Last Updated: 2017-12-12
MORNING LINE REPORT – Tuesday, December 12th
Last night I started to write the opening of this intro three separate times as I continued to watch the horror unfolding on the ice in what was looking like another disastrous night of picks. One referred to how we might as well just start games down a goal now since all of our teams seem to give up one in the opening two minutes lately. It happened again to the Capitals and the Ducks last night and even Florida fell behind 1-0 although they waited until the final two minutes of the period (which might be even worse).
The second started to discuss how I’m cherry-picking my value lately and the fact I’m letting that thing called “emotions” cloud my judgement a bit. I thought there was no way Colorado could go into Pittsburgh last night and escape with a win so ignored our biggest edge of the day despite knowing that line was inflated. I guess after watching three big dogs bite the bullet on Monday I was a little trigger-shy to fire on another ugly mutt. Nice win for anyone who was brave enough to play that edge.
My final attempt was after the beginning stages of a cold had set in last night and maybe a bit of delirium. I was going to propose we change this daily segment to a UFC picks and analysis piece where we could go over advanced metrics like Significant Strikes Landed per Minute and Takedown Defense. Seriously, I wrote that. Once the Capitals game looked lost and the Panthers couldn’t score, the only thing our guys were on the winning side of were all the fights. Micheal Haley TKO’ed Luke Witkowski not once, but twice and Aaron Ekblad drew blood on Luke Glendening. Whether that helped or not, the Panthers finally got on the board in the third and then got us back on the right side of the coin flip with an overtime win. Sweet.
I had to crash in the second period of a tie game in Anaheim but was happy to see the Ducks emerge victorious when my pet woke me up at 3 a.m. and I checked the score. Overall we grinded out a 2-1 night and made our first dent into this December deficit. I mentioned yesterday how you can’t fall into the mentality of thinking you need to get it all back in one night but rather look at the big picture and try to chip away. Small victories can add up in a hurry.
One other lighter note from last night I wanted to mention. How about that shootout goal by Alex Radulov? After Ondrej Pavelec and Kari Lehtonen put on an absolute goaltending clinic in overtime (seriously, for real), Radulov appeared to fall on his shootout attempt before beating Pavelec five-hole and I swear he did it intentionally to throw the goalie off. What do you think, did he do it on purpose? Here’s the attempt if you missed it.
We’ve got a nine-game card tonight and a couple of lines look a bit mispriced, including this number on Vegas where we have an insanely rare 40-cent edge (40-cents!) on what looks like one of the most mispriced games of the season. With that huge of an edge we simply need to try and maximize our return so this is going to be our very first 1.5-unit play. If you have any questions about that you can reach out to me.
As always, be sure to check in with me on Twitter (@kreatture) for updates after morning skates, additional plays, or just to chat.
All odds courtesy BetOnline as of 7:50am Eastern Time
*NOTE* I assign a value to every player in the NHL which is part of the line I create. Only those players with a value greater than zero are listed below in the injury report for each team. In other words, if a player is worth nothing to the line movement, he won’t be listed.
LOS ANGELES KINGS @ NEW JERSEY DEVILS
Los Angeles – Jonathan Quick (likely)
New Jersey – Cory Schneider (confirmed)
Los Angeles – Carter (out), Clifford (in), Kempe (doubtful)
New Jersey – Palmieri (out), Johansson (out)
The Los Angeles Kings have travelled over 2400 miles cross-country for a four game East Coast trip and they brought their eight game win streak with them. The Kings have dominated both at home and on the road recently. The Kings remain in first place in the Pacific division and while there have been contributions up and down the lineup, the return of a healthy Jonathan Quick is a major factor in the Kings resurgence this season.
Los Angeles has given up a league-low 68 total goals while in a tie for the third most games played at 31. Quick is third (among starters) in the NHL with a 2.18 goals-against average and tied for second with Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky with a .930 save percentage. He’s also fourth overall in the league with a +13.32 goals-saved-above-average which is maybe his most impressive stat of all.
John Stevens changed up his line combos in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win against Carolina but things were back to normal at this morning’s skate. Well, almost normal, as there was a new face in the crowd as Kyle Clifford took line rushes on the fourth line as is expected to return tonight. Rookie Adrian Kempe is sick and sat out this morning and may not play tonight.
The New Jersey Devils have lost two in a row after Saturday’s 5-2 loss at the rival Rangers and have looked out of sorts lately. It was the first time this season the Devils have lost back-to-back games in regulation. John Hynes put the team through an excruciating practice yesterday after he called the team too loose and too soft to win. I’m not sure if the players received the message as Taylor Hall thought the hard practice was actually “fun”.
Marcus Johansson will be out tonight as he recovers from a bruised ankle. He was unable to practice today after blocking a shot Saturday night and is day-to-day. Kyle Palmieri was on the ice with a few teammates this morning as he took the next step towards returning from a broken foot. He’s been skating on his own for about a week and could return to a full team practice as early as Wednesday but will not play Thursday at Montreal regardless.
This line opened above my range but an overnight move brought it down to where I thought it should be and has leveled off in that area throughout today. This should be a pretty entertaining game but we won’t be getting involved.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS @ PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Toronto – Frederik Anderson (confirmed)
Philadelphia – Brian Elliott (confirmed)
Toronto – Matthews (out)
Philadelphia – Manning (out), Gudas (in)
The Toronto Maple Leafs continue to be outplayed on a regular basis but strong goaltending has carried them to wins in five of their last six overall. Sunday was seldom used backup Curtis McElhinney’s turn as he stymied the Oilers with 41 saves. This will be the Leafs third game in four nights as they hit the road for a short three game trip that will conclude in Detroit as the rare fifth game in seven days.
