NHL best bets and expert picks
It’s a Saturday full of hockey as there are nine different NHL games throughout the day, starting at 1 p.m. ET when the Anaheim Ducks take on a team still unbeaten on home ice, the Philadelphia Flyers.
It’s been a pretty wild start to the NHL season thus far. There have been a ton of surprises as well as some massive disappointments, but today is a new day for different storylines to be created. One matchup that I am looking forward to is an Original Six clash between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings.
It’s a solid slate, so let’s get into it.
Believe it or not, the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers have been off to solid starts. Both teams were predicted to miss the playoffs, and eventually, they most likely will, but they have been very competitive.
The Ducks enter this game on a two-game winning streak, both wins coming in overtime on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets and a wild comeback against the Boston Bruins. Yet, the Ducks have still had their struggles. They have the worst power play in the NHL, converting at 4.2%, which is a massive reason why they’re not winning more games. Despite the lack of production on the power play, Anaheim’s second line of Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, and Mason McTavish has been outstanding in the team’s last five games. Vatrano is the guy to look out for. He has five goals in his last five games.
The Philadelphia Flyers have been much stronger defensively this season, but they have also gotten outstanding goaltending from Carter Hart. Hart boasts a record of 4-2-0 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average. He also has a +1.9 goals saved above expected. Philadelphia is the third-best team at allowing high-danger scoring chances, only giving up 10.09 per 60 minutes, and as a team, they’re ranked seventh in goals against per game (2.57).
Offensively, the Flyers and Ducks don’t have a ton of weapons up front. I mentioned the second line for Anaheim. For the Flyers, their top six is leading the way, but their production hasn’t been all that incredible in the last five games.
John Gibson is the likely starter for the Ducks, and he must be pumped after his first win of the season in the team’s last game. Gibson has a .905 save percentage and a 2.81 goals-against average.
Gibson against Hart is a decent goalie battle. Hart has certainly been the better of the two, and I think he will continue that strong play into today’s game. I don’t see a ton of goals being scored in this one. I’m leaning toward the Under.
Bet: Under 6 -115 (play to -130)
Not only is this an Original Six matchup between Detroit and Boston, but this is also a big divisional game for two teams poised to make the playoffs.
A lot of people wrote Boston off this season due to all of the changes they made this summer, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the performance from Brad Marchand. The Bruins captain has been held pointless in his last two games and could only put up one shot on goal in the team’s most recent contest.
The Bruins will have to keep up with the high-flying Red Wings offense today and to be successful with that, they will need an extra effort from Marchand. The Red Wings have the second-best offense in the NHL, averaging 4.38 goals per game, along with the second-best power play, converting at a 38.7% rate. As good as they have been offensively, they have been slacking defensively as of late, as they have allowed nine goals against in their last two games.
The Bruins should expect a push from Detroit’s offense, but Boston’s forward group is not one to sleep on. Marchand is the guy to watch tonight for me. He seems to always step up in the bigger games. Since the team lost its first game of the season in their most recent game, I’m expecting a much hungrier effort from the Bruins, especially Marchand, since he hasn’t helped out offensively in the last two games.
Marchand’s shot prop is at 2.5, and he has hit the over in three of his last five games but has not in two of his last three games. I think we’ll see an aggressive Bruins offense tonight.
Bet: Brad Marchand over 2.5 shots on goal -120 (play to -135)
The New York Islanders and Columbus Blue Jackets are set to meet in what should be a low-scoring affair. These are two of the bottom offensive teams in the NHL. The Blue Jackets ranked 19th, averaging 2.86 goals per game, and the Islanders ranked 24th, scoring 2.67 goals per game.
It is expected that the goaltending battle will be Ilya Sorokin against Elvis Merzlikins. They have been solid for their respective teams so far this season. Sorokin is 3-1-1 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.80 goals-against average. Merzlikins 2-1-2 with a .903 save percentage and a 2.93 goals-against average.
One thing that both teams have in common is their strong starts defensively. They’re averaging less than a goal per first period, the Islanders at 0.50 and the Blue Jackets at .57, but Columbus has the most Under first periods in the NHL this season.
The first period has gone over in three of the last four Islanders games, which tells me they’re due for a letdown of an opening frame. Sorokin is coming off an outstanding performance against the Senators, making 45 saves. Merzlikins is a bounce-back candidate after struggling against the Montreal Canadiens, as he allowed four goals against on 29 shots.
I don’t expect this game to be very high-flying, and I think both goalies will shut it down in the first period.
Bet: Under 1.5 1P +110 (play to -115)
2023-24 record: 20-26-0 (-12.79 units)