Last Updated: 2017-12-31
With the holidays in the rearview mirror, a big push will be on in the NHL to bank as many wins and points as possible before the All-Star Break. This season, the NHL will not be participating in the Olympics, so the players won’t have to worry about those two weeks worth of downtime. We do have a very light schedule next week, with a lot of downtime for the teams, so everybody should be motivated this week.
We should see the really good teams start to separate themselves a bit as the Trade Deadline approaches. There are a lot of opportunities for teams to take advantage of schedule situations and to bury weaker opponents. Depth is really important at this time of the year because injuries are mounting and teams will be looking to ensure that their best players are ready to go for the playoff push. Good teams, traditionally, have the best depth, which is why they tend to separate from the pack.
Here are the situational betting opportunities for the week ending January 7:
Monday January 1
New York Rangers vs. Buffalo Sabres – Outdoor games don’t really have the same appeal that they once did, but they are still unique situations for the players. Teams typically have at least a day or two off in advance and following these headline games. This is the only game in town on January 1. The Sabres and Rangers play at Citi Field, the home of the New York Mets. The Rangers are a much better team. We like to think that outdoor games help the home team, but it is quite the contrary. This will be the 23rd outdoor game since the start of 2008. Home teams have won just nine of those 22 previous games. The Sabres are technically the home team here because of a property tax exemption that benefits Madison Square Garden.
Tuesday January 2
Florida Panthers at Minnesota Wild – Oh what fun it is to go to the Twin Cities in January. The Panthers begin a string of four games in six days in cold-weather climates with this trip to St. Paul to battle the Wild. Florida is riding high with a five-game winning streak, but the Panthers had Sunday and Monday off, so we’ll have to see if the Break cooled them off. With two games against division foes on the horizon, we may not get a full effort.
Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs – The Maple Leafs are in a horrible spot on Tuesday night. After playing a couple of games in the desert, with a homecoming for Auston Matthews and a New Year’s Eve celebration in Las Vegas, the Maple Leafs host the East-leading Lightning on Tuesday night. Tampa Bay will be coming in with a day off following a visit to Columbus. The Vegas home ice advantage has been a big deal for the Golden Knights and it has some after effects as well. We’ve all been to Vegas. We know what those first couple of days are like after a trip to Sin City. The Maple Leafs have to be ready to go against a top team in the NHL and that seems highly unlikely.
Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights – Nashville is a fun city and an awesome place to be, but nothing can hold a candle to Vegas. The Predators will be there for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day before Tuesday night’s tilt at T-Mobile Arena. Not great, Bob. Vegas embarks on a quick two-game road trip to the Midwest after this one and a visit from the reigning Western Conference champs seems like a good game to get excited about. Vegas is in yet another good home spot here.
San Jose Sharks at Montreal Canadiens – The Sharks opened up their road trip last Saturday against the Dallas Stars and now find themselves playing four straight in cold-weather Canadian cities. The first three will be in the Eastern Time Zone. San Jose has played 20 home games and just 15 road games. They’ve played pretty well of late, but this road trip might be a wake-up call. This spot isn’t as bad as some of the others, but it’s not great against a desperate Montreal team that has dropped four straight.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers – Four games in six days await both of these teams this week. In fact, 12 teams play four games this week. The Penguins are wrapping up a road trip and the Flyers are starting a nice homestand. All four games will be at home for Philly. The advantage goes to the Flyers in this spot, in what is, remarkably a battle for last place in the Metropolitan Division. Of course, the Flyers, with 40 points, would sit fourth in the Atlantic Division, so last place is a little misleading here.
Wednesday January 3
Chicago Blackhawks at New York Rangers – With 12 games on a busy Tuesday slate, we go down to two games on a slow Wednesday slate. A couple of Original Six teams square off here, as the Blackhawks and Rangers take center stage on national TV. The Blackhawks are in a bit of an awkward spot. They just played in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary and will return right home after this visit to Manhattan. The Rangers, on the other hand, are on the ice for the first time since the outdoor game. I would expect Chicago to be one of those teams to flip the switch and start banking some wins and this could be a good spot to back them.
Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings – Wednesday’s other game is an Atlantic Division showdown between the Senators and Red Wings. This is a standalone road game for Ottawa with three days off prior to taking the ice at Little Caesars Arena. The Red Wings also had a couple days off, but just chilling at home. The Senators have been one of the worst road teams in the league this season, while Detroit leads the league with six overtime losses at home. A regression to the mean should be coming for Detroit, but not for Ottawa.
Thursday January 4
Buffalo Sabres at Minnesota Wild – How’s this for scheduling? The Sabres were technically the home team on New Year’s Day at Citi Field. They will go from December 22 to January 9 without playing a home game in Western New York. Why? Because the World Junior Hockey Championships have taken over the city. So, the Sabres embark on a tricky road trip with stops in Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Philadelphia. The Wild should be able to pick up two points here against an overmatched foe.
New York Islanders at Philadelphia Flyers – One of the worst spots of the week comes on Thursday night for the Islanders. A standalone road game in the City of Brotherly Love is on tap. The Islanders play on Tuesday against the Bruins at home and then return right back home to take on the Penguins on Friday. Even though the Penguins are struggling, that is still a circled game for teams. The Flyers will be coming off of a Penguins game of their own, but with a day off before and after, they’ll be in good shape for this one.
