NHL Betting Guide: Saturday 4/17/21

I don't mean to shock or alarm anyone, but after this week, there are only four more Saturdays before the NHL playoffs start, and the last Saturday of the season, May 15, only has one game scheduled. We're going to make the most of this Saturday with a few picks from our projections.

Here are the plays we're looking at today!

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers

Lightning moneyline (-156): 3-Star Rating Out of 5
Lightning -1.5 (+158): 2-Star Rating Out of 5

With all the offensive weapons at the Tampa Bay Lightning's disposal, you might be surprised to hear that they are relying on some tidy defensive efforts to win games recently. At five-on-five, the Bolts have limited their opponents to eight or fewer high-danger chances in five of their last six games and 17 or fewer scoring opportunities in four of six.

We saw on Thursday night how Tampa's defense impacted the Florida Panthers as Florida managed just two goals on 14 scoring chances and eight high-danger opportunities before losing in overtime. That was the third time in four games that the Panthers underachieved relative to season averages and the sixth time in eight games that they scored two goals or fewer goals at five-on-five. Florida has a 6.6% shooting percentage at five-on-five over that eight-game sample and will have to contend with Andrei Vasilevskiy and his 93.2% save percentage.

Offensive production metrics are down for Tampa but can't go much lower than they did last time out. The Lightning attempted a paltry 14 scoring chances and three high-danger attempts at five-on-five in that game and should respond with an improved effort tonight. It was the fourth time in six games that they were below average in scoring chances and the fifth time that they were underachieving in high-danger opportunities. Tampa has a wealth of offensive weapons and will likely start trending back toward their averages after a down period.

Tampa has scored four or more goals in three of their last four against the Panthers, and they've had the numbers of Chris Driedger and Sergei Bobrovsky all season. Driedger is stopping only 86.0% of shots faced, and Bobrovsky is stopping only 83.3% of shots.

Based on our projections, we should expect increased offensive output from the Lightning tonight. They are underpriced in the betting market relative to the 71.8% chance our model gives them of winning as the -156 lines comes out to an implied win probability of 60.9%. Tampa Bay is worth backing on the moneyline and puckline, which are rated as three- and two-star wagers, respectively.

Montreal Canadiens vs. Ottawa Senators

Over 6.5 (+104): 1-Star Rating Out of 5

Offense should be at the forefront of the Montreal Canadiens' matchup with the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. Both teams have some concerning defensive metrics that should lead to a high-scoring game.

Ottawa has been one of the worst road teams in the NHL this season. On a per-game basis, they rank dead-last in scoring and high-danger chances against. Consequently, they have the worst expected-goals against and the lowest save percentage in the league. The Sens haven't been able to adapt their structure as the visitors, and we're not expecting them to figure it out against the Habs.

Road defense has been even worse than usual over the Sens' recent sample. At five-on-five, Ottawa's opponents have attempted 13 or more high-danger chances in five of the Sens' last six road games and 28 or more scoring opportunities in four of six.

Recently, Montreal has had their own concerns in their defensive end. The Habs have allowed 10 or more high-danger attempts at five-on-five in four of six, with opponents averaging 11.2 chances per game. That has resulted in more goals against, as Jake Allen has given up three goals at five-on-five in four of those six games.

Making things worse is that Carey Price's participation in tonight's contest is not guaranteed. That means that the Habs might have to force Allen back in net on the second night of a back-to-back or see if Cayden Primeau is up to the task.

The last time these two teams met, there were 70 shots, 54 scoring opportunities, and 28 high-danger attempts across all strengths. The end result was a 6-3 Senators victory, and it was the second time in the last four meetings that the game had nine goals.

We should expect a high-scoring game tonight. That aligns with our projections, which rates the over 6.5 as a one-star play.