NHL Thursday best bets: Blue Jackets on the hunt
Wednesday was a mixed bag on the ice. After a slow start, the Vancouver Canucks mostly played well but couldn't stay out of the box. Their horrendous penalty kill erased an otherwise solid effort.
Let's dive into our best bets for this busy Thursday slate.
You don't need me to tell you the Coyotes are terrible ... but I'm going to do it anyway. They've won just two of 16 games and, despite always playing from behind, their share of high-danger scoring chances (41.53%) is the lowest in the NHL. It's easier to generate offense while trailing - teams tend to sit on leads and play conservative - so it's pretty telling that Arizona still grades out so poorly. They're a disaster.
On the flip side, the rebuilding Blue Jackets are one of the league's biggest surprises. They own a respectable 8-5-0 record and their underlying numbers are trending upward.
At five-on-five they have controlled 57% of the expected goals over the last five games - good for second in the NHL. If you want to up the sample size a little bit, they're at 54% over eight games. The point being, they're playing well.
Bet: Jackets in regulation (+100)
If I were to play a side it would be Tampa Bay. However, the total is more intriguing to me here.
The Lightning have played fantastic defensive hockey this season. Only Colorado and Boston are conceding fewer high-danger chances at five-on-five this season. They don't give up much and they have one of the league's best goaltenders, Andrei Vasilevskiy, to clean up when necessary. He's been his usual self thus far, posting a .924 save percentage while stopping 7.1 more shots than expected through just 12 games.
This is a bad spot for Philadelphia's offense. They struggle to generate high-danger chances (29th) at the best of times and Tampa Bay is one of the worst possible matchups for a team trying to change that.
Why the total instead of Tampa Bay? Put simply, I don't think the latter is going to explode offensively, either. The Bolts rank 23rd in expected goals for per 60 this season and aren't nearly as prolific sans Nikita Kucherov.
There's also the Carter Hart factor. He has rebounded in a huge way this season, stopping 11.5 shots more than expected thus far. That puts him third in the NHL behind only Sergei Bobrovsky and Jack Campbell.
With two high-end goaltenders squaring off, and several key weapons missing from this game (Kucherov, Ryan Ellis, etc.), I like this contest to stay under the number.
Bet: Under 5.5 (+100)
Bonus round: If Jordan Binnington starts, I like under 6 goals (-120) in the Sharks vs. Blues. Both teams rank in the bottom half of the league in expected goals generation over the last handful of games. James Reimer is one of the NHL's leaders in goals saved above expectation per start and Binnington is a positive as well.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.