Auston Matthews didn’t skate this morning and won’t suit up tonight as he’ll miss his second consecutive game after colliding with teammate Morgan Rielly in Saturday’s game at Pittsburgh. Mike Babcock denies he has a concussion but isn’t willing to divulge any details as to the issue and all we know is it’s believed to be a head issue. Babcock was incredibly evasive in answering questions which is just how he operates but it has to be a bit concerning. He’s considered day-to-day but there’s no indication he’ll return to action on this trip.
I’ve discussed before how we all know Matthews is one of the best players in the game but he’s not worth the same value to the line for myself as other high-level superstars and that’s because the Leafs are incredibly deep at the forward position and it’s not a huge drop-off when everyone shifts up a notch. The Leafs are undeniably a superior team with Matthews in the lineup but they can survive without him as evidenced by their 5-0-0 record without him this year.
The Philadelphia Flyers have turned a ten-game losing streak into a three-game win streak after a successful sweep through Western Canada. The Flyers now return home to open a season-high tying five game homestand where they’ve lost six straight and haven’t won in front of the home fans since November 9th. Defenseman Radko Gudas is eligible to return tonight from his 10-game suspension and will slot back in on the third-pair alongside rookie Travis Sanheim who is playing at a high level and should benefit from Gudas’ return. Mark Alt will become a healthy scratch again so this is a pretty good bump for the Flyers defense overall.
The Flyers turnaround has coincided a bit with Dave Hakstol leaning on his veterans more as some of the younger players have seen their ice-time diminish. Nolan Patrick, especially, just hasn’t been the same player since returning from a concussion and has slipped down the depth chart. Normally, this is where I would rip on Hakstol for another one of his terrible decisions but in this case, these changes have been justified by the play on the ice. Patrick has been getting destroyed while he’s out there so the demotion is warranted while players like Michael Raffl have earned the increased time with solid play. It’s fine for the present when the Flyers need wins but it should be a bit concerning for the future of this team who won’t become a legit contender until their youngsters get better.
I created my line with the assumption Matthews would be out and the line opened this morning in the range I expected. The announcement of Matthews’ absence though created some movement towards the Flyers which I felt was unnecessary as the line was already factored with Matthews out. It briefly moved far enough to create some value on Toronto but has since come back to about Philly -115 which isn’t quite enough value for us to get involved. This isn’t really a game I’m interested in getting involved with but our target number for Toronto would be +108.
OTTAWA SENATORS @ BUFFALO SABRES
Ottawa – Mike Condon (confirmed)
Buffalo – Robin Lehner (confirmed)
Ottawa – MacArthur (out), Wideman (out), Borowiecki (out)
Buffalo – Josefson (out), Beaulieu (out)
The Ottawa Senators have played nine of their last ten games on the road and have really struggled with a 1-7-1 record as this long stretch finally comes to an end tonight. The current poor streak extends as far back to their return from Sweden. After sweeping a pair of games from Colorado in Stockholm, the Senators are 1-9-2 and GM Pierre Dorion has about had enough as everyone’s name has been floated around on the chopping block – even Superman himself, Erik Karlsson.
The solution doesn’t appear to be simple as Ottawa is struggling in all areas across the board. Their number one center, Derick Brassard, hasn’t scored a goal in 20 games now and the offense overall has gone dry as they’ve been shutout in three of the last four games. The goaltending duo of Craig Anderson and Mike Condon have continually swapped games trying to find a hot hand but they’ve given up a combined 22 goals over the past five games.
Tonight, Mike Condon will get another shot to try and find some consistency. Condon is 2-2-4 on the year with just a .902 save percentage and a -2.51 goals-saved-above-average which is actually better than Anderson right now, which goes to show how dire things are in Ottawa.
The Buffalo Sabres are back home after a four game trip that only produced one win but there was some semblance of hope as the Sabres picked up points in three straight games for the first time this season. Sunday’s 3-2 overtime loss at St. Louis was another point of frustration for Robin Lehner who is usually the best player in a Sabres uniform almost every night he’s on the ice. Lehner has allowed eight goals over his last three games but has stopped 125 of 133 pucks for an impressive .940 save percentage. The team should be picking up more wins with goaltending like that. I don’t put much faith in head-to-head stats but if history is an indication then Lehner could be in-store for another good game tonight as he’s a career 4-0-2 versus the Senators with a .959 save percentage.
Jacob Josefson and Nathan Beaulieu were both back on the ice with the team this morning but neither will play tonight. Josefson appears well ahead of his 4-6 week timeline for his ankle injury after just two weeks. Beaulieu was left home from the last road trip due to a severe case of the flu. He’s lost a ton of weight and trying to rebuild his strength back but is doing much better now and the Sabres hope he can return soon.
This line opened with the Sens as a small road favorite and didn’t hold quite enough value for us early this morning. Once I saw Mike Condon was confirmed as the starter it shifted my line enough to give us value on Buffalo and I tweeted them out as a play at -103. The line is currently up to -108 on the Buffalo side and I recommended a play on them up to -111 if you haven’t had a chance to jump on them yet.
