Expert NHL Best Bets and Predictions for Thursday, January 18
Last night was quiet in the NHL, but we are back at it tonight with 11 games.
The game I wanted to bet last night between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Buffalo Sabres was postponed until tonight, so I will keep those two prop plays alive for this evening.
The Buffalo Sabres have had an interesting start to the season. They’ve faced some injury adversity and haven’t been able to find much consistency. Tonight is an opportunity for them to continue pushing in the right direction, as they have won four out of their last six games.
Since Christmas, one thing the Sabres have been doing well is firing pucks on net. They have the third-most shots on goal per game in that time window, generating 35.0 shots per 60 minutes, and a big reason for that number is Tage Thompson. Thompson has been a bit snake-bitten in his last five games, considering he’s only scored two goals on 17 shots. Since pucks haven’t been going in as much as he’d like them to, I imagine he’d try to take advantage in a game like tonight against a weaker defensive opponent in the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks allow the sixth-most shots on goal against per game, giving up 32.6 a night, which gives their goaltenders extra work on a nightly basis. To make matters worse, the Blackhawks haven’t been finding the back of the net lately to bail their goalies out, which is why they haven’t been winning hockey games. Of course, it doesn’t help when they’re missing their star player, Connor Bedard.
Chicago has only scored four goals in their last four games combined but have only been able to score one goal in each of those four contests. The Sabres haven’t announced their starter yet, but this team has been defending much better over the course of their last six games.
Since the new year, the Sabres have the third-best goals against per game, only allowing 1.83 goals against each contest, and the Blackhawks are in dead last in scoring, only being able to put up 1.38 goals per game.
The Sabres desperately need all the points they can get, so we should see a ton of urgency from this group tonight. I think they’ll defend well, and I feel that Thompson will carry the offense.
Bets: Tage Thompson over 3.5 shots on goal -110 (play to -125) | Chicago Blackhawks Team Total Under 1.5 +175 (play to +155)
The Calgary Flames have quietly been one of the best teams in the NHL as of late, and the Toronto Maple Leafs have not.
The Flames are 7-2-0 in their last nine games and are currently riding a four-game winning streak, while at the same time, the Leafs have lost four straight games and appear to be in shambles. In this span, Calgary has been playing so much better defensively than they were at the beginning of the season, as they’re only allowing 2.44 goals against per game while skating to 88.5% on the penalty kill.
While we’re on the topic of defense, Toronto has not done a very good job in their own end lately. The Leafs have allowed 17 goals combined in their last four games, and in that span, they’re allowing 4.25 goals against each contest. Their offense is usually there to bail the defense out, but Toronto has also been struggling to score.
The Leafs’ power play hasn’t converted one during this losing streak on six attempts, while the Flames have scored on the man-advantage in three straight games.
Yegor Sharangovich has been lighting it up for the Flames with six goals in his last five games, so he could continue to be the difference-maker for Calgary. Martin Jones hasn’t been at the top of his game. In his last four starts, he is 1-2-1 with a 3.03 goals against average and a .897 save percentage.
Things haven’t been going right for Toronto while the Flames continue to trend in a positive direction.
I love Calgary as a home underdog.
Bet: Calgary Flames +110 (play to -110)
The Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins game will be must-watch television tonight. The Avalanche have been buzzing lately, winning eight of their last 10 games while the Bruins have been playing solid hockey as well, but not as elite as Colorado.
Colorado’s top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Mikko Rantanen have been scoring at a rapid rate in the team’s last 10 games. They have combined for 40 points. MacKinnon has tallied four goals and 12 assists, Drouin has added five goals with five helpers, and Rantanen has notched six goals with eight assists.
The Bruins’ top line hasn’t been too shabby themselves, but Brad Marchand, Charlie Coyle and David Pastrnak aren’t on the same level as Colorado’s top line. I don’t mean any disrespect to the Bruins’ top line, but it’s tough to say that they’re the same.
The Avalanche have had the best offense in the NHL since the new year, averaging 4.38 goals per game and skating to 30.3% on the power play. The Bruins’ penalty kill hasn’t been as strong as it has been. They’re skating to 76.9% on the man-down.
I think the Bruins might be too heavily favored tonight, and I like Colorado to keep it rolling.
Bet: Colorado Avalanche +124 (play to +100)