Columbus Blue Jackets at Colorado Avalanche – Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar will get a crack at his former employer in this one. Bednar was the Calder Cup winning coach of the Cleveland Monsters two years ago. A lot of those same players are now playing for the injury-riddled Blue Jackets. Depth is an issue for Columbus and this is the team’s only stop in the Mile High City, where the altitude certainly plays a role. The Avs are a much improved team this season, due in large part to an 11-7-1 record at home. Colorado should be plenty motivated here and Bednar has a lot of familiarity with the Jackets personnel. This is a sneaky good look at a team that should be a slight home dog or a money line pick ‘em.
San Jose Sharks at Toronto Maple Leafs – Will the Vegas hangover be gone for Toronto by the time these two teams square off on Thursday night? The Sharks will be in cold weather throughout the week. If Toronto loses to Tampa Bay on Tuesday, this will be a pretty important bounce back spot and they should be plenty motivated. With a win on Tuesday, we’ll have to revisit this one.
Friday January 5
Buffalo Sabres at Winnipeg Jets – Another bad spot for Buffalo comes up on Friday night with a back-to-back and a trip to Winnipeg. It will be an early morning arrival with a stop through customs, and that’s assuming everything goes off without a hitch from a travel standpoint. The Sabres play three road games in four nights this week with Minnesota, Winnipeg, and Philadelphia, which is a really odd trip. The Jets are ready and waiting for this one. Winnipeg’s 14-3-1 home record is not a mirage. This is a solid team with a great home ice advantage in that it is a smaller building and the fans are basically on top of the ice. It’s a tough place to play and the Jets have taken advantage.
San Jose Sharks at Ottawa Senators – The Sharks are in a back-to-back here with travel from Toronto to Ottawa. A big game looms on Sunday against a top team in the Western Conference in Winnipeg. This is a bit of a throwaway game from a schedule standpoint, depending on how Thursday goes. On the other hand, the Sharks may have a little bit of value here because the spot will be built into the line. It’s a back-to-back and a third road game in four nights. The market has to account for that. On the other hand, the Senators are not a very good team. San Jose is a better team. This may be a live road team here, but the line will tell us whether or not we have value.
Vegas Golden Knights at Chicago Blackhawks – All Blackhawks, all the way on Friday night. I know that we’re all looking for Vegas to fall off the pace, but a back-to-back against St. Louis and Chicago seems like a good spot for some chinks in the armor to show up. Vegas works harder than anybody else in the league, which is why the Knights have had so much success. Road back-to-backs sometimes cut into that effort level. With the Blackhawks as a team I have circled to start banking some wins, and without a back-to-back or any compromising situations of their own, I think they’re a great look, even with what could be a slightly inflated number.
Saturday January 6
Carolina Hurricanes at Boston Bruins – The Hurricanes have a good chance to sneak up on the Bruins on Saturday. The Bruins will head out for a Sunday night tilt in the Steel City right after this game and that one certainly stands out more than a visit from Carolina. The Hurricanes aren’t in any type of bad spot here and are actually a decent team in terms of the advanced metrics. They just haven’t had the goaltending to show for it. The Bruins are a solid team from the metrics and do have the record to show for it. Carolina won’t get a lot of respect on this number, but could be a live dog given the situation for Boston.
St. Louis Blues at Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers are in another solid spot here on Saturday with a visit from the Blues. This is an afternoon start on the East Coast for the Blues, so it is a unique spot, whereas the Flyers have been playing some of these early games. St. Louis plays Washington on Sunday afternoon against former friend TJ Oshie. The Flyers should be live in this spot.
Nashville Predators at Los Angeles Kings – The Kings will likely be the preferred side of a lot of people in this spot, but waiting out Nashville and playing back on the road dog may be the way to go. Nashville plays in Vegas and Arizona prior to going to Los Angeles. The Kings are returning home from a road trip to Alberta. That first game back can be a tricky one and Nashville plays a really good brand of hockey on the road. As we enter this week, only the Kings have more road wins than Nashville. If the Preds are a dog, and they should be, that’s the way to look here.
Sunday January 7
Buffalo Sabres at Philadelphia Flyers – If you’re looking for a parlay piece, the Flyers are a good one on Sunday. It will be another day game for the Flyers, but they’ll be facing a Sabres team dying to get home and spend some time with family and friends. This is a long week for Buffalo going from New York City to St. Paul to Winnipeg and then back to Philly. The Flyers are in a back-to-back, so hopefully that lowers the price a bit for us.
New York Rangers at Vegas Golden Knights – The Rangers are in an excellent spot on Sunday against the Golden Knights. This is a back-to-back with a late arrival from the Phoenix area. That means that this is purely a business trip. The fun can be had after because the Rangers don’t play again until Saturday. A lot of NHL teams have what basically amounts to a bye week next week, so we have a very light schedule. That means that the Rangers can take a couple of days to have fun in Vegas and then fly back home to get ready for Saturday’s game against the Islanders. I think this is a spot to play on Vegas’s home ice advantage and take the Rangers to stun the crowd.
Keep an eye out for these NHL situational betting spots at BangTheBook.com every Sunday.
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