COLORADO AVALANCHE @ WASHINGTON CAPITALS
Colorado – Semyon Varlamov (confirmed)
Washington – Braden Holtby (likely)
Colorado – no significant injuries
Washington – Oshie (out)
The Colorado Avalanche walked into the two-time defending champions building last night as a hefty underdog but grinded out a gritty 2-1 win and walked out with their head held pretty high. Backup Jonathan Bernier was just 12 seconds away from a shutout before Phil Kessel spoiled his bid but it was a strong showing for the technically number two goaltender.
Jared Bednar has found some stability with his lines lately as the top-nine has started to round into form. The obvious top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog is the driving force of the offense but the new “Kid Line” of Alex Kerfoot, Tyson Jost and J.T. Compher have formed a dynamic and exciting line which should only get better and stronger as the year goes on. The big surprise for the Avs has been the third line of Matt Nieto with veterans Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau who have developed into an effective shutdown trio. In the past, these players were largely expected to contribute on the offensive end which just wasn’t happening but now Bednar is leaning on them heavily for defensive zone face-offs and the results have been very positive.
The Washington Capitals continued to be a different team away from home when they lost 3-1 in Brooklyn last night against the Islanders. The Caps gave up a goal in the opening minute of the first and then two more in the opening 90 seconds of the second but were actually much luckier that the score wasn’t higher as the team just looked sluggish all night with no energy or legs. It was a standalone road game around this long stretch of home games and in hindsight it probably wasn’t a very good spot.
Philip Grubauer was scheduled to get the start on the back-to-back but he was needed in relief last night. Grubauer stopped all 17 shots he faced after Braden Holtby was pulled just 1:34 into the second period after allowing all three goals. Barry Trotz hasn’t officially which goaltender will get the start tonight and won’t speak to the media again until 5pm EST but Holtby is my best guess and who I made my line with. He was also going through his starter’s routine in this morning’s skate so there’s that.
T.J. Oshie was on the ice this morning doing some conditioning but he’s not ready to return yet and is also doubtful for Thursday’s game in Boston.
This line opened just below my low-end number at -184 this morning but has taken Washington action and currently sits at -199, just above my high-end number. Colorado surprised me last night but I like the Capitals back at home here. I’d probably be comfortable adding the Caps to your parlay cards for tonight but from a value standpoint this line looks priced pretty well so we’ll sit this one out.
EDMONTON OILERS @ COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
Edmonton – Laurent Brossoit (likely)
Columbus – Sergei Bobrovsky (likely)
Edmonton – Sekera (out), Larsson (out)
Columbus – Murray (out)
The Edmonton Oilers will wrap up a three games in four nights road trip here after a really disappointing 1-0 loss at Toronto on Sunday. The Oilers were extremely frustrated as they clearly dominated the Leafs over the final 59 minutes but an opening minute goal was the difference.
Laurent Brossoit is expected to get the start in goal again but his time as the Oilers backup may be nearing an end as Edmonton is reportedly seeking to strike a deal before the mandatory Christmas shutdown period for a new backup with links to the names of Winnipeg’s Michael Hutchinson and Detroit’s Petr Mrazek. Brossoit has had a pretty ugly run in net this year and while a new backup does seem necessary, I don’t think either of those names are going to help turn the Oilers season around but Peter Chiarelli hasn’t exactly been known for his suave decision-making when it comes to this sort of thing. With Talbot back skating now it would also seem pretty foolish to take on a contract like Mrazek at this point of the season (or any point, really, that contract is hideous). Also, why isn’t Nick Ellis getting a chance? He had better numbers than Brossoit last year in Bakersfield and might be able to give them a short-term boost and certainly couldn’t do any worse than the current option.
The Columbus Blue Jackets play the middle game of a three game homestand tonight, coming off a 1-0 win over Arizona where Sergei Bobrovsky recorded his league-leading 4th shutout of the season. What’s even more impressive is Bobrovsky did this on a back-to-back after playing the previous night, as well.
Bobrovsky is having another stellar season and appears well on his way to another Vezina nomination and might be the biggest threat to our upset contender, Andrei Vasilevskiy, who we are holding a +2500 ticket on from our pre-season picks. Among starters, Bobrovsky leads the league in Goals-Against Average (2.06), is tied for second in Save Percentage (.930), and tied for second in Goals-Allowed Adjusted (79) and third in Goals-Saved-Above-Average (+13.50).
John Tortorella isn’t afraid to send a message to any player on his team so it wasn’t a huge surprise when Cam Atkinson was benched last game for his poor play. Atkinson has just nine points in 25 games this year after leading the team a season ago and had recently been on the ice for a large number of goals against. Atkinson will return to the lineup tonight and called it a wake-up call as he took full responsibility for how he’s been playing. David Savard was benched earlier this year and has played better since returning so hopefully Atkinson can do the same.
This line opened a bit short and then took a small overnight move on the Oilers which gave us a pretty good number this morning. It’s gone back up slightly this morning to -166 but there’s still room to play this if you’re late getting around today. I’d recommend a play up to the usual 8-cents of value threshold at -176.
CALGARY FLAMES @ MINNESOTA WILD
Calgary – Mike Smith (confirmed)
Minnesota – Devan Dubnyk (confirmed)
Calgary – Versteeg (out), Jagr (out)
Minnesota – Parise (out), Spurgeon (out)
The Calgary Flames took advantage of a depleted Canucks team Saturday night with a 4-2 win. The Flames are in the midst of a lot of back-and-forth travel right now as they flew from Montreal to Calgary to Minnesota and will go back to Calgary after tonight. They had a couple days off before this one but it’s still a lot of miles.
