NHL betting: 4 picks and predictions for Saturday night
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Saturday night's action.
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A month into the 2021-22 NHL season, we’re finally in a spot where no team is undefeated, and no team is winless. The Arizona Coyotes finally won one a week ago against the expansion Seattle Kraken, and the Carolina Hurricanes felt the sting of defeat for the first time this season at the hands of the second-hottest team at the time, the Florida Panthers.
What storylines are there to watch this Saturday? Let’s take a look.
The Kings are on an incredible seven-game winning streak at the moment, and they run into a Jets team that’s playing their best hockey in multiple seasons. In the wins and losses columns the Jets have stumbled a couple of times lately, but they’re 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, and they’re doing it without a few of their top scorers.
Andrew Copp is having the best start of his career, while Kyle Connor and Pierre-Luc Dubois are rifling pucks in nets like nobody’s business. The Kings have seen a resurgent Anze Kopitar pushing things offensively now that Phillip Danault is taking the defensive assignments, and they’ve played this well despite missing Drew Doughty and Viktor Arvidsson.
This promises to be a great game, but the Jets have significant advantages so far this season in the percentage of control they have over both shot quantity, and shot quality, leading the Kings by 2-4 per cent in each category both at even strength and in all situations. Add in the fact that Connor Hellebuyck is finally starting to look like himself after a rough start, and it’s advantage Jets.
The Sabres have a habit of always managing to beat the Maple Leafs, especially when the Leafs are looking very strong. Even in seasons where the Sabres were clearly tanking, they always seem to surprise the Leafs somehow.
While the Sabres do manage to get the Leafs often, I don’t think it’s happening this time around. The Maple Leafs are finally seeing their strong play all season long get some results, and the Sabres appear to be in freefall. After the first 10 days or so of the season, the Sabres were leading the entire league in expected goals for percentage, now they sit 25th.
Toronto meanwhile, sits second in all situations by that same metric, and second at 5-vs-5. They’re getting great goaltending from Jack Campbell, and after a run of bad shooting luck to start the year, their big four at forward are scoring regularly.
After losing head coach Joel Quennville to the scandals of his past with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Panthers kept winning, but their play fell off pretty significantly for a stretch. That has rebounded now, and they’re solidly within the top-10 in every major category in terms of differentials.
The Lightning meanwhile, have been as expected at even strength, controlling a solid 53.17 per cent of expected goals, good for 12th-best in the league, but have struggled mightily on special teams. Because of the Lightning’s poor special teams, their control of expected goals in all situations is a paltry 48.42 per cent, far below what would be expected of them, even without Nikita Kucherov.
Contrast that with the Panthers 54.2 per cent control of the same metric, and account for the fact that red hot Sergei Bobrovsky is back in the Panthers’ net to spell the struggling Spencer Knight, and even though Andrei Vasilevskiy has been incredible lately, the Lightning don’t have the automatic advantage in goal anymore.
We’re going to take a risk here and bet based on precedent, even though the situation is very different. Both games between the Red Wings and Canadiens this season so far have been in Montreal, and in Canada Tyler Bertuzzi is left behind, because he refuses to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Without Bertuzzi, the Red Wings have been terrible this season.
This game is in Detroit, which changes things significantly in favour of the Red Wings, but the Canadiens have arguably played their two best games of the season against the Wings.
Montreal has also seen their play overall tick in a positive direction for five straight games now, despite the scoreline going against them several times in that stretch. After the effort they put forth against two very good teams in the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames in their last couple of games, I think they manage to take Detroit down yet again.