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NHL Best Bets Today: Odds, predictions and picks for Thursday, December 22nd
Thursday’s Best Bets: Washington Capitals -115
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: 45 Losses: 48 Units Won: -4.77 units ROI: -10 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: Washington Capitals -115
Risk: 1.15 units
To Win: 1 unit
Alex Ovechkin has another chance to make history on Thursday as the Capitals are in Ottawa to take on the Senators. Washington has won seven of their last eight games and the team has really shown its stripes over the last month. Since November 20th, the Capitals rank first in expected goals and second in goals (for and against) even though none of their injured players have returned to the lineup.
That could change over the next couple of days, though, as goaltender Darcy Kuemper announced that he has been cleared to return to the crease. There’s no guarantee that he’ll start in Ottawa (the Capitals host the Jets on Friday) but even if Charlie Lindgren is in goal, Washington is a good bet to win this game at -115.
Predicting Ottawa’s starting goaltender is difficult, too, because the Senators are in the process of playing five games in seven days and they’re scheduled to play the Red Wings on Friday.
The Senators have a great power play, but only one team has scored fewer even-strength goals since November 1st (24 games) and they’ve only beaten one playoff team in the last two months. The Senators don’t have much of a home-ice advantage, either, and my model sees Washington as a -128 favorite. Injuries are still a concern, but the road team should win about 56 percent of the time.
Notes: Ottawa is hopeful that forward Tim Stutzle will play on Thursday and/or Friday. Capitals’ forward T.J. Oshie will not play.
Toronto lost two games in a row for the first time since in over a month last weekend, but they bounced back with a dominant 4-1 win over the Lightning to start the week and now they’ll look to go into the holidays with a win over Philadelphia. It should be an easy victory, too. The Maple Leafs have only lost five of their last 18 games. The Flyers, on the other hand, have only won four of their last 21 games.
The home team will win around 77 percent of the time, according to my model, but that’s if Carter Hart is in goal for the Flyers, though. If it’s Samuel Ersson, we’re talking about a fifth-round draft pick that will be making his NHL debut. Philadelphia is scheduled to take on the Hurricanes on Friday so there’s a chance that Ersson will start one of the two games. I mean, it’s not like the Flyers have anything to lose. This season is a write-off.
Notes: Ilya Samsonov will start for the Maple Leafs.
The Rangers had its seven-game win streak snapped in Pittsburgh on Tuesday in a 3-2 loss and not only are they looking to get back in the win column, but they’re also trying to get things right at home. The Blueshirts have the 10th worst goal differential on home ice this season and a big reason for their 7-11 record has been their lack of scoring. The Rangers have scored just 2.8 goals per 60 minutes at Madison Square Garden so far this season.
Scoring could be difficult on Thursday, too, as the Islanders, despite all their flaws, are a top-10 team on defense. That’s mostly because of Ilya Sorokin, and to a lesser extent, Semyon Varlamov, though. The Islanders grade out as bottom-10 team in shot attempts against and a bottom-five team in expected goals against.
It’s an interesting dynamic between two long-time rivals, but the game is priced appropriately if the starting Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin are guarding the cages for their respective clubs. This is the fourth game in six days for the Rangers, though, and the Islanders play again on Friday, so while it does seem likely that Shesterkin and Sorokin will start on Thursday, nothing is set in stone at this point.
Winnipeg must travel to Washington to play the Capitals on Friday, which makes it a little tougher to predict who they will start in goal, Connor Hellebuyck missed one game due to illness, but he is feeling better and will play one, if not both, of Winnipeg’s two games before the holidays. Boston is the best team in hockey, though, so I think it’s best to assume Hellebuyck will be in goal unless the team says otherwise.
The Jets will need all the help they can get to beat the Bruins thanks to injuries to key players (Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers) and starting Rittich almost ensures that they won’t. I mean, anything is possible, but it if the Bruins bring their best into this game, the Jets are going to have trouble hanging with them. Winnipeg is a good team, but the Bruins are healthy and should have a problem controlling the play in this game.
Boston’s starting goaltender is unknown at this time, though, and that makes it tough to put a price on this matchup. The Bruins play the Devils on Friday, and head coach Jim Montgomery might decide to start Jeremy Swayman.
Pittsburgh played well against Carolina earlier this week, but they couldn’t hold onto a one-goal lead late in the game. Pittsburgh will likely look different with Tristan Jarry in goal, though, as he has been the best goaltender in hockey for over a month. The Hurricanes might also have a different look this time around, though, as forward Sebastian Aho is due to return to the lineup. The team hasn’t confirmed that he will play, but it seems like a possibility based on head coach Rob Brind ’Amour’s most recent comments. However, given the impact that Aho can make on a game, his potential return is going to hang over this market until things are clarified by the head coach.
Calgary has picked up two wins in a row since losing five straight, but both of those victories came against the San Jose Sharks. The team has been a big disappointment otherwise, and back-to-back wins over the lowly Sharks isn’t going to create any buzz. It shouldn’t either. The Flames are still a good hockey team, but they’re a lot closer to average than I thought they were before the season started and they’re currently sporting a 5-10 record on the road.
The Kings are an average team, maybe even above average, but goaltending has held them back and it likely will continue to be an issue. Jonathan Quick isn’t getting any younger, and Pheonix Copley isn’t going to save the team. This should be a close game, but Calgary’s a bit more well-structured and my model sees them as a -115 favorite even though they have their own goaltending troubles to worry about.
Canucks’ fans asked for Spencer Martin to get more starts and after Thatcher Demko went down with an injury, they got their wish. Things haven’t gone as they had hoped, though, with the team allowing 4.5 goals on average over their last six games. Vancouver’s offense has been hit or miss recently, too. The Canucks have scored one or fewer goals in five of their last nine. They’re still capable of scoring in bunches, but as has been the case over their last two games (two goals combined), scoring goals without Elias Pettersson in the lineup is easier said than done.
Pettersson has missed the last two games due to illness and according to a recent report, it doesn’t sound like he will be able to return to the lineup in time for Thursday’s game. Of course, never say never until the team completely rules him out. The Kraken are a tough team to figure out, but I’d like to think that they can beat the Canucks here and my model sees them as a -115 favorite but that could change for the better depending on which goaltender head coach Bruce Boudreau decides to go with.
Notes: Vancouver plays Edmonton on Friday so they might be forced to start Martin in both games. The only other option is Arturs Silovs, who has never played in the NHL before.
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