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said it best this morning when describing the Flames. “It’s almost like a Jekyll and Hyde team. I mean, when they’re good, they’re really good. And when they’re not so good, they’ve average.”
That’s pretty spot on for how this Calgary team plays and the problem with that is we never know which team is going to show up. With the team coming into this one fresh off a pair of wins, maybe they let their guard down a bit and we get the average team tonight.
Jaromir Jagr won’t play for the fourth straight game tonight as he did not travel with the team. He skated on his own Monday morning and will rejoin the team on Wednesday.
The Minnesota Wild have points in four of five overall after a 2-1-0 road trip through California that featured a pair of overtime victories. I’ve recently discussed in Wild previews how the team has been struggling to hold onto leads and put teams away this year and it happened yet again on Sunday when the Wild let a 3-0 lead become a tie game before a saving grace goal from Nino Niederreiter in overtime.
Minnesota opens a three game homestand tonight and they’ve been piling up the points at the Xcel Energy Center if you haven’t noticed. The Wild are 8-3-2 at home overall but have points in six straight with a 5-0-1 run.
Devan Dubnyk has really picked up his play of late and is a big reason for the recent run. Dubnyk is 8-2-1 over his last 11 games with a .925 save percentage.
This line opened right where I thought it should but has seen significant movement towards Calgary and currently sits at -117. That’s well too low and maybe the market is just fading Minnesota home off their West Coast trip but that’s not a profitable angle this year. I don’t see any other good reason to avoid jumping in here so I added Minnesota -117 as a play late this afternoon on my Twitter.
Matthew Tkachuk celebrated his 20th birthday on Monday so hopefully he celebrated a little too hard with a couple of days off and hopefully the Hyde version of the Flames show up tonight.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING @ ST. LOUIS BLUES
Tampa Bay – Andrei Vasilevskiy (confirmed)
St. Louis – Jake Allen (confirmed)
Tampa Bay – Coburn (out)
St. Louis – Fabbri (out), Schwartz (out), Pietrangelo (out), Bouwmeester (out)
It’s a showdown of the two top teams in the NHL as the Bolts and Blues both lead the league with 21 wins and 44 points, although the Lightning have two games in hand.
Alex Pietrangelo followed Jaden Schwartz to the IR today as St. Louis announced he’ll miss time with a lower-body injury. The IR move is retroactive to last Saturday which means he won’t be eligible to return until the 19th and will miss at least the next four games as the Blues have a packed schedule this week. Jay Bouwmeester will also be out tonight.
I created my line with Pietrangelo in and he’s another significant loss. with Bouwmeester also out, my new line range is Tampa Bay -118/-129. The line opened about a pick’em but has shifted to Tampa Bay and rightly so. It’s currently at -120 late this afternoon and holds no value so we won’t be getting involved but I like the Lightning to get the win tonight if you’re leaning one way or the other.
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Florida – James Reimer/Harri Sateri (unknown)
Chicago – Corey Crawford (confirmed)
Florida – Dadonov (out)
Chicago – Hossa (out), Franson (out), Panik (questionable)
The Florida Panthers earned a hard-fought 2-1 overtime win in Detroit last night behind 34 saves by James Reimer. The Florida backup who has been thrust into the starter’s role was fantastic last night and kept his team in the game until they could finally solve Jimmy Howard in the third period. It was a big change over the previous few games for Reimer as he had given up 15 goals over the previous three games.
The Panthers have points in four of their last five games now and six of eight overall and they make the quick overnight trip to Chicago for the second game on this five game road trip. Florida hasn’t fared well in Chicago, losing their last six visits while only scoring a combined eight goals and this looks like a tough spot for them also being a three in four and four in six situation while the Hawks have been at home waiting.
Finnish product Harri Sateri is the current backup with Luongo on the shelf and he could get the start tonight although Boughner might elect to go with Reimer again after such a great game last night. I made my number with Reimer in the net but I would really like to see Sateri get the start as I enjoyed watching him in the World Championships last year. American fans might not remember him as fondly as he backstopped Finland to a surprise upset over USA in the quarterfinals when he made 26 saves in a 2-0 shutout.
The Chicago Blackhawks have temporarily stopped the bleeding of a five game losing streak with a pair of wins over the lowly Sabres and Coyotes. Corey Crawford continued to make a strong case for a Vezina nomination with another solid showing of 31 saves as in the 3-1 win over Arizona on Sunday in a game which entered the third period tied at zero. The Hawks wrap up a three game homestand tonight before hitting the road for seven of their next eight.
Last week when the Hawks began this homestand I mentioned how the Hawks would have a chance to quickly right the ship against some weaker opponents and they’ve definitely taken advantage of that but this team was a pretty big mess prior. They’ll get another lesser opponent tonight on a tough travel spot who they’ll look to take advantage of before tougher games with Winnipeg and Minnesota ahead.
I also mentioned how I hated the lines put together by Quenneville recently and wished we could see Alex DeBrincat up beside Jonathan Toews. Well Quenneville must read my article (Ha!) because later that night I got my wish and DeBrincat was there. He’s stayed there through yesterday’s practice with Brandon Saad joining them. Ryan Hartman has been a healthy scratch the past two games which makes no sense but he might draw back into the lineup tonight. There’s a chance he may replace Richard Panik who has been really struggling. Panik hasn’t scored a goal in 21 games and doesn’t have a point at all over his last seven.
