This article is part of our Handicapping the NHL series.
RotoWire's AJ Scholz takes a deep dive into his favorite bets ahead of Thursday's 10-game slate, including a look at the Moneyline, Puckline, total and player props with odds courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Picking the Favorite: To avoid paying significant juice, there are really only two options on tonight's slate in terms of a favorite and that's either Philadelphia (-135) v. Montreal or San Jose (-130) v. Vancouver. In their last two appearances, the Flyers racked up 11 goals, thanks in part to Cam Atkinson with three goals and two assists. For their part, the Habs are downright bad of late with nine defeats in their previous 10 contests. Considering Jake Allen is 0-6-1 during his current losing streak, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Samuel Montembeault get the starting nod.
Finding an Underdog: It's a revenge game for the Lightning, as they just lost to the Senators on Saturday by a score of 4-0. The Senators followed that victory up with an 8-2 drubbing of the Panthers, though it was backup netminder Spencer Knight between the pipes for Florida. The Lightning are a lock to make the playoffs, barring a drastic shift in their fortunes, so they aren't going to lose a lot of games this year but in the meantime, at +200 value the Senators are absolutely worth a look on the heels of their back-to-back victories. If Ottawa is to pull off the upset, it will need Brady Tkachuk (four goals) and Drake Batherson (seven points) to maintain their high level of performance.
Covering the Puckline
Favorite Team to Cover: In December, the Golden Knights have averaged 4.71 goals per game. Much of that is due to a resurgent Max Pacioretty who has racked up 10 goals in seven contests, including three scores with the man advantage. In fact, since returning from injury, the winger has compiled 16 points in nine contests. On the other side of the ice, New Jersey has conceded 28 goals in its last seven appearances. All that to say, getting +145 value for the Knights to cover the -1.5 Puckline is too good of value to pass up.
Best of the Rest: Normally, I stick to the favorites in this spot because they return the most value, but I really like the Sabres +1.5 goals when it is returning even money. It's a good spot to be in when you don't need Buffalo to actually win the game. While the Sabres' recent record might read 1-2-1, they played both the Capitals and Rangers to one-goal losses while defeating a quality Jets team in the process. Still, there is a reason the Wild are the biggest favorites on the night at -320.
Betting the Total
Taking the Over: For all the reasons outlined above about the Golden Knights' offense and the Devils' defensive issues, this game absolutely screams to take the over at 5.5 even at -125. In fact, this could be an opportunity to look to the alternate lines once they become available and go up to 6 or 6.5 to get more value. The Devils don't lack for offensive options like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier and could put in one or two of their own to help get over the total.
Spotting the Under: If the Flyers are going to get past the Habs, it's unlikely to be an offensive outburst, especially considering Montreal has been unable to mount any sort of offense in December (1.50 goals per game). Expected offensive contributors Mike Hoffman, Artturi Lehkonen and Tyler Toffoli have combined for zero goals during this slump and there is no sign of the Habs waking up any time soon. Getting under 5.5 for -110 is a good spot, though I wouldn't test the lower alternate lines.
Favorite Player Props
Anytime Goal Scorer: As mentioned above, Brady Tkachuk has four goals in his last two games, so taking him at +230 to snag a goal seems like solid value. Similarly, teammate Drake Batherson has been red hot of late and comes in at +250. A potential matchup with Andrei Vasilevskiy does give reason to pause but the value is too good in this spot for me to walk away from either guy.
First Goal Scorer: It's obviously a riskier play, hence the higher value, but I would consider taking both Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid at +700 for the first goalscorer in their matchup with the Blue Jackets tonight. Obviously, you can't win both but given the value, it's a quality spot to hedge on with two of the league's most dynamic players.