Welcome to the weekly installment of my “NHL Games To Watch” betting column. I’ll preview some of the marquee games taking place between Thursday and Sunday targeting some interesting betting spots and looking for potential value with undervalued sides and totals.
Pittsburgh Penguins @ Tampa Bay Lightning
Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT
Home teams have dominated the recent series history in this Eastern Conference battle, going 8-2 in the last 10 meetings. After a 10-game winning streak, Tampa Bay was 5-2-1 heading into Tuesday night’s game against Vegas. Still, captain Steven Stamkos thinks the Lightning could be better: “I still don’t think we’re at the right mindset in terms of the way we control play (with decision-making). It’s getting better as we’ve progressed after the break. There’s still some areas we can improve in, but we’re getting the results lately, so it’s a process and I like the direction we’re headed.” Nikita Kucherov had a seven-game point streak, and it’s no surprise to see Tampa Bay’s winning ways coinciding with Kucherov’s hot hand. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been stellar in goal, going 12-0-1 in his last 13 starts with a sparkling .948 save percentage since the beginning of the calendar year. Pittsburgh has won four of five, including a very impressive win at Washington on Super Bowl Sunday that closed the gap to four points behind the first-place Capitals in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have gotten lots of offense from top players Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust, and their depth forwards continue to step up. However, they’re still missing one of their best forwards as Jake Guentzel is out with a shoulder injury. I would expect to see an offensive display here. Recent history points to the Over, which has cashed at an 8-2 clip in the last 10 games between these teams.
Calgary Flames @ Vancouver Canucks
Saturday, Feb. 8, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT
These Pacific Division rivals are in a five-team race for the division lead, and Vancouver has ridden a torrid 14-3-1 span to the top spot with 65 points heading into Tuesday’s games. Vancouver had done it with an offense that had scored a whopping 66 goals in its last 18 games and had gotten strong goaltending from Jacob Markstrom and Thatcher Demko. The Canucks’ young core of Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser has been the catalyst of their success, but the offseason addition of J.T. Miller has paid massive dividends as he has 53 points. Calgary was 2-3-1 in its last six games and recently split a pair of very intense and physical battles against Edmonton. Vancouver has been awesome on home ice, going 17-8. That makes it difficult to bet against the Canucks here, but the Flames will be in the superior scheduling spot as they will catch the Canucks returning from an eastern trip. These teams have split the first two games of the season series, with both in Calgary. Vancouver has been excellent at home, but this travel spot is not in their favor, and I would look to back Calgary if the price is good enough.