NHL picks, predictions today: Wild-Canadiens, Senators-Lightning

The first month of the 2022-23 NHL Season is in the books, and one of the early trends is that underdogs are starting to bark again. The last two seasons have been especially hard on underdogs — favorites won 64.8% of games in 2021-22 (the best mark in the Action Network database) and 62.3% in 2020-21 (second-best) — but there are signs that things are normalizing a little bit.

The chalk is 86-57 entering play on Monday night, which is still good enough for a 60.1% win rate, but a $100 bettor would be down $631, which converts to a -4.4% ROI, if they bet every favorite, so far this season. In the past two campaigns, favorites returned a $100 bettor $4,505, which comes out to a +2.1% ROI.

With that in mind, here are a couple of underdogs worth a bet on Tuesday’s 12-game slate:

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NHL Picks & Predictions:

Ottawa Senators (+170) vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (-200), O/U: 6.5

The hype around the Ottawa Senators has settled down to a simmer. The Senators are 4-4, riding a two-game losing streak, and lost key center Josh Norris to a long-term injury. It’s not the ideal way to start a season, but it also is far from a disaster. Aside from the Bruins, who pace the entire circuit with an 8-1 record and 16 points, every team in the Atlantic Division is currently sitting between 12 and 8 points. And of those seven teams, only Buffalo has a better goal differential than Ottawa’s +3 mark. 

Under the hood, things look pretty much on par with what we expected from this team. The Sens are currently eighth in the league in 5-on-5 goal differential, 15th in expected goals rate, and sixth in high-danger scoring chance percentage. The defense, which ranks 21st in expected goals allowed and high-danger scoring chances allowed, could use some work.

Still, the offense is generating enough good looks (ninth in expected goals created and third in high-danger chances for), that they can outscore some of their defensive flaws. 

Ottawa Senators defend late in the third period
Ottawa Senators defend late in the third period
Getty Images

The Lightning are much better than the Senators overall, but Ottawa should match up pretty well with the Bolts. After losing Jan Rutta and Ryan McDonagh in the offseason, the Lightning are doing everything they can to make a thin blue line work. Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Erik Cernak are all terrific rearguards, but things fall off a cliff behind them with Nathan Perbix, Cal Foote, Ian Cole, and Philippe Myers.

Tampa ranks 24th in 5-on-5 goals allowed, 18th in expected goals conceded, and 19th in high-danger scoring chances against. It’s like we’ll eventually see Tampa get to its normal level, but the Bolts are not there yet. 

Ottawa’s dynamic offense should provide a path to an upset here.

Senators vs. Lightning pick

Ottawa Senators +170 (BetMGM)

Montreal Canadiens (+205) vs. Minnesota Wild (-245), O/U: 6.5

The Montreal Canadiens continue to punch up well as an underdog this season. The Habs are 5-4 on the season, but 4-4 as an underdog are a ridiculous 3-1 when they close at +200 or longer on the campaign. That number should normalize over the course of an 82-game schedule, but it does show you that this is a dangerous, albeit flawed, team.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s hard to find many teams outside of Toronto that should scare bettors more right now as a big favorite than the Minnesota Wild. The market has been infatuated with the Wild for the past two seasons, and they’ve re-paid the faith with two standout regular seasons, but things don’t look quite right for the team out of the gates. 

Arber Xhekaj #72 of the Montreal Canadiens congratulates Jake Allen #34 of the Montreal Canadiens after beating the St. Louis Blues
Arber Xhekaj #72 of the Montreal Canadiens congratulates Jake Allen #34 of the Montreal Canadiens after beating the St. Louis Blues
Getty Images

A lot of that has to do with porous goaltending, but the Wild’s 5-on-5 numbers aren’t up to the standard that they’ve set for themselves since the beginning of the 2020-21 campaign. 

The Habs may not control play or tilt the ice against teams like the Wild, but they don’t need to do that to have success. Montreal’s clinical counter-attacking offense can turn a game on a moment’s notice thanks to the playmaking and finishing ability of players like Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, Josh Anderson, and Mike Hoffman. 

Montreal will always give an honest effort under Martin St. Louis, and with Marc-Andre Fleury really struggling in the early going for Minnesota, there are plenty of ways this game can end in an upset.

Canadiens vs. Wild pick

Montreal Canadiens +205 BetMGM

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