Saturday’s massive 14-game NHL slate features a number of games that should make for very exciting matchups. Multiple contests project strong value, so let’s dive into my favorite NHL angles and the logic behind each one.
Calgary Flames Moneyline (+102) versus Dallas Stars:
Flames vs. Stars, 2 pm ET
Nestled nicely before the Seahawks versus 49ers game is this playoff rematch between the Flames and Stars, which will likely be a hotly contested and closely played affair.
You might be thinking how does a flames side with eight less points in the standings hold value on the road as only a slight underdog?
Well, over the past 10 games Calgary has controlled play to a tremendous 57.65% expected goals rating, while Dallas has been at a strong, but not spectacular, 51.95%.
Outside of perhaps holding too much of a commitment to taking a lot of relatively pointless shots on goal, everything about Calgary’s game is starting to look really sharp.
Offensively, the Flames may never be a true powerhouse this season, but Calgary’s elite defensively play should be enough to find a ton of success, and that part of Calgary’s game is likely to remain elite moving forward.
Roope Hintz remains day-to-day, and seems less than likely to take the ice in this matchup.
Dallas has seen more production from the rest of the lineup than in previous seasons, but is still extremely reliant on a top trio of Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski to do a ton of the damage.
There’s also a chance the Stars surprise and start Scott Wedgewood in goal instead of Jake Oettinger, as Wedgewood has played just once since Dec 17.
If Hintz and Oettinger both sit for this matchup, then +102 for a Flames team in stellar form becomes an excellent number. If not, I will still happily take my chances that Calgary controls more of the play and finds a way to get the two points.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins Under 6 -115
Maple Leafs vs. Bruins 7 pm ET
Two of the league’s top three sides will go head-to-head Saturday in Boston as the Bruins host the Maple Leafs in what should be another excellent edition of a storied rivalry.
These teams also rank first and third in goal prevention, and have been in extremely sharp defensive form all season long. Boston has been miles better than any other team at preventing goals, allowing just 2.15 per game.
Toronto’s 2.60 GA/PG is right there with Dallas (2.58) for second overall.
Interestingly enough, Toronto has only played to a 10th-best 3.35 goals for per game mark, and the greater part of the Leafs’ success is coming from their ability to win tight, defensive games.
Toronto has played to an xGA/60 of just 2.18 over its past 10 games, which is the second best mark in the league wide and actually better than the Bruins 2.38 xGA/60 in that sample.
However, Boston has the ultimate equalizer in netminder Linus Ullmark, who is rightfully the frontrunner in the Vezina Trophy race and, in all likelihood, will make this important start.
Both of these teams will head into this matchup ready to make a statement. It will likely take a number of powerplays and fluky goals for this one to open up, as odd-man rushes and grade A scoring chances will likely be at a premium.
A -115 price for this game to stay under 6 projects as an excellent number and my belief is that by puck-dropping some shops may even be offering totals of 5.5.
Nathan MacKinnon Over 4.5 Shots on Goal (EST. -150):
Senators vs. Avalanche, 7 p.m. ET
For the sake of allowing a few more readers to get these picks in and ideally gain some closing line value, I wrote this piece Friday evening, which means I had to estimate this price.
Last year’s champions are in shambles. The Avalanche are 3-6-1 over their past 10 and have dropped two straight contests in regulation to the Panthers and Blackhawks.
Maybe this is the matchup in which the Avalanche begin trending back into form. Or maybe it isn’t.
An angle I am confident betting is that Colorado’s uber competitive superstar is going to push aggressively for offense.
There’s one other guy in the NHL with the same ability as Nathan MacKinnon to drive at the opposition and create something out of every single touch and that’s Connor McDavid.
MacKinnon has more of a willingness to try somewhat debatable shots on goal and also fires a ton of one-timers on the Avs’ top powerplay unit.
With this being a gigantic game for what is now a suddenly thin Colorado roster, I will bet MacKinnon plays big minutes and is the most noticeable skater for either side.
Since returning from injury, MacKinnon has averaged six shots on goal per game and I’ll bet he hits six or more Saturday.
Pick: Nathan MacKinnon Over 4.5 Shots on Goal -150
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