favorite, on average. Florida will put up a fight, and maybe even win the game, but the Penguins should be a small favorite, not a small underdog.
Note: Shop around for the best odds.
Bet: Buffalo Sabres +160
1 unit To Win:
Colorado is getting healthier, but they’re a long way from being a Stanley Cup caliber team, and the Sabres’ offense gives most teams trouble. The Avalanche picked up a 6-4 win in Buffalo back on December 1st, but Nathan MacKinnon and Josh Manson were in the lineup back then. Val Nichushkin is back in the fold, which is huge, but the Avalanche have been struggling. They put six goals up on the Sabres (one empty net), but they rank 28th on offense over the last month. Buffalo is bad on defense, but they’re the best offensive team in the NHL right now.
Statistically, the Sabres don’t grade out as well as the Avalanche. However, in a game that I expect to be played at an extremely high pace, anything is possible in this chaotic sport. Colorado should be a favorite, but -160 is a little too high according to my model, which sees the Sabres as a +145 underdog. I don’t think Buffalo will win the game, but their odds make them an intriguing bet because they’re capable of outscoring their problems on defense. It’s not pretty, but I’m betting on the Sabres to beat the Avalanche in Colorado on Thursday. Hopefully Tage Thompson comes to the rescue and saves me from this stupid decision.
With both John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz injured, the Ducks’ goaltending tandem consists of Lukas Dostal and Olle Eriksson Ek. Dostal would likely get the start if worse comes to worse and Gibson and/or Stolarz aren’t able to suit up, but can the Ducks goaltending get any worse? Maybe, I guess, but they already rank as the second-worst team in goals against and they’ve allowed at least five goals in seven of their last 10 games.
Montreal might not be a good hockey team, but they’re not a terrible and the Ducks are. However, the betting market is aware of the situation, and that’s why we’re seeing the Canadiens, who are playing their second game in two days, priced as a -150 favorite. I don’t think there’s any value in betting on the Canadiens to win this game, even though they likely will approximately 60 percent of the time.
One thing that sort of ended up being lost in all the excitement surround Alex Ovechkin scoring a hattrick to reach 800 career goals is that backup goaltender Charlie Lindgren is 5-0 since starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper went down with an injury. Kuemper was playing solid hockey, and should be back before the holidays, but Lindgren’s .938 save percentage over his last five starts has given the team new life.
The Capitals are getting healthier, with Lars Eller and Tom Wilson both nearing a return, but while there’s a chance that the former will play on Thursday, it doesn’t look like the former will. Stranger things have happened, though. The Capitals have played as good, or better, than the Stars since the middle of November, but the Stars have been good since the start and my NHL betting model sees this game a coin flip and so does the market, apparently.
Los Angeles is coming off a 6-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, and after losing 10 out of their last 15 games, their chances of defeating the Bruins in Boston on Thursday aren’t looking good. Forward David Krejci could be back in the lineup after missing the last two games. Meanwhile, because this is the final game of a six-game road trip for the Kings, it seems unlikely that forward Viktor Arvidsson suit up given that he is away from the team due to personal reasons.
Boston should win the game about 70 percent (-235) of the time if Linus Ullmark is in goal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Jeremy Swayman ends up getting the start, and that makes it tricky to handicap this game with confidence. Since November 14th, only two teams have allowed more goals per 60 minutes than Los Angeles, so the Bruins shouldn’t have any trouble scoring goals. The Kings are an average offensive team, though, so if the Bruins do decide to rest Ullmark, it will crack the door for an upset open a little wider.
It’s been incredible to watch the Maple Leafs go on their recent run given the injuries that some of their players suffered prior to the success. Toronto has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 out of its last 14 games and they also shutout three of their last four opponents. The team has won 12 of their last 14 games, and the Rangers have dropped off big time over the last several weeks. The road team will win this game more often than the home team, but their true odds are around to -117.
Note: Matt Murray will start for the Maple Leafs.
The Jets have let me down in back-to-back games, but Tuesday’s performance against the Golden Knights was especially disappointing given the injuries that Vegas is dealing with. The Jets have been good overall, but Connor Hellebuyck has allowed far more goals per game in the last two-three weeks than he typically does. Forward Pierre Luc-Dubois is also out and is be regarded as day-to-day.
Nashville ranks 29th in offense and if Hellebuyck is on his game, it should be tough for the Predators to win. The road team is playing their third game in four days, and if Dubois is back in, the home team should be priced closer to -165. That’s according to my NHL betting model, anyway.
Note: Juuse Saros and Connor Hellebuyck are expected to start in goal.
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