Expert NHL best bets and predictions for Saturday, October 14

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NHL best bets and expert picks

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It was a relatively quiet Friday night in the NHL, but we’ve got a full Saturday of action, kicking things off at 1 p.m. when the Philadelphia Flyers take on the team that I’m most excited about this season, the Ottawa Senators. It’s the first Saturday of the NHL season, and it certainly won’t disappoint as we have 14 games on throughout the day with a ton of different storylines. We have a rematch between the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks as well as the Carolina Hurricanes against the Los Angeles Kings, which could be a potential sleeper Stanley Cup Final matchup. 

The first week of the season is always tough for betting, but I’ll take a .500% record going into the weekend. Today is when we do some damage. I’ve got some 2 and 3-unit plays that I’m feeling good about.

Philadelphia Flyers at Ottawa Senators (-185, 6.5)

The Philadelphia Flyers kicked off their season on a positive note as they beat the Blue Jackets 4-2 in Columbus. The Flyers definitely enjoyed that win, as they should, because there won’t be many of them as the season progresses. The Ottawa Senators’ first game of the season wasn’t the result they wanted, as they traveled to Carolina for a 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes, but they put up a strong fight against one of, if not the best team in the Eastern Conference. 

I am high on the Senators for many reasons this season, but the biggest reason is their captain, Brady Tkachuk. Tkachuk is one of the best young captains in the game, and despite not having a point in the season opener, he is dialed in. 

One specific area that I believe will make the difference in this outing is special teams. The Senators failed to score on the power play in their first game. Granted, the Hurricanes had the second-best penalty kill last year, but tonight, their man-advantage unit will be going against a much weaker opponent. One of the Flyers’ biggest struggles last season was their penalty kill, finishing 26th in the league at 74.7%, but they had a successful first game of the season in this department. That said, this Senators first unit is loaded with Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, Claude Giroux, Drake Batherson, and Thomas Chabot. 

Top to bottom, the Senators are a much better team, and in the last five meetings between these two organizations, the Senators have won four. Joonas Korpisalo didn’t have the best first game, but he is more than capable of bouncing back, especially against a weaker offensive team like the Flyers. The Senators were 24-14-3 last season on home ice, and I am very confident that they will take care of their home opener this afternoon. 

Bet: *2 Units Ottawa Senators to win in regulation -115 (play to -135)

Buffalo Sabres at New York Islanders (-135, 6)

The New York Islanders have been sitting around all week, waiting to play their first game of the 2023-24 season and the day has finally come. The Buffalo Sabres, however, were not pleased with how they started the season as they got embarrassed on home ice against the New York Rangers in a 5-1 loss. 

The Sabres’ offense struggled against the Rangers, as they went 0 for 3 on the power play and only managed to put up 25 shots on goal. Tonight, their offense will have another difficult challenge as they face one of the best goaltenders in all of the NHL. Ilya Sorokin is coming off the best season of his career, as he put up a .924 save percentage with a 2.34 goals against average and a league’s third-best +38.7 goals saved above expected. 

Anyone who follows my picks knows that first-period Unders are my favorite NHL bet, and there was not a more profitable team last season in this category than the Islanders. The main reason for that success is Sorokin, but it’s also due to the Islanders’ struggle to score goals. New York finished last season ranked 22nd for goals per game (2.95) as well as toward the bottom of the league in expected goals for per 60 minutes (3.02). They play a very defensively sound game, and their focus will be to take away time and space from the Sabres’ forwards like Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch and Jeff Skinner, who were all held pointless in their first game. 

Buffalo will certainly be hungry for a win while the Islanders might need some time to ease into the regular season since they have yet to drop the puck. I don’t expect much offense early from New York, and I believe that Sorokin will shut down Buffalo in the opening frame. 

It’s always a good bet to take an Islanders first-period under. 

Bet: Under 1.5 goals in the first period +114 (play to -105)

Nashville Predators at Boston Bruins (-192, 6)

The Nashville Predators are already playing their third game of the season as they travel to Boston to take on the Bruins. This game is a goaltending battle between last year’s Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark for the Bruins and Juuse Saros of the Predators who finished 4th in the voting.