This line opened this morning at -195 for Chicago which is pretty high in my view but I can understand why. The market has Chicago rated higher than I so while this should present some good opportunities in the near future, this doesn’t seem like one of them. We’ll wait on a goaltending announcement from Florida and I may add Florida later, but this is probably a spot I’ll stay away.
CAROLINA HURRICANES @ VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Carolina – Cam Ward (expected)
Vegas – Marc-Andre Fleury (expected)
Carolina – Stempniak (out)
Vegas – Carrier (out)
The Carolina Hurricanes are not enjoying life on the road right now as they dropped their fourth straight on this season-high six-game trek, 3-2 in Anaheim last night. The Canes struck first just over a minute into the game but the Ducks tied it up shortly after on a really poor goal allowed by Scott Darling. Despite looking great at times, it’s been a huge problem all season for Darling as he continues to let in the soft goals that kill the momentum. Cam Ward is expected to get the start tonight and he’s been letting in all kinds of goals lately. After a decent start by Ward, he’s allowed 11 goals over his last three games stopping just 77 of 88 shots for a .875 save percentage.
Carolina fell behind 3-1 early in the third and used a lot of energy to try and fight back. They scored late to cut it to one and left it all out there going for the tie. They looked noticeably gassed at the final buzzer and that’s likely to have an effect on tonight as this long trip continues.
The Vegas Golden Knights have gone 16-8-1 over their last 25 games. That number is significant because that’s how many games Marc-Andre Fleury has been out with a concussion. The Knights have somehow held up over the first two months of the season without their number one goaltender (and number two, and number three…) but he’ll finally make his anticipated return tonight. Gallant said Fleury looked real quick and confident at practice yesterday. Fleury was 3-1-0 with a .925 save percentage before the injury.
Fleury returns with the Knights on a roll right now with four consecutive wins, including an impressive mini-sweep in Nashville and Dallas to end last week. Vegas will now open a five-game homestand tonight at T-Mobile Arena where they own an 11-2-0 record.
This line opened at a pretty crazy number of just -128 and somehow stuck around overnight. Vegas has been a lethal home team and even the strong Carolina supporters who always drive their lines up won’t be able to ignore this price today. Cam Ward is starting. Marc-Andre Fleury is back. The Canes are on a back-to-back, a three-in-four and a four-in-six situation as they leave the West Coast and head back east. We have significant line value today and therefore decided to maximize this edge and make this our first 1.5-unit play this season. We’ve already seen a line move shortly after full limits opened up to -143 and if you weren’t able to grab the early number I would only recommend playing this as a standard 1-unit play. My criteria to play this as 1.5-units is -139 or lower and any number above this I would scale down to one unit.
-END OF DECEMBER 9 PICKS-
MORNING LINE REPORT – Monday, December 11th
When an NHL team is going through a tough stretch, getting off to a good start always feels like the most important first step to turning things around. When they fall behind early the sticks tighten a bit more and mistakes start to snowball.
The same can be said for a handicapper going through a rough patch. Nobody can win every day and losses are inevitable but the goal is to try and minimize those bad runs and maximize the returns when things are going well. That doesn’t always work out though and sometimes you just have to eat it for a bit.
That’s about where we are now. The rough patch from last week became a live minefield over the weekend, capped by a gut-punching 0-4 last night. We had value on a few big road dogs and we knew getting off to a good start in those games would be paramount. That’s why when Buffalo and Edmonton both gave up goals in the opening minute it quickly felt like déjà vu and you start to wonder what you did to piss off the Hockey Gods.
Our teams battled though, you have to give them that, but at the end of the night the only stat that really counts is that W or L. Arizona was as good as Chicago for most of the night and boy wasn’t I angry when Patrick Kane ran Wedgewood for an obvious interference penalty that wasn’t called, then ten seconds later Kane sets up Anisimov for the winning goal late in the third.
Edmonton absolutely dominated Toronto from start to finish yet came up on the wrong end of a 1-0 score. I lost track of the number of scoring chances and crazy bounces that went against the Oilers, it was almost sickening to watch. When Connor McDavid looked to the heavens at the end of the game as if to ask “Why?” I knew exactly how he felt.
And then we lost two more overtime games. We had a great run on the “coin flip” the first two months and I said I wasn’t looking forward to when we lost ten in a row at some point to balance that out. It’s not quite that bad yet but a 1-5 run this past week in extra time has (not) been fun.
So December has started off in a pretty big hole but we’re still over +19 units on the season. You can’t earn it all back in one night and that’s a big problem a lot of people experience when things are going poorly. Keep the bet sizes the same as you normally would and try not to force anything. We have two weeks remaining before the Christmas break so we’ll stick to our sound process and try to chip away little by little. We beat the closing line on three of four games again and that continues to be a strong positive throughout the season.
Losing sucks even though it’s inevitable. Time to grind.
As always, be sure to check in with me on Twitter (@kreatture) for updates after morning skates, additional plays, or just to chat.
All odds courtesy BetOnline as of 8:15am Eastern Time
*NOTE* I assign a value to every player in the NHL which is part of the line I create. Only those players with a value greater than zero are listed below in the injury report for each team. In other words, if a player is worth nothing to the line movement, he won’t be listed.
