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NHL Wednesday best bet: A showdown in Big D

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Why do we frequently use the term "coin flip" to describe certain games in the NHL? Well, at 9:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday night, six of the first seven games on the schedule were tied in the third period. The seventh was a 2-1 Golden Knights lead that the Devils tied with their goalie pulled a few minutes later on a seemingly harmless shot that hit a Vegas shin guard and went in.

We won just one out of our four bets last night, as both overtime results - the ultimate coin-flip situation - went the wrong way. New Jersey got its good bounce to beat Vegas in an evenly played game. Meanwhile, the Sharks dominated even-strength play against the Red Wings, as we hypothesized, with a 65% share of the expected goals and a 19-5 mark on high-danger chances, only to lose at three-on-three.

If those overtimes went slightly differently, the sun would've shone a little brighter this morning. Alas, the NHL is the ultimate long game - you have to let the sample size pile up to even things out.

Hurricanes ( -110) @ Stars (-110)

We can take a little extra time to break down the 50-50 nature of the NHL because, on a light Wednesday, there's only one bet worth making. Lo and behold - it's lined as a true coin flip. How fitting.

Here's a potentially controversial statement: The Hurricanes are the best team in the NHL right now.

The key word being "now," since the Hurricanes are still 14 points behind the Bruins in the standings. Overall, Carolina is first in even-strength expected goal share at 59.74%, way ahead of the Devils (55.86%) and Bruins (54.7%). After a 15-1 stretch, the Hurricanes are on a 4-4 run, but since the Christmas break, their five-on-five expected goal share is actually up to 62% (the Bruins are seventh in that time).

Carolina isn't playing Boston on Wednesday night, but the stand-out stat is its 10.5% conversion rate on even-strength high-danger chances. That below-league-average number could be why its results have waned in the short term. Being able to win games when you're not sniping at an unusually high rate will be helpful in Dallas against Jake Oettinger and the Stars.

Dallas allowed just four goals on 131 even-strength high-danger chances allowed since Christmas. That's absurd. The Stars win by keeping the puck out of the net - their offensive numbers are only middle-of-the-pack. Since the calendar turned to 2023, the Stars' five wins came on three shutouts and two games in which they gave up just one goal.

Arguably the most significant reason to back Carolina is the return of Frederik Andersen. He has a 4-0 record since Christmas and an outstanding 5.33 goals saved above expectation, which is actually better on a per-game basis than Oettinger's mark. Andersen's midseason return can match Dallas' stinginess.

If you prefer calling things a "slump" versus statistical variance, why not rely on the best team in the NHL at creating goals relative to how few it allows to be created?

Pick: Hurricanes (-110)

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.

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