NHL Betting Guide: Tuesday 8/18/20

We've reached one of the sports equinoxes! It's that magical time of year when NHL and NBA playoffs intersect with MLB action -- four months late is better than never. Favorites swept the NHL and NBA boards last night. That also makes "visitors" winners in seven of the last eight NHL games. So much for home ice advantage...

Here are a few plays from today's action!

Montreal Canadiens vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Canadiens moneyline (+115): 1-Star Rating Out of 5

Carey Price is who we thought he could be. His Montreal Canadiens teammates are raising a few eyebrows, though, flashing brilliance rarely seen in the regular season.

Through the first two games of their series, the Habs were averaging 36.0 scoring chances and 16.5 high-danger chances against the Philadelphia Flyers. Based on the eye-test, they were making the Flyers skate with them. Scoring chances and high-danger chances dropped to 18 and 4, respectively, in Game 3. With all due respect to the Flyers' defensive structure, those numbers will bounce back.

Defensively, the Habs have been stalwarts. They've limited the Flyers to 27.0 shots, 26.7 scoring chances and 9.3 high-danger chances through three games. Price deserves his fair share of the credit, but let's not be too quick to dismiss the Habs' defensive system.

If I told you that a team had won two of three games on a 3.7% shooting percentage, you'd probably think that their goalie was a big part of those wins. And you'd be right. Carter Hart stopped 50 of 51 shots in winning Games 1 and 3. Hart and Brian Elliott have combined for the third-best save percentage this postseason, at 94.3%.

On the penalty kill, those numbers drop off substantially to 83.3%, which ranks 18th among bubble teams. The Flyers are averaging over 12 penalty minutes a game so far this postseason. They're flirting with disaster against the Habs, who've gone 3-for-10 with the man-advantage this series, including 0-for-3 last time out.

Interesting tidbit -- the Flyers have gone over the total on the first night of a back-to-back in five of their last six games.

It's not too often you'll see a team take 2-1 series advantage while scoring only three goals, but that's exactly what the Flyers have managed to do. They can't rely on Hart to steal all four games for them. And if push comes to shove, I'd expect Price to steal this series before Hart does. Advanced metrics favor the Canadiens ahead of Game 4, which aligns with our projections. It's with that in mind that the Habs on the moneyline is a one-star play.

New York Islanders vs. Washington Capitals

Over 5.5 (+135): 2-Star Rating Out of 5

For the first time this postseason, the New York Islanders underachieved relative to their expected goals for. New York has been one of the most proficient offensive teams in the NHL's return to play. The Islanders are averaging 30.7 shots, 28.7 scoring chances and 12.0 high-danger chances on 11.2% shooting -- all of which are improvements from their regular season averages, with the exception of high-danger chances.

Scoring chances are even easier to come by against the Washington Capitals. Washington is allowing 31.0 shots, 29.7 and 13.1 high-danger chances through three games. High-danger chances are particularly troublesome for the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions, as seven of the Islanders 11 goals have come off high-danger chances.

Braden Holtby has struggled to an 89.2% save percentage and 75.4% high-danger save percentage, which ranks last and second-to-last, respectively, among Eastern Conference teams, eliminated or otherwise.

Consider also that Washington has dropped five of six games in the NHL bubble while recording more than two goals only once. They'll have to keep pace offensively if they want to come back for a Game 5.

The Capitals' 2020 postseason can mercifully come to an end tonight, but don't expect them to go down without a fight. Offense has been Washington's hallmark over the last several years, and they'll need to regain some of that touch if they want to live to play again. The problem is, that strategy plays right into the Islanders' hands. Over 5.5 is generously priced at +135 over at FanDuel Sportsbook, we rate it as a two-star play.

Dallas Stars vs. Calgary Flames

Under 5.5 (-140): 2-Star Rating Out of 5

You'll have to excuse the Dallas Stars for their offensive outburst in Game 4. Dallas managed 62 shots and 56 scoring chances, 26 of which were of the high-danger variety through 76 minutes of hockey. This is a substantial deviation from what we've come to expect from the Stars. It would take three Stars' game scores from this postseason to eclipse the marks set in Game 4.

Despite these gaudy numbers, it was still an uncomfortable positions for the Stars to be in. They needed a goal with 12 seconds left and an extra attacker on the ice to force overtime. I suspect the Stars will try to get back to their defense-first mentality in an effort to take the series lead in Game 5.

Offense is helping the Calgary Flames win games when it shouldn't be. Calgary is averaging 3.6 goals per game in the playoffs on 21.9 scoring chances and 7.8 high-danger chances. To put that in perspective, the Edmonton Oilers have created more chances through four games than the Flames have through eight. Practically what that means is that the Flames are scoring on 16.4% of scoring chances, compared to just 10.4% during the regular season.

The Flames have also overachieved relative to expected goals for in four straight games and six of eight so far these playoffs.

These teams are firmly planted on opposite ends of the PDO spectrum. Calgary currently ranks first among all playoff teams with a 1.052 PDO thanks to their first-ranked shooting percentage. On the other side, Dallas ranks 22nd with a 0.953 mark in part due to their 22nd-ranked save percentage. If both of those stats start to work toward their normal ranges, the end result will be lower-scoring games.

This series has already seen two games go over the total, which is two more than I thought we'd see. In weighing the metrics and where we expect these teams to be, I would suspect that lower-scoring games will follow. This aligns with our algorithm, which rates the under as a two-star play.