DALLAS STARS @ NEW YORK RANGERS
Dallas – Kari Lehtonen (confirmed)
New York – Ondrej Pavelec (confirmed)
Dallas – Methot (out), Hanzal (questionable), Roussel (out)
New York – Zibanejad (out)
About a week ago I mentioned the Dallas Stars were beginning the toughest stretch of their schedule this season with a block of “Hell” games where they’ll play 11 games over 19 days. Since then, the Stars have gone 1-3-0 with their only win over the struggling Avalanche. Dallas lost their third straight on Saturday with a 5-3 home loss to Vegas. The Stars are much improved over last season but they just aren’t quite there yet. They seem to have no trouble beating up on the weaker teams in the league but really struggle against the premier contenders. Against the top of the Central alone, Dallas is a combined 0-6-0 against the Blues, Jets and Predators and have lost by three goals in all of those games except one when they lost by two.
Dallas now wraps up this brutal stretch with four games in six days on the East Coast.
There will be some lineup changes for tonight as defenseman Julius Honka will draw back into the lineup after being a healthy scratch for five of the last six games. Antoine Roussel and Greg Pateryn both missed practice yesterday but Hitchcock said both should be available tonight. [UPDATE: Roussel is out with an elbow injury]
Martin Hanzal also returned to practice and will travel with the team on this trip. He’s missed the last six games but Hitchcock said he will play at some point, either tonight or later in the trip.
Ben Bishop is going to get a rest again to help his sore back as Kari Lehtonen will get the start.
The New York Rangers had a 5-2 win over New Jersey on Saturday and are now 12-4-0 since the calendar flipped to November. The Rangers have won ten of their last 11 home games and have won nine of those by two or more goals.
The biggest attribute to the turnaround for the Rangers has been their defense but specifically the play of Henrik Lundqvist. After a terrible October which saw a .898 save percentage over 11 games, the King has gone 11-3-0 with a .928 save percentage. Unfortunately, Hank won’t start tonight as Ondrej Pavelec has been confirmed at this morning’s skate.
Mika Zibanejad took the ice this morning for the first time since sustaining a concussion. He’s missed five games now and not expected to play tonight but that’s very good news for New York.
This line opened this morning at NYR -140 but had been bet down to below -125. With Pavelec confirmed as the starter my new line range would be NYR -112/113. Most books pulled their number at the announcement and re-opened in the -110/-120 range which looks right to me so we likely won’t be getting involved here.
COLORADO AVALANCHE @ PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Colorado – Jonathan Bernier (confirmed)
Pittsburgh – Tristan Jarry (confirmed)
Colorado – Johnson (probable)
Pittsburgh – Schultz (out), Hornqvist (probable)
Colorado snapped a four game losing streak with a big 7-3 win at Florida on Saturday and that might be the last game they win for a bit. Colorado will play a tough back-to-back here in Pittsburgh and tomorrow in Washington before returning home for a three game homestand against Florida, Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh again which will conclude an 11 games in 20-day stretch.
With the World Juniors right around the corner there’s going to be a number of youngsters around the league who are going to be wanted for their respective countries. For the Avs, Tyson Jost and Samuel Girard are being sought by Canada but Joe Sakic said he “doesn’t anticipate” allowing them to leave for the three-week tournament which is really unfortunate and a dumb move if you ask me. Jost has struggled to settle in this season and is averaging less than 14 minutes per game while Girard is often the seventh defenseman dressed. With the Avs sliding down the standings and not likely to make the playoffs this year, allowing two of your best young stars to go gain invaluable experience on a championship team in a high-calibre tournament like the World Juniors would serve Colorado well.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have hit more goal posts over their last two losses than they’ve scored goals. After a 4-3 loss to the Rangers last Tuesday which saw them hit four posts alone in the third period, the Pens hit iron several times again in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to visiting Toronto. Pittsburgh wraps up a five game homestand tonight in which they are 2-2-0 before heading to Vegas for Thursday’s game.
Patric Hornqvist left in the third period on Saturday and did not return after getting hit by a puck. He was on the ice this morning though and took regular line rushes on the third line and is expected to play tonight.
Matt Murray was also on the ice today and looked good. He’s very near a return but won’t suit up tonight so Tristan Jarry will get the call again.
This line opened at -225 this morning which I’m not completely surprised about but has moved down to -213. We’ve played the Penguins a fair bit lately as I feel they’ve been undervalued but it’s the opposite case today as this number looks too high. There’s value on the Avs but I don’t really want anything to do with them tonight. With Hornqvist back in the lineup I think the Pens are a safe bet to add to your parlay cards but we’ll just sit this one out.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS @ NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Washington – Braden Holtby/Philip Grubauer (unknown)
New York – Jaroslav Halak (confirmed)
Washington – Oshie (out)
New York – Kulemin (out), Hickey (out), Boychuk (game-time decision)
The Washington Capitals played nine of their last ten games at home and have gone 8-2-0 overall during that stretch. Now the Caps will hit the road for eight of their next ten and we’ll see if they really are an improved team or if their home ice dominance was just a mirage.
Washington began the season with a number of lineup holes and a young inexperienced defense but the team seems to be coming together after a couple of months now and having a healthy blueline has helped a lot. The play of rookie Christian Djoos of late has also contributed to their recent success. Djoos only has four points in 21 games on the season but owns a CorsiFor rating of 56.1% and a Relative CorsiFor of +10.1% which is tops on the team and also the best mark among all defensemen in the NHL with at least ten games played.
