After missing my last two article predictions, I’m back with a vengeance to break down a spot I really like tonight.
@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bets for NHL Friday - 2/28
Vancouver Canucks vs. New Jersey Devils (7.30pm ET)
After an impressive upset victory last night over the New York Rangers, the Vancouver Canucks have quietly won 6 of their last 8 games. Tonight, they cross the river to take on the New Jersey Devils, a team that’s lost 5 straight home games and is coming off an embarrassing loss to a sub-par Chicago Blackhawks team.
The Devils’ record (18-29-5) is much worse than their opponent’s (26-22-6) tonight. Yet sportsbooks list New Jersey as the moneyline favorite (-125 at time of writing). Why are the Devils favored, and should we back the underdog?
Special Teams Advantage: New Jersey?
Since January 1st, neither team is spending much time in the penalty box. Vancouver is averaging just 4 minutes and 44 seconds of penalty kill time (12th fewest), and the Devils are averaging 3:52 (4th fewest).
On the man advantage (i.e., Power Play), Vancouver converts at a 20.9% rate – roughly in line with league average (20.3%). The Devils have had less success, converting at just a 17.8% rate overall (11th lowest), but the stat is meaningfully better in home games (22.5%, 15th best) where they play tonight.
On the Penalty Kill, the Canucks rank dead last (70.7% PK), which is awful. The next closest team, Arizona, is almost 3 full percentage points higher. Interestingly, Vancouver’s performance in road games is slightly better (72.0%, 3rd worst) but still bad. The Devils, meanwhile, are killing penalties at a 81.6% clip overall (11th best) and 83.1% at home (13th best).
The fact the Devils are strong on the Power Play at home combined with the fact Vancouver is the worst penalty kill team highlights an edge for New Jersey tonight. They might not get many Power Plays but when they do – I like their chances of converting one, which could be the difference in a matchup like this.
Vancouver will be playing their 2nd game in 24 hours tonight.
- In 7 prior back-to-back (B2B) situations this year, the Canucks have a measly 2-5 record.
- The issue for Vancouver in this spot has been offense. They’re averaging just 2.0 goals per game in the 2nd night of B2Bs. On an expected goals basis, they’re averaging 2.85 expected goals per game in B2Bs. The difference between actual and expected goals suggests the team could be due for positive scoring regression. Even if they get it tonight, their expected goals average is lower in B2Bs than all other situations.
- Defense and Goaltending has been slightly worse in B2Bs vs. other situations. In 7 prior B2Bs, Vancouver allowed 3.14 goals per game – up from 2.68 in all other situations. On an expected goals basis, they’re allowing 3.2 expected goals in the 2nd night of B2Bs – in line with their actual average. This tells us the issue is less about goaltending and more about defense.
The Devils, meanwhile, are well-rested. They recently had a 7-day layoff. Since then, they have played two games, most recently in Chicago on Saturday (two days ago).
Final Verdict and Best Bets
Yes – Vancouver is coming off an impressive road win over the New York Rangers last night; however, it was against NYR’s backup goalie and on an expected goals basis, the Canucks should have lost (3.84 xGF for NYR, 2.76 xGF for VAN). That, combined with the fact Vancouver is just 2-5 in back-to-back situations this year, tell me the team could be due for negative regression tonight.
The Devils, meanwhile, are coming off an embarrassing 8-5 defeat in Chicago. They had their 4th string goalie in net, but on an expected goals basis they were still outplayed (4.51 xGF for CHI vs. only 3.05 xGF for NJD), so we can’t really blame goaltending.
Still, I like this spot for a New Jersey bounce back. At this time, I feel important to disclose that I’m a Devils fan, so I could be biased, but the team is playing much better hockey lately (excluding the weekend blunder). They’ve now lost 5 straight home games but on an expected goals basis, they should have won 3 of the 5 games. If rookie netminder Nico Daws can build off his stellar outing in Pittsburgh, tonight sets up as the perfect bounce back spot for a club in desperate need of one.
Game Props - Best Bet
DEVILS ML @ -125
Player Prop Angles
I failed to mention elsewhere in this article that there’s an awesome storyline to be aware of tonight, which is that Devils’ superstar Jack Hughes (age 20) will face his older brother, Quinn Hughes (age 22), for the third time. Quinn plays defense for Vancouver, which sets the stage for an epic mini-battle tonight.
Both players are having incredible seasons:
- Jack is averaging more than a point per game for the first time in his 3-year NHL career
- Quinn is averaging 0.82, which is also a career best and an excellent mark for a defenseman.
They’re both also in great form:
- Jack is coming off back-to-back 3 point games. That by itself is wild. Entering tonight, he’s recorded at least 1 point in 11 of his last 12 games. He’s also recorded a point in 14 of 17 (82%) home games this year.
- Quinn is averaging 1.4 points per game in his last 5. That includes a 0 point performance last night vs. New York. He’s had 3 multi-point games in the last 11 days, which makes me eager to back him tonight.
Their parents and families will be in attendance tonight. It is a big family event, and both players should be extra motivated to have big games tonight.
Here are my 2 favorite player prop angles for backing the Hughes bros tonight:
- Jack Hughes 2+ Points (+210) via Barstool Sportsbook
After posting back-to-back 3-point games, sportsbooks would have to pay me NOT to bet this. He’s playing the best hockey of his career right now, and what better spot to target Jack’s 2+ points prop than at home vs. his own brother.
- Jack and Quinn Hughes each to record a point (+123) via Barstool Sportsbook
This is available using the ‘Parlay+’ feature on Barstool Sportsbook (also available via Bet Rivers and Sugar House). I obviously like Jack to record a point (and hope he gets 2+). Why not pair it with a bet that his brother, Quinn, will find the score sheet too? As mentioned above, Quinn is on fire right now with 3 multi-point games in his last 5. It was tempting to back his 2+ point prop, too, but after not cashing my last few article picks, I’m opting for the safer route by parlaying them to each record at least 1 point (which is inclusive of goals + assists).
If you can’t bet points props, I like Jack Hughes to score a goal tonight and Quinn Hughes to record an assist.
Thanks for following along my column and best of luck tonight!
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