NHL 1/23 betting preview.

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The Saturday NHL slate features five games and four of them are rematches between the same two teams that have played each other at least once earlier this week. Let’s take a look at some of the solid betting opportunities that I am circling on this Saturday NHL card.

Tampa Bay Lightning @ Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets are struggling on the ice and have plenty of distractions off the ice caused by top-line center Pierre-Luc Dubois who is embroiled in a bitter divorce with the team as he has stated his demands to be traded and the Jackets are not going to play him until he gets dealt away. He was benched for most of Columbus’s 3-2 loss in overtime against Tampa Bay on Wednesday and there is clearly not going to be any coexisting moving forward between Dubois and Jackets head coach John Tortorella. As a result, Columbus is currently trying to complete a trade involving the disgruntled center so they can move on from this and the team has already announced he will be a healthy scratch until he is traded. 

On the ice, Columbus is 1-4 on the season with their only win being a 3-2 win against a bottom feeder in the Detroit Red Wings as the lone victory on their resume to this point. It’s worth noting Columbus was outshot in that game despite the win and they lost the battle in xG (Expected Goals) by a margin of 2.27 to 1.33 despite winning the game.

There isn’t much to like about the Jackets game right now and their offense has been dormant scoring 10 goals in their five games. It took overtime for Tampa Bay to win the first meeting against Columbus earlier this week but the Lightning dominated much of the game as they more than doubled the Jackets in high danger scoring chances generated and had a 2.74-1.37 xG margin of victory as well in the game. I don’t see the result changing here for Columbus in the rematch on Saturday. Tampa Bay has won 8 straight games in the regular season against Columbus. They are the better team right now on the ice and certainly facing fewer distractions off it right now than their opponent.

Tampa Bay In Regulation -120

Philadelphia Flyers @ Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins won a back and forth surprisingly high scoring affair against the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night prevailing 5-4 in a shootout. The Flyers led 2-0 after two periods and suddenly the floodgates opened as the teams combined for six goals in the 3rd Period including four by the Bruins to force OT and eventually win the game via a shootout. I’m not convinced that the high scoring explosion we saw toward the end of Thursday’s game will carry over to this one. Let’s keep in mind the Bruins were in a major offensive drought as a team before that eruption in the 3rd Period. Boston only had 3 goals in the first 11 periods of hockey they had played this season prior to the 4 goals they got in the 3rd Period against Philly on Thursday. Turnovers and defensive coverage breakdowns in their own zone plagued the Flyers in the loss and many of their players and head coach Alain Vigneault emphasized tightening things up going into the rematch on Saturday night against the Bruins. Vigneault: “Obviously, we need to tighten up defensively here. Those are areas we’ll continue to work on and I’m confident we’re going to improve.” 

I expect the Flyers to try and tidy up their own zone and the front of their own net in this game and on the flip side, look for the Bruins to also play solid defense here against a Flyers team that may once again be without their top-line center Sean Couturier who missed the last game due to injury. Boston surrendered just 4 goals in three games combined prior to their 5-4 win against Philadelphia and the under is 5-2 in the last 7 head-to-head meetings as well as 6-1 in the last 7 meetings in Boston between the Flyers and Bruins. Expect this game to both start AND finish as a low-scoring game, unlike Thursday.

Philadelphia/Boston Under 5.5 -110

Real Kyper at Noon

Montreal Canadiens @ Vancouver Canucks

The Montreal Canadiens have yet to lose a game in regulation this season and they will conclude a very successful six game road trip on Saturday night in Vancouver as they face the Canucks for the third consecutive game. The Habs are 3-2 on the road trip and both losses to Toronto and Vancouver came beyond regulation earning them a point in both games. Montreal responded to their OT loss to the Canucks on Wednesday by pummeling them 7-3 in the second meeting on Thursday night. Montreal’s offense struck early and often and Tyler Toffoli has caught fire for the Canadiens scoring five goals in the last two games against the Canucks. Montreal is playing great hockey in all aspects as their 5-on-5 play has been strong, the defense and goaltending has been consistent for the most part and in particular their power play which was an area of weakness last season has turned into a strength so far this season as the Canadiens are 6-for-20 on the power play. 

Vancouver is a complete and utter mess defensively right now as they are without Alexander Edler, Jordie Benn and Travis Hamonic on their blue line leaving them without much of a shutdown defense presence on the blue line especially after they lost Chris Tanev in free agency during the offseason. Vancouver has allowed 28 goals in their first six games for a whopping 4.67 goals per game average which is hideous. They are dead last in the NHL in high danger scoring chances allowed with 56 high danger chances against which is seven more than the next worst team in that category which speaks volumes about how weak the Canucks defense has been. The goaltending hasn’t been anything to write home about either from Thatcher Demko and Braden Holtby but they are also being hung out to dry by a porous blue line on a nightly basis. Until the Canucks get some bodies back on the blue line, I’m not going to bet that they are “due” for a defensive improvement. I’ve backed Montreal a lot this season and I’m going to bet them again here as well as yet another over between these two teams.

Montreal -145

Montreal/Vancouver Over 6 -125

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