$FML is on a run of 10-1 with his NHL article plays and he's got another three picks lined up for Thursday.
@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bets For NHL Thursday - 2/24
7:00PM (ET): Columbus Blue Jackets @ Florida Panthers
A matchup of two high-powered offenses and lackluster defenses. How could we not bet this?
These clubs clashed twice this year already, and the matchup lived up to expectations. They combined for 23 goals in just two games (both played last month in January). That’s 11.5 goals per game, on average, when these two teams meet. Pure insanity! That does not mean we’ll get 11.5 goals tonight, but I found the data point interesting.
It’s a small sample, but the Panthers brutally bullied the Blue Jackets in both matchups. They won the first game 9-2 (in Florida) and came close to a repeat performance by winning game two 8-4 (in Columbus).
Tonight, they return to Florida where the Panthers sport a league-best 23-4 (85.2%) moneyline record in their home games. So, should we slam Florida moneyline and call it a day?
Not so fast. The visiting Blue Jackets are coming off an impressive Overtime victory as a +200 dog in Toronto and have now won 8 of their last 10 games. As mentioned in my Tuesday column, Columbus is quietly one of the hotter teams in the NHL thanks to their high-powered offense. They’ve now scored 4 or more goals in 8 of their last 10 games.
The issue for Columbus is currently goaltending. Today, the team placed starting goalie Elvis Merzlikins on Injured Reserve. This indicates their backup, Jean-François Bérubé, will make his 3rd straight start. Bérubé looked great in his last 2 starts but before that, he hadn’t played an NHL game since 2018.
Is the feel-good story doomed to end tonight? After watching Bérubé play vs. Toronto, I left with an impression he’s in great form. I think he can hold his own, but Florida will be a real test.
Betting Angles - Spread
As much as I want to back Columbus at the mouthwatering moneyline price of +300, I can’t get myself to pull the trigger. If this were a Blue Jackets home game, I’d strongly consider it. Unfortunately, it is not.
That said, I do see good value in backing the underdog’s puck line (i.e., spread) at +2.5. Spreads this high are rare in hockey. To get a +2.5 spread on a team that’s won 8 of their last 10 games?! I don’t have the data to prove it, but this feels like a once in 5 years event. Like a somewhat rare comet, if you will.
On the season, CBJ are covering hypothetical +2.5 spreads at a 74% clip, as shown below:
The counterpoint to everything I just typed is that Florida is also having success against -2.5 spreads. Entering tonight, the Panthers covered a hypothetical -2.5 spread in 51.9% of their home games (including vs. CBJ on Jan. 31). I find that stat crazy considering they’ve played 27 home games already.
It’s not a comfortable one, but I feel it’s the right decision to back Columbus +2.5 here. I know they’ve struggled vs. Florida, but I also believe what goes up must come down. I don’t necessarily think they will win, but I do think they can keep it close. When deciding between a 72% hit rate (CBJ +2.5 in away games) vs. a 52% hit rate (FLA -2.5 in home games), I’ll almost always choose the 72%.
$FML Game Spread Pick
COLUMBUS +2.5 @ -110
Betting Angles - Team Prop
A 2nd betting angle I like even better is available in the Team Shots on Goal market.
At o/u 28.5, I feel Columbus’ Team Shots on Goal line is disrespectfully low (at Barstool Sportsbook). They covered this number in 9 of their last 11 (81.8%) away games and 16 of 25 (64.0%) away games overall. They also covered in both matchups vs. Florida (30 SOG in Florida Jan. 15th; 36 SOG in Columbus Jan. 31st).
Those hit rates bode well for a matchup vs. Florida, a team that allowed 29+ shots on goal in 36 of their 51 (70.6%) games overall and, importantly, in 21 of 27 (77.8%) home games, as shown below:
I’m projecting the Blue Jackets get closer to 31 shots on net tonight, giving us roughly 2.5 shots worth of value at this number (based on my projections). That, combined with the trends highlighted in my charts were enough for me to back this line with confidence.
I personally placed a slightly larger wager on this prop by sizing my bet to win 1.5 units.
$FML Team Prop Pick
CBJ OVER 28.5 TEAM SHOTS ON GOAL @ -112
Betting Angle - Player Prop
Last but not least, I like Aleksander Barkov to record 2+ points today (+150 via Caesars).
In a recent article, I mentioned that when the Florida Captain does not record a point, he is known to bounce back by recording 2+ points in his next game.
Last game, he finished with 0 points, which makes me giddy to back him for 2 points tonight in a game featuring a game total as high as 7.0 at some books. Backing this prop fits nicely with the rest of our bets, too, because it provides some insurance against a blowout victory for Florida (which would kill our 1st and possibly 2nd bet). In a best-case scenario, we cash everything.
$FML Player Prop Pick
ALEKSANDER BARKOV O1.5 POINTS @ +150
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