Happy Thursday! There are a dozen games on the NHL schedule tonight. A premier matchup between the Penguins and Lightning starts things off, while a Pacific Division battle between the Sharks and Oilers ends the night. In between are quality matchups between the Golden Knights and Panthers, Jets and Blues, Predators and Flames and a whole lot more.
There’s plenty to wager on, but let’s take a closer look at two games in particular. Here are my two best bets for Thursday:
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Lightning under 3.5 goals (-110)
Betting against Tampa Bay’s offense at home can be a tough pill to swallow, but hear me out. Sure, the Lightning are averaging a shade over four goals per game at home (No. 1 in the NHL). Sure, the Lightning just scored four goals against another playoff-caliber team at home two days ago. But the reason you should bet against them doesn’t really have anything to do with them.
Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry is on an incredible streak right now. He’s allowed three goals or fewer in each of his last 12 starts. The last time he gave up a fourth goal was back on Dec. 14 against the Kings. In fact, he’s only given up four goals in a game twice this season in 24 starts and never allowed more than that. The Penguins as a team have allowed four goals just twice in their last 14 games.
Pittsburgh held Tampa Bay to three goals in their first meeting of the season back on Oct. 23. Expect them to do the same again tonight and for Jarry to keep the streak alive.
Vancouver Canucks vs. Minnesota Wild: Canucks (+105)
Although the Canucks have been mediocre on the road and the Wild have been fairly strong at home so far this season, I’m surprised to see Vancouver as the underdog here. A quick look at the standings with the Canucks atop the Pacific Division and the Wild six points out of a playoff spot is enough of a reason to take the plus-odds on Vancouver, but let’s dive a bit deeper.
Despite being shut out in Boston on Tuesday night, the Canucks are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Included in that stretch is a game in Minnesota against the Wild in which they left with a 4-1 victory. Both goalies in that game (Jacob Markstrom for Vancouver and Devan Dubnyk for Minnesota) are expected to be in net again tonight.
Markstrom has started seven of Vancouver’s last 10 games and is 5-2-0 in that stretch. He’s saved 92.6% of the shots against him, allowing an average of only 2.43 goals per game. Dubnyk, on the other hand, has allowed 3.75 goals per game in his eight starts since the Christmas break, saving only 87.5% of the shots against him.
The Canucks outrank the Wild in goals for and goals against, while also besting them on the power play and penalty kill. They also have more wins, and I expect that disparity to grow on Thursday night.
Season Record: 29-28-1 (-0.83 units)