@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bets for NHL Friday - 2/25

$FML is on a 12-2 run with his NHL article plays and he has two more best bets locked in for Friday night's action.

7:00PM (ET): Columbus Blue Jackets @ Carolina Hurricanes

If you’ve been following my column, good chance you’re familiar with this small-market team from Ohio.

After stomping the NHL’s best home team (Florida) last night by a final score of 6-3 (as a +350 ML Underdog), the Columbus Blue Jackets have now won 9 of their last 11 games. The odds for tonight’s game don’t fully reflect it, but they’re quietly one of the hotter teams in the league right now.

Tonight, they face a tough test, as the team flies to Raleigh, NC to take on the Carolina Hurricanes (17-6 ML at home) on the 2nd leg of a back-to-back.

I don’t think the Blue Jackets’ recent performance is a fluke. They’ve got a great team, and my gut tells me to trust them again as a heavy Underdog. I’ve learned it is not always best to bet off your gut, though. I’m a data-driven bettor. What does the data think?

Game Preview

These teams already clashed three times this year, which gives us some data to work off.

Interestingly, the away team is 3-0 in the first 3 meetings. Carolina dominated games 1 and 2 (both played in Columbus) by final scores of 5-1 (October 23rd, 2021) and 7-4 (January 1st, 2022). The Ohioans struck back with a resounding 6-0 shutout victory to take game 3 in Carolina (January 13th, 2022).

The hosting Canes arrive tonight as winners of 3 straight. At home, they’ve won 6 of their last 7 games with the only loss coming in overtime at the hands of Florida.

Carolina holds a significant rest advantage over their opponent tonight. The Canes last played four nights ago on February 21st, whereas tonight marks the 2nd game of a back-to-back and 3rd game in 4 nights for Columbus.

It’s a small sample, but the Jackets are just 2-4 in the 2nd game of back-to-back situations this year. Their issue in this spot has been goaltending. In the 2nd game of back-to-backs, Columbus is allowing 5.17 goals per game.

Offense has been less of an issue, as the Jackets have scored 3.83 goals per game in the 2nd game of back-to-backs. On an ‘expected goals’ basis, which adjusts for quality of scoring chances, they are scoring just 2.83 expected goals per game – 1 full goal lower than their actual results – indicating their scoring output in back-to-back games might be powered, at least in part, by luck.

Betting Advice

As much as I want to back the Jackets, I strongly advise against it tonight for two reasons:

  1. In the 2nd game of back-to-backs, Columbus is allowing tons of goals, and the data suggest it is not a fluke. When I drilled into the data, I noticed the Jackets allow 15.0 high-danger chances per game in 5v5 play when playing back-to-back. For context on how bad that is, the league-average is just 10.99. In all other rest situations (i.e., not back-to-backs), Columbus allows closer to league average. I feel this stat explains why they allow so many goals in back-to-backs.
  2. Columbus’ starting goaltender, Elvis Merzlikins, remains sidelined with injury, as do their 2nd and 3rd string netminders. That means their 4th string backup, Jean-Francois Berube, will make his 4th straight start. Berube has been superb since joining the team, but it is abnormal for NHL goalies to play back-to-back starts like this. After stopping 39 of 42 shots last night, I feel negative regression could be imminent for the 30-year-old who hadn’t played an NHL game since 2018 until last week.

As far as my favorite betting angles, I noticed the ‘Over’ is 6-0 this year when Columbus is playing their 2nd night of a back-to-back. It is also 2-0-1 in the 3 prior Canes/Jackets matchups. What goes up must come down – meaning they could be due for an ‘Under’.

Still, I feel the best betting angle here is to back the Over (up to 6.5). If you’re feeling risky, you could consider pairing it with Carolina Moneyline as a parlay for better odds.

$FML Game Prop Best Bet

fanduel

GAME TOTAL OVER 6.5 @ -130

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Player Prop Angle

If I like Carolina to light the lamp (potentially a lot) tonight, why not target one of their players for a scoring prop?

To determine the best player prop to back, I started by anchoring to a stat I referenced above: high-danger scoring chances. Thus far, we’ve established that Columbus allows tons of high-danger chances when playing the 2nd night of a back-to-back. Which raises a question: Which players on Carolina generate the most high-danger scoring chances? Here are the top 3 (excluding players with 30 mins or less of total ice time):

  1. Sebastian Aho: 5.65 per 60 mins (5v5)
  2. Jordan Staal: 5.12 per 60 mins (5v5)
  3. Nino Niederreiter: 5.0 per 60 mins (5v5)

Of the three, I lean Aho based on his role on Carolina’s Power Play. Columbus takes less penalties than the average team, but their mediocre 81.4% Penalty Kill percentage highlights a good opportunity for Aho and Carolina, who convert Power Plays at a 25% rate (6th best). Niederreiter plays on the team’s 2nd Power Play unit, which gives him less ice time than Aho. Jordan Staal is not listed on either Power Play unit.

My problem with Aho tonight is he doesn’t have the best track record vs. Columbus. In 3 meetings this year, he only recorded 1 point (total). Extending the sample to last year, he’s been held to 1 point or less in 6 of their last 7 matchups.

Rather than back Aho, I prefer to back his linemate, Andrei Svechnikov, to score a goal. Svechnikov’s in awesome form right now with at least one goal in 6 of his last 10 games. Since February 12th, he has 2 multi-goal games. He also scored earlier this year vs. Columbus and tallied 2+ points in 2 of the 3 matchups.

I feel backing Svechnikov fits well with my high-danger scoring chances analysis since he’s always on the ice with Aho. Sebastian can generate the high-danger scoring chances. Svechnikov can finish ‘em.

$FML Player Prop Best Bet

fanduel

ANDREI SVECHNIKOV ANYTIME GOAL SCORER @ +160

If you’re feeling risky, I also like his 2+ points prop (+170 via Barstool Sportsbook, Bet Rivers or Sugar House).

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