We have a massive NHL slate on Thursday, with 14 games on the docket.
In this piece, I’ll be going over my best bets for the day and provide reasoning for all my picks.
All odds provided are courtesy of Circa Sports. As always, please play responsibly.
New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals
Best bet: Islanders ML (-121)
Puck drop—7 p.m. ET
I love backing the Islanders here in a bounce-back spot, especially as a short favorite on Circa.
Full credit goes to the Capitals for how well they have played after losing Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov to COVID-19 protocols. Unfortunately, they also lost Nicklas Backstrom and Lars Eller to injuries in the third period of Tuesday’s game.
The latter two players may still suit up tonight, but I think the fatigue and injury woes catch up to the Capitals here.
The Islanders have been hard-pressed to score so far this season, but their typical brand of defensive hockey has been on full display. In fact, all six Islanders games have gone under the total so far this year, so I also like taking under 5.5 goals (-130) in this one.
I expect the Islanders to take advantage of the shorthanded Capitals roster, squeezing out a win in a low-scoring game.
Philadelphia Flyers vs. New Jersey Devils
Best bet: over 5.5 total goals (-125)
Puck drop—7 p.m. ET
When tackling NHL totals, I really like to target special-teams production.
With the Flyers, we have a team that sits ninth in power-play efficiency versus the 30th-ranked penalty kill of the Devils. Likewise, the Flyers have the 29th-ranked penalty kill, which means the Devils have a good chance of producing with the extra man.
Flyers goaltender Carter Hart has also been abysmal to start the season, posting a 4.18 goals-against average and .880 save percentage through his first five appearances.
This combination has resulted in six of the Flyers’ first seven games going over the total. Look for the trend to continue tonight.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins
Best bet: Bruins ML (-125)
Puck drop—7 p.m. ET
The Penguins blueline is running dangerously thin. They were already without Marcus Pettersson, Juuso Riikola and Mike Matheson. Now, Brian Dumoulin is week-to-week with a lower-body ailment.
Combine that with the uninspiring play of the Penguins goaltenders, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The Bruins have found their offensive footing over the last few games and will turn to veteran Jaroslav Halak in net. The 35-year-old owns a 1.44 goals-against average through his first two games of 2021, picking up where he left off the last two seasons.
The Bruins have won nine consecutive games over the Penguins at TD Garden and are the fourth-best team in the league at goal prevention to start 2021.
Maybe the Penguins will step up with a gritty performance, but I think the Bruins take advantage of the depleted defense core.
Anaheim Ducks vs. Arizona Coyotes
Best bet: under 5.5 total goals (-135)
Puck drop—9 p.m. ET
When these two teams met on Tuesday, the Ducks escaped with a 1-0 victory.
The Coyotes likely deserved a better fate in that contest, but Ducks’ goaltender John Gibson was phenomenal, stopping all 31 shots that came his way in the shutout win.
Gibson is expected to be back in the crease on Thursday, so I am riding with the under again. According to Evolving-Hockey, Gibson has been the most impactful goalie in the NHL through six games. His 8.5 GAR is a full 2.8 higher than the next closest goaltender.
The Ducks currently rank dead last in the NHL in goals per game (1.71), while the Coyotes rank 23rd (2.43). I won’t discredit Coyotes’ netminder Darcy Kuemper either, who has proven to be one of the better goalies in hockey over the past few years.
I bet the under in the first matchup on Tuesday, so I am sticking with what worked. Here’s hoping we get another low-scoring affair in the desert.