T.J. Oshie remains out for tonight and the Capitals didn’t hold a morning skate so we don’t officially know who is starting in goal but the expectation is Braden Holtby with Philip Grubauer going tomorrow at home against Colorado. We’ll get confirmation at 5 p.m. Eastern Time when Barry Trotz meets with the media.
The NY Islanders red-hot offense has finally cooled off after a torrid two-month stretch as they’ve scored just six goals over a three game losing skid. The goaltending has unfortunately remained mediocre at best as Halak and Greiss continue to put up pedestrian numbers. The Isles have allowed at least three goals in each of their last five games and ten of 12 overall. In fact, 23 of 29 games overall this year has seen opponents score at least three goals.
Johnny Boychuk has missed the last two games but skated Saturday morning and also at this morning’s skate and although I think he’s likely to play is officially a game-time decision. One defenseman who won’t play is Thomas Hickey who was placed on the IR with an upper-body injury. He won’t be eligible to return until Saturday so will miss the next three games.
Shane Prince was activated and sent to Bridgeport for conditioning. Prince hasn’t played yet this year due to offseason ankle surgery and isn’t much of an impact player but he could help out in the bottom six when he returns.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start and although he doesn’t have the pretty win/loss record as Greiss, his numbers overall are significantly better. Save percentage (.905 vs .890), GAA (2.93 vs 3.79) and GSAA (-3.02 vs -9.57) are all in Halak’s favor.
This line opened with the Islanders as a small favorite but I think they have these two teams mixed up. The betting market has agreed a bit as this line currently sits at -111, down from the -120 open. The Isles are starting to feel like a bit of a pretender while the Capitals are pulling together defensively. When times are tough you go to what you know and there’s been no better team to us than the Capitals this season as we are 14-5 in games involving Washington, including 3-1 when backing them as the road team. Let’s hope our cash cow can feed us again to help us get back on track.
FLORIDA PANTHERS @ DETROIT RED WINGS
Florida – James Reimer (confirmed)
Detroit – Jimmy Howard (confirmed)
Florida – Dadonov (out), Barkov (probable)
Detroit – no significant injuries
The Florida Panthers had a tough go of it on Saturday without Sasha Barkov as they fell 7-3 to visiting Colorado. James Reimer has given up 15 goals in just under eight full periods since taking over as life without Roberto Luongo has also been a struggle but the Panthers have managed to go 1-1-1 in those three games as the offense has scored 13 goals themselves.
One of those keys to success will be back tonight as Florida embarks on a five game road trip. Barkov went through the morning skate and will be back in his usual spot on the top line. Evgenii Dadonov is also starting to skate again which is a positive step in his recovery. He’s still 2-4 weeks away.
The Detroit Red Wings played a much better game than the 6-1 final would indicate on Saturday against the Blues. The Wings were the dominant team over the opening 20 minutes but couldn’t get the bounces to go their way.
Detroit’s defense has taken a nosedive over the past few weeks as they’ve gone from a top-ten unit in the league to the 25th ranked unit in goals against. The Wings have given up a staggering four goals or more in five of the last six games. Jimmy Howard was pulled after 40 minutes on Saturday and has started in ten of the last 12 games so it’s a bit of a surprise to see the struggling Howard get the call again tonight.
According to the morning skate, Detroit will go with the same lineup tonight as Saturday. Luke Witkowski is eligible to return from his ten-game suspension but is expected to be the odd man out on defense.
This line opened a bit high and an overnight move on Detroit took it up to -132. I don’t think those bettors likely knew Barkov would be back today but I found out early this morning he was likely to play so we jumped on Florida early. The line has since come all the way down to the current number of -113 this afternoon. With the Wings defense floundering and the Cats offense in sync, hopefully we see lots of goals for the road side tonight.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS @ WINNIPEG JETS
Vancouver – Jacob Markstrom (confirmed)
Winnipeg – Connor Hellebuyck (confirmed)
Vancouver – Horvat (out), Sutter (out), Baertschi (out), Gudbranson (out)
Winnipeg – Enstrom (out), Byfuglien (out)
The Vancouver Canucks dropped their second straight without Bo Horvat on Saturday night but managed to double their goal output to two goals in a 4-2 loss at Calgary. Brock Boeser scored his 15th goal in his 27th game and leads all rookies in that category. He’s on a higher pace than Auston Matthews was in his rookie campaign and is the best young player in the game who you haven’t seen play yet.
Boeser is going to be put to the test moving forward though without the Canucks number two scorer in Horvat and now also without their third-leading scorer and other linemate, Sven Baertschi. A fractured jaw is going to keep Baertschi out for 4-6 weeks and the suddenly promising season of the Canucks seems to be quickly sliding into despair.
That might mean it’s time for the Sedins to take on a greater load. Daniel and Henrik have had their ice-time limited this season in favor of the younger kids but they’ll be relied upon now to pick up the scoring load. The Sedins will remain on a line with Loui Eriksson while Boeser will now line up alongside Markus Granlund and opposite veteran Thomas Vanek.
The Winnipeg Jets return home off a three game road losing streak after Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss at Tampa Bay. Tonight’s game will be the Jets 15th in the last 28 days and is the final in their toughest stretch of the season.
Dustin Byfuglien received some bad news today as he’ll likely be out until after the Christmas break. He’s officially week-to-week with a lower-body injury and his loss will be a huge blow to the Jets backend. Jacob Trouba will slide into his spot on the top powerplay unit and prospect Tucker Poolman will get an opportunity on the third-pairing. Josh Morrissey will pair with Trouba on the top-pair with Dmitry Kulikov lining up beside Tyler Myers to round out the top-four.
