NHL daily betting guide: Opening moneyline projections for April 14

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Upsets in the NHL pop up all the time - by nature, when you least expect it.

On Tuesday, the Sabres beat the Maple Leafs as +350 underdogs. It wasn't the first time Buffalo got the best of Toronto; it was actually their third straight victory in the QEW rivalry. In our opening-line guide earlier this week, we found 12% value on Buffalo, which was in line with what the market was bearing before their previous matchups.

On Thursday night, the pricing for one game jumps off the board. The Devils make their lone visit to Denver to take on the Avalanche in a meeting between two teams that have had opposite results relative to their play this season.

The following table provides the five-on-five expected goals (xG), both for and against, for each team (according to Evolving-Hockey). We'll contrast that with their overall moneyline record and goal differential.

Devils 2.62 2.51 26-47 -44
Avalanche 2.57 2.28 52-20 +77

There's nothing particularly strange about the Avalanche, though their five-on-five expected goal share per 60 minutes is eighth in the NHL. That's relatively low for a team atop the standings with a 72.2% moneyline win percentage.

The Devils' goal differential and moneyline record suggest they're bad, but they've created more expected goals than expected goals against, which is the fundamental aim of any hockey team. Three main issues could be sinking them in the standings:

  • Their skaters are unusually bad at converting scoring chances
  • Their goaltenders are unusually bad at stopping scoring chances
  • Their special teams are a nightmare

The Devils have converted 100 of their 731 high-danger scoring chances for a 13.6% conversion rate, which is right around average. However, New Jersey's opponents have one more goal (101) on even-strength high-danger scoring chances in just 582 such opportunities. That 17.4% scoring rate for the opponent is horrendous, and it lands squarely on the shoulders of a group of Devils goalies that's stopping just 89.7% of full-strength shots.

Lastly, while the Devils' penalty kill has been average, a 16.6% conversion rate on the power play (27th in the NHL) isn't helping their cause.

Our projected moneyline is based largely on the consistency of even-strength outputs. In a one-game sample size, the Devils have a chance to reward the theoretical value, as they did when they beat the Avalanche at home in March as +180 underdogs. However, with seven different Devils netminders all failing when given an opportunity, it takes extra optimism to believe New Jersey can avoid a landslide against the Avalanche on Thursday night.

The recipe

Before the 2021-22 campaign, we devised a three-part series on how to use the regular-season point-total market to create team ratings, how to interpret home-ice advantage, and then how to use those to create your own moneylines.

This season's on-ice predictive metrics make up 85% of our total rating. Basing 15% of the ratings on preseason "priors" allows us to emphasize team metrics without going all-in on what's happened during this campaign, which is still a relatively small sample size that includes some tainted results from when COVID-19 ravaged lineups.

I also have a 5% win probability consideration for a side playing in the second game of a back-to-back with travel and 3% without travel.

How to use the guide

What follows is my fair price on the matchups (true moneyline) and the moneyline price I would need to bet on each side. I just need a 1% edge for a favorite if we're getting better than a fair price on the team more likely to win. For the underdog, I'll need 4% or better to make it a bet. You can establish your own threshold - you may decide on a higher cutoff for bigger underdogs, like 6%-7%. On games I've projected could be a near coin flip, a 2.5% edge is enough to make a wager worthwhile.

Thursday, April 14

STL@BUF 51.9/48.1 -108/+108 STL +103/BUF +119
OTT@BOS 33.6/66.4 +197/-197 OTT +237/BOS -189
ANA@TBL 38.3/61.7 +161/-161 ANA +192/TB -154
DET@CAR 37.6/62.4 +166/-166 DET +198/CAR -159
WSH@TOR 45.6/54.4 +119/-119 WSH +141/TOR -115
NYI@PIT 43.7/56.3 +129/-129 NYI +152/PIT -123
EDM@NSH 51/49 -104/+104 EDM +106/NSH +115
MIN@DAL 48.7/51.3 +105/-105 MIN +116/DAL +105
SJS@CHI 47.6/52.4 +110/-110 SJS +122/CHI +100
NJD@COL 46.7/53.3 +114/-114 NJD +134/COL -110
VGK@CGY 44.9/55.1 +123/-123 VGK +145/CGY -118
ARI@VAN 39.9/60.1 +151/-151 ARI +179/VAN -145

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

NHL daily betting guide: Opening moneyline projections for April 14
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