@FastMoneyLabs’ Best Bets For NHL Wednesday - 2/23

$FML has swept the board in FIVE consecutive articles, now it's time for six on Wednesday night.

For today’s column, I’m targeting the national broadcast (7:30PM ET on TNT) and matchup featuring plenty of star power. You guessed it. We’re heading to Tampa Bay.

Why are Edmonton such heavy underdogs?

This is a team that quietly won 10 of its last 14 games, which left me scratching my head as to why they’re +175 on the Moneyline. What I found next in my research is pretty interesting.

Led by generational talents Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl – the Oilers’ dynamic duo is widely feared in most American cities except, apparently, one: Tampa Bay.

Since the 2015/16 season (i.e., the McDavid/Draisaitl-era), Edmonton is 0-5 straight up in visits to Tampa Bay. As a franchise, they’ve lost 8 straight visits and have not won in Tampa Bay since 2009.

Tonight, they get their shot at redemption, and it is good timing for it. Since firing their coach on February 9th, the Oilers look revived. They are 5-1 since the coaching change, outscoring opponents 25 to 15 in aggregate across the 6 games.

To note, they are coming off a loss with an embarrassing final box score (7-3 Minnesota). However, in Edmonton’s defense, it was their 2nd game of a back-to-back and importantly: they significantly outplayed their opponent by outshooting Minnesota 33 to 22.

The issue for Edmonton is goaltending. It is virtually impossible to win NHL games when your goalies combine to allow 7 goals on just 22 shots as they did the other night.

With Mike Smith (5-5, 3.61 GAA) penciled as their starter tonight, I understand why they are Underdogs, but is the +175 Moneyline price justified? The answer, I think, lies in some neat analysis I ran and will walk through next.

Is Tampa Bay Overvalued Tonight?

I get it, Edmonton struggles in Tampa Bay. But the host Lightning are coming off a long layoff. They have not played since their 6-3 victory last Tuesday (Feb. 15th) over NJD.

I’ve heard different theories about how long layoffs impact teams. In theory, layoffs provide rest, which is a good thing, right? Which raises another question: Does the data agree?

To answer the question, I ran a league-wide analysis to see how teams have performed in the game after a long layoff. For purposes of this analysis, I defined “long layoff” as 6 or more days off. Here’s what I found:

Note: I excluded games where the team’s opponent was also coming off a long layoff.

  • Teams coming off a 6+ day layoff are:
    • Only 19-24 (44.2%) straight up vs. opponents that played more recently.
    • Of the 19 wins, only 13 (68.4%) were settled in regulation.
    • 9 of the 43 games went to OT (20.9%).
  • Team returning from layoff is averaging:
    • 3.21 goals scored per game
    • 3.51 goals allowed per game
  • 6.72 total goals are scored on average (median = 7.0)
  • Interestingly, shots on goal are dead even. Teams returning from long layoffs average 32.2 shots on goal, both for and against.

Together, I interpret this information to suggest:

  • Teams returning from long layoffs are losing more often than not.
  • Their Achilles heel appears to be rusty goaltending.
  • Long layoffs appear less disruptive to offense (i.e., shots on goal and goal scoring)

Applied to tonight’s game, I believe:

  • The risk of rusty goaltending is less for Tampa Bay, who have an elite netminder (Andrei Vasilevskiy), but still present. The Oilers are not an ideal opponent for a goalie returning from layoff, either, given the strength of their offense.
  • History suggests Tampa Bay’s offense shouldn’t lose a step. Don’t be afraid to back their props. This is especially true if Mike Smith plays goalie tonight for Edmonton.
  • Expect plenty of goals on national TV.

Final Verdict / Best Bets

I perform my own projections for every NHL game, and my numbers have this game closer to a toss-up. I’m honestly shocked we can bet the Oilers at +175 right now at MGM. I got it at +190 last night and feel refreshed to see the market agrees with me today (unlike yesterday when market drifted towards Toronto).

For performance tracking, I’ll record today’s picks at current market odds:

  • Edmonton Oilers ML (+175/MGM)
  • Edmonton Oilers Team Total o2.5 (incl. OT) (-125/DraftKings)

Player Prop Angle

If I expect Edmonton to hold their own with scoring, why not go for another 2+ points prop?

Connor McDavid’s 2+ points prop is usually priced closer to +100. He recorded at least 2 points in 24 of 49 (49%) games this year. He’s in great form right now, too, cashing his 2+ points prop in 4 of the 6 games since Edmonton’s coaching change.

The fact we can bet this at +154 today feels like a steal. It might not hit but for the price, this is great value:

  • Connor McDavid o1.5 Points (+154/FanDuel)

$FML Best Bet

betmgm

EDMONTON OILERS ML @ +175

$FML Best Bet

flashpicks

EDMONTON OILERS TEAM TOTAL O2.5 (INC OT) @ -125

$FML Best Bet

fanduel

CONNOR MCDAVID O1.5 POINTS @ +154

Note: I sized these bets to win 1 unit/each (i.e., your normal bet size).

Thanks for following along my journey to beat the books. Best of luck tonight!

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