Hello, dear readers! Welcome to another edition of NHL Best Bets. This is a column in which SIA pinpoints five notable statistics around the National Hockey League that may have a critical impact on how players place their bets. Let's find what caught our attention this week.
As always, don’t forget to check out our NHL odds for games, props, and NHL futures for more action.
Senators’ Power Play Decree
When browsing the NHL standings, one’s eyes might not pay much attention to the Ottawa Senators. A non-playoff team for a few years already, it doesn’t look as though fate has anything better in store for them in 2022-2023. That said, there is one statistical category that’s easy to overlook given their unenviable win-loss tally.
The Sens are a force to be reckoned with on the powerplay, possessing the NHL’s fourth-best unit. Their powerplay nets a goal on 26.3 per cent of its opportunities. As for total goals scored on the PP, as of Jan. 25 (prior to Islanders game), Ottawa has 46, which is good for second place league wide. Their Wednesday night opponents will make for a tough outing (the Isles are fifth on the penalty kill) but on Friday they play the Maple Leafs, who are a middle-of-the-pack penalty-killing squad. Then come the Montreal Canadiens in a home-and-home series. The Habs are sixth-worst in the NHL when surviving time spent down a man. Look for Claude Giroux and Tim Stutzle, who lead the team in power play goals, to go hunting for more.
Sabres Rattling When a Man Up
Not far behind Ottawa are the Buffalo Sabres. Their 25.7 per cent efficiency when an opposing player sits in the box is good for sixth in the NHL. Having netted 43 times under those circumstances, their tally has them tied for fourth with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers (as of Jan. 25).
Unlike with the Sens, there may less reason for optimism when looking at the upcoming schedule. Whereas Ottawa will mostly benefit from confronting less impressive penalty killing units, Buffalo looks ahead to face sides that excel in the matter. The team heads to Winnipeg on Thursday to play the Jets, but the latter sports the second-best percentage when down a man. They’re in Minnesota on Jan. 28 and the Wild – while ranked 15th – are still efficient at 80 per cent. The Hurricanes storm into town on Feb. 1, a team with the 10th best unit. These might NOT be the best opportunities for Tage Thompson to improve on his 14 PPG tally.
Can’t Hunt these Sharks
Now for the flip side of the equation. It’s no secret that 2022-2023 is a lost season in San Jose. The Sharks are sinking fast, as evidenced by their 14-25-10 record, good for next-to-last in the Pacific Division. But as the Senators are proving, it isn’t because a campaign is going poorly overall that a squad can’t do any of the little things right.
Remarkably, the Sharks possess the third-best penalty killing unit in the NHL. It plays at an efficiency rate of 83.7 per cent. That’s incredible when considering that their overall defence, as far as goals conceded per game, is 29th! Basically, when they send one of their own to the box, it’s next to impossible to make them pay, but when teams are on even strength, they’re terrible. Odd, even considering that they rank in the bottom 10 for penalty minutes accumulated. They play the Hurricanes on Jan. 27, but Carolina is 25th on the PP and only 13th in overall offence. That’s a tempting Under bet.
Penguins Start off on the Right Foot
They say that the best way to win games is to start strong. Or rather, the best way to win is by finishing strong?… Regardless, Pittsburgh is on an interesting run of contests in which they score at least one first-period goal, sometimes two, and on a couple of occasions as many as three. They’ve accomplished the feat in no fewer than seven of their previous eight opportunities.
This includes some of the defeats: their only goal in the 2-1 loss to the Devils on Jan. 22 came during the opening stanza. In fact, Carolina, on Jan. 14, was the only club to not concede to the Penguins in the first period. The trend is not concerned with how good an opponent’s defence is either, as the Devils and Jets (who only allowed one Pens score) still conceded in the opening 20 minutes. First-period scoring is a daily prop, so this is a stat to keep in mind.
NHL 22/23 - Regular Season Points - Pittsburgh Penguins
Roger That, Maple Leafs
Until the playoffs begin, it’s only fair to sing the praises of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s another campaign during which they have a good chance of finishing in the top four in the Eastern Conference. That would boost their chances of earning home-ice advantage in the post-season for a couple of rounds and guarantee it at least for the first.
So, who is coming to Rogers Arena in the coming days? Funnily, they play twice at home this coming weekend yet neither game is scheduled for the traditional Saturday. The Senators pay their provincial rivals a visit on Jan. 27. Ottawa is not a very good road squad. Washington tussles with Toronto in a late afternoon window on Jan. 29. The Capitals are certainly a more worthy opponent than the Sens when playing away but are nonetheless a beatable foe. The real test comes on Feb. 1, when the big, bad Bruins make their return. Keep in mind that the Leafs took care of business at home, 2-1, on Nov. 5. These are all tempting money lines in favour of the Maple Leafs.