NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday night
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Thursday night's slate.
Visit the Betway Insider NHL picks page for tips and predictions throughout the season.
After going 7/8 on predictions last week, the pressure is on to go perfect this week, as we start to learn more about how each team is progressing through the season. It’s still early days, and there are some teams that are still getting results that are wildly different than their performance would suggest, but that just creates more interesting opportunities! Let’s dig in.
Tampa Bay Lightning defeat Arizona Coyotes -320
The Coyotes can’t go forever without winning a game, but the Tampa Bay Lightning probably aren’t the team they’re going to find that first victory of the season against. After starting the season off in a pretty rough manner, and then losing Nikita Kucherov on top of it, the Lightning have finally started to round into form.
The powerplay isn’t firing yet, but at even strength the Lightning are just outside the top-10 teams in expected goals for percentage at 53.17 per cent, which is a sizeable improvement after they were floating around even after the first few games of the year.
With the even-strength play coming together after a tough start, the Lightning have an opportunity to get their powerplay tuned up as well, as the Coyotes have been objectively terrible at killing penalties so far this season, closing out just 35.7 per cent of their penalties without allowing a goal. The next-worst team kills off their penalties 58.8 per cent of the time, a ridiculous gap.
Colorado Avalanche defeat St. Louis Blues -125
Speaking of teams that are starting to dig themselves out of ruts, the Colorado Avalanche are starting to show signs of life, but they could really use their powerplay to do them some favours as well, as they’ve only managed to finish the job on 9.1 per cent of their powerplay opportunities. In the undefeated Blues, they’re facing a team whose special teams have been absolutely incredible.
Despite the fact that the Blues have been red hot so far, eventually every team is going to lose, and the Avalanche are just so much better than they’ve looked so far this season, and the Blues have been seeing some pretty unsustainable results considering their actual play.
Results on the ice so far would make you think the Blues are going to dominate this game, but the underlying numbers don’t favor them at all, and this looks like a bit of a trap game for them, as the Avalanche start ramping up to what they’re supposed to be.
San Jose Sharks defeat Montreal Canadiens -135
After appearing to find their heartbeat a little bit in a big win over the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens reverted right back to what they’ve been so far against the expansion Seattle Kraken, allowing another five goals and only scoring one.
The Sharks have cooled off since their 5-0 win against the Canadiens, losing two straight heading into it, but there’s a big difference mentally between losing two straight and losing six of seven.
For the Canadiens, the most troubling thing about the loss to the Kraken probably wasn’t even the lack of offence, they’re used to that by now, but the defence fell apart repeatedly against the Kraken as soon as they had to handle a bit of speed.
The Sharks picked them apart in a similar manner, with the relatively slow defensive core of the Canadiens really struggling to catch up to plays off the rush, and close passing lanes in the middle of the ice.
Despite the fact that Adin Hill pitched a shutout against the Canadiens in the last game between them, he’s been extremely underwhelming beyond that game, so make sure you check to see if Hill or James Reimer is starting before placing any bets, as Reimer has a sparkling .961 save percentage so far.
Buffalo Sabres defeat Anaheim Ducks +110
Where did this come from in Buffalo? Don Granato has the Sabres playing better than they have in a decade, controlling 54 per cent of expected goals and 56.4 per cent of scoring chances at 5-vs-5. The result has been a 4-1-1 record and side of shocking the hockey world with this start.
The Sabres may not be able to sustain this high level of play all season long, especially given their goaltending situation remains precarious, but the Ducks are a team that’s ripe for the picking.
Only the Vancouver Canucks have been worse at controlling expected goals at 5-vs-5 this season, and in all situation the Ducks are the absolute worst, ranked 32nd in the league. This is a huge opportunity for the Sabres to continue to bank standings points, and so far they haven’t disappointed when they’ve had a chance. This has to be the most fun Sabres fans have had in a decade.