Connor Hellebuyck will get the start in goal again but Steve Mason was activated off the IR today and will be ready to start on the Jets upcoming back-to-back this weekend.
This line opened on the low-end of where I thought it should and currently sits on the high-end at -189 late this afternoon. I don’t see any value in this one but it seems like such an easy win for the high-flying Jets against a Canucks team without their offensive punch. Adding the Jets to your parlay card or playing them in regulation were two options I highly considered today but there are a couple of red flags here with Byfuglien out and this being the end of a long stretch of games for Winnipeg. In addition, Paul Maurice stated he thought his team was pretty gassed at the conclusion of the Tampa Bay game. Those are enough good reasons to keep me away from this one even though it looks like a gimme on the surface.
CAROLINA HURRICANES @ ANAHEIM DUCKS
Carolina – Scott Darling/Cam Ward (unknown)
Anaheim – John Gibson (confirmed)
Carolina – Stempniak (out)
Anaheim – Kesler (out), Eaves (out), Ritchie (out), Getzlaf (probable), Silfverberg (probable), Lindholm (doubtful)
The Carolina Hurricanes continue their season-high six-game road trip tonight after dropping the first three games and will round out their stay in California. The Canes have a date in Vegas tomorrow night before ending the trip in Buffalo on Friday.
Carolina is starting to look a lot like they were last season when the team were on the outside of the playoff picture. The Canes run a sound system and do an excellent job of controlling possession but they are often kept to the outside cycling the puck. Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are two of the NHL’s best young stars and great at creating offense on the fly but Carolina still lacks the aggressive-type player to drive the net and score the tough goals. With the current roster construction, I’m not sure we should expect this to change.
Carolina didn’t hold a morning skate today and I don’t think Peters is meeting with the media pre-game so we might have to wait until warm-ups to see if Scott Darling or Cam Ward gets the start.
The Anaheim Ducks have hopefully been through the hardest part of their season as they’ve played with a severely depleted lineup to this point. Somewhat miraculously they’ve managed to hang around the playoff picture sitting just two points out of the final Wild Card spot and four points behind the third-seed in the Pacific.
Now, the cavalry is returning as the Ducks will get Ryan Getzlaf and Jacob Silfverberg back tonight and possibly Hampus Lindholm who was activated off the IR late last night, although apparently he’s still a little banged up and may need a bit more time. That leaves just Ryan Kesler and Patrick Eaves left on the long-term infirmary list as well as Nick Ritchie who has missed the last two practices.
Anaheim was my top-rated Western Conference team in the pre-season and it wasn’t even really close at that time. With Kesler slated to return within a couple of weeks, a healthy Ducks squad is going to be tough to beat as we enter the New Year.
Getzlaf missed 19 games and his return will allow newly acquired Adam Henrique to slide down onto the number two center spot where he is better suited for. Silfverberg will join Henrique with his usual linemate in Andrew Cogliano. The top line is now reunited with Getzlaf between Rickard Rakell and Corey Perry. Once Kesler returns, the Ducks might have the best depth down the middle in the league.
This line opened in the range I had it and per usual, the Canes saw action as the market continues to have them rated higher than myself. Anaheim fell to even money before seeing a buyback to sit at the current number of -107 late this afternoon which is the price we played them at this morning.
While I appreciate those of you who take the time to read the whole thing (there’s good info throughout!), the below chart is going to be your key each morning and hopefully it will be easy enough to follow (and hopefully I can explain it well).
Take a quick peek at the chart below. The first column is the rotation number found at the sportsbook for each game. For most of you this probably isn’t important but based on my past experience I know for a few it will be helpful. The second column is obviously each matchup for the night. The third column is the most important and I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The fourth column is the Opener which are the odds each game opened at the offshore sportsbook. I do most of my betting at Pinnacle but since that is unavailable to most Americans I’m going to be quoting odds from BetOnline who, in my opinion, are the most similar to Pinnacle odds for American bettors. It’s always good to have accounts at multiple books anyway so you can take advantage of price discrepancies.
The good thing about how I’m setting this up is it doesn’t matter where you bet your games at, you’re going to be able to know what number is okay to bet and at what point it’s no longer good. If you’re with a local who shades your lines or whatever, you might not always get to bet the same games each day, but you should never have to worry about getting a bad number or making a bad bet and hopefully that’s extremely helpful to you.
The fifth column is the current odds listed at BetOnline as of whatever time is listed below the chart. The last column is what I’m betting for the day and is likely the only column some of you will look at each day. And that’s fine, whatever works best for you, but our goal here is to not just give you a generic pick but rather help you understand the numbers a bit better. This is my first time sharing my info in such a public manner and I’m generally an impatient teacher but I’ll try and help you out as much as possible as we go along.
Back to the third column, “My Line Low/High Cut-off”. This is my current line on each game which I’ve carefully crafted. Rather than it being a single number, my process creates a varying range of where the line should fall when the market closes. If an opener is higher or lower than my range, I can usually count on the line moving toward my cut-off.
If the “Current” odds fall outside my range, then it’s a game we can bet on. If it falls inside the range, the game is a pass for me. Now, while any game that falls even 1 cent outside the range is technically open for a bet, my general rule is to only bet a game that is 8 cents or more outside the range. The higher the current odds are outside my range, the higher the edge is and chance of success.