Saros is coming off of a 23-save shutout against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night while Ullmark had a strong performance in his first game of the season, only allowing one goal against the Chicago Blackhawks and making 20 saves. Ullmark is looking to follow up his unbelievable 2022-23 season where he boasted a .938 save percentage, a 1.89 goals against average, and a league’s second-best +42.4 goals saved above expected. The goalie who finished first was Saros, who had a +46.7 goals saved above expected while skating to a .919 save percentage and a 2.69 goals against average. 

Saros is already off to a fantastic start to this season. He has a +1.8 goals saved above expected in two games and a .929 save percentage. 

These clubs have solid defensive cores, but they aren’t expected to be threatening offensively. The Bruins only put up three goals in their season opener against a weak Blackhawks blue line, but the Predators have outperformed their offensive expectations so far, tallying six goals in two games. 

With all that said, these two goalies were the top two in the league last season, and I expect them to duke it out and keep this game low-scoring. 

Bet: Under 6 -115 (play to -130)

Carolina Hurricanes at Los Angeles Kings (+105, 6)

The Carolina Hurricanes are hitting the road for the first time this season as they head to Hollywood. They’ll play the Kings, who are seeking redemption after dropping their first game of the season on home ice. 

The Hurricanes have high expectations this season after being swept in the Eastern Conference Final last year, while the Kings are a sleeper to contend for the Stanley Cup. Carolina is another team, like the Islanders, that is very profitable in the first-period Under category, and I was all over it in their season opener. It was a bit of a sweat, but there was never a doubt that it would hit, so tonight, we’re looking at it again. 

Despite losing 5-2 on home ice, the Kings are going to be a very strong defensive team, especially at 5-on-5 with their strength down the middle of the ice. Last season, they were the seventh-best defensive team at preventing high-danger chances against at 5-on-5, only allowing 10.85 per 60 minutes. To that same point, the Hurricanes finished as the second-best team in this category, giving up 10.36 high-danger chances against per 60. 

Both of these teams are incredibly sound defensively at 5-on-5, but the Kings could certainly do a better job at killing off penalties. That is my one area of concern. That said, the Hurricanes’ power play doesn’t necessarily scare me as they finished 20th last season, converting at a 19.8% rate. To start off this season, they are at a 16.7% rate. 

This opening period should be played very tightly and defensively focused, and I like the Under. 

Bet: Under 1.5 1st period +110 (play to -105)

Vancouver Canucks at Edmonton Oilers (-205,7) 

The Edmonton Oilers got completely embarrassed in their season opener on the road in Vancouver, losing 8-1 to the Canucks, so tonight is their chance to seek revenge as they play the latter half of a home-and-home. 

Connor McDavid was not a happy camper with his team’s first performance, as the best offensive team in the league was held to only one goal. Shutting down the Oilers group of forwards two games in a row is a tall task, and as great as the Canucks looked, I’m not quite sure that they can put on that same kind of performance, especially on the road. 

Vancouver is looking to make a statement by potentially sweeping this home-and-home, but Edmonton is a very strong team on home ice. Last year, they skated to a record of 23-12-6 at Rogers Place, and they have some good news going into tonight. Matthias Ekholm is back in their lineup after missing Wednesday night’s game, a huge addition to the Oilers’ blue line.

Even though the Canucks got the best of the Oilers in the first meeting, they have only won two out of the last eight contests between these two teams, which tells me that Wednesday night’s game was most likely a fluke. My only concern for the Oilers tonight is goaltending. Thatcher Demko looked strong in net for Vancouver, while Jack Campbell and Stuart Skinner both struggled for the Oilers. 

Edmonton’s offense can solve the goaltending problem if they find ways to finish, which ultimately they should since they are the most dangerous team in the NHL up front. I think the Oilers will bounce back on home ice, and my confidence makes this a three-unit play. 

Bet: *3 units Edmonton Oilers to win in regulation -125 (play to -145)

2023-24 record: 7-7-0 (-0.17 units)