NHL Betting Guide: Thursday 2/23/23

The NHL has loaded up 10 games on Thursday, and our model is pumping the brakes on some of the lofty totals around the league.

Where should we place wagers on the ice tonight?

Note: Lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. All ratings are out of five stars. All NHL betting odds and totals come from FanDuel Sportsbook.

Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning

Under 7.0 (-130) - 2 Stars

Everything about this total says elite offenses, poor defense, and lots of goals. That just doesn't really fit this game's description.

Since January 1st, Buffalo has posted just the 15th-most expected goals scored (xGF) per 60 minutes, and they've tallied the 12th-fewest expected goals allowed (xGA) per 60 in that same span. That framework opposes a shootout-prone squad.

The Lightning have certainly responded from a slow start with the sixth-most xGF per 60 minutes since the calendar turned, yet they're allowing only the 12th-most xGA per 60 themselves. So, is the goaltending here horrendous?

Not really. Tampa's Andrei Vasilevskiy has been his usual outstanding self, posting 22.99 goals saved above expectation (GSAx), which is the sixth-highest mark in the league this year. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (-6.89 GSAx) has certainly lagged well behind that, but keep in mind that he's playing for the stronger overall defense.

Our model expects seven goals or fewer in this game a whopping 70.1% of the time. With the heavy juice on this number, it's worth noting a 6.5-goal total would show value at anything longer than +107 odds.

Edmonton Oilers at Pittsburgh Penguins

Under 7.0 (-104) - 4 Stars

It's strange our model is taking the Penguins over the Oilers tonight when all the underlying peripherals defensively favor Edmonton. That still leads to this stronger under recommendation, though.

These are two of the best offenses in hockey, which is why the total is where it is. Since January 1st, Pittsburgh is third in xGF per 60 minutes (3.72), and Edmonton slots in one spot behind them (3.67). However, you also have to factor in that both offenses will face incredibly solid goaltenders.

Stuart Skinner (11.70 GSAx) and Tristan Jarry (9.49 GSAx) have both been top-16 goaltenders independent of their situation this year, but Skinner's situation has been pretty solid recently. Edmonton is allowing the fourth-fewest expected goals per 60 (2.71) since the calendar turned.

This is another total where our model thinks it's best to avoid the high-scoring narrative. It projects there to be seven or fewer goals 74.7% of the time tonight versus these 51.0% implied odds. Even when factoring in a potential push, this is our model's most confident recommendation today.

Calgary Flames at Vegas Golden Knights

Golden Knights ML (-134) - 3 Stars

Yesterday's Calgary-Arizona clash was a great display of why I look at goaltending so heavily.

The Flames (51) nearly quadrupled the Coyotes (14) in shots, yet a 6-3 score doesn't imply what a bashing that tilt was. That type of performance will skew Calgary's relevant sample for weeks, but this is a high-profile matchup in which I'd still favor Vegas -- and it's not just due to the back-to-back.

In large part due to yesterday, Calgary is 2nd in expected-goals-for rate since January 1st (57.6 xGF%), but Vegas still sits 10th (51.8%) themselves. The sneaky aspect of this moneyline will be the netminders.

Jacob Markstrom rested yesterday, so he'll almost certainly get the nod tonight against the tougher foe. I'm not sure that's a break for the Flames given Dan Vladar (-1.64 GSAx) has outplayed Markstrom (-3.22 GSAx) to this point in the season despite the gap in name value.

On the other side, the Knights caught a bit of a break. Struggling goalie Logan Thompson (-1.49 GSAx) will now cede the crease to Adin Hill (0.47 GSAx) for as long as he's on the shelf with a lower-body injury.

Our model expects Vegas to win 67.4% of the time tonight versus these 57.3% implied odds.