Knights vs Predators – NHL Pick for January 16th
- Golden Knights (+110) at Predators (-130)
To suggest that I’m not a fan of the NHL bye week is an understatement.
Not only does giving each team 5 days off during the middle of the season mean that we fans have to go through a long stretch without many games on the TV, it also creates some real headaches as bettors. The break interrupts the flow of the season and it’s hard to know how players will respond to nearly a week away from the ice, especially if many of them hit the beach for a few days of R&R.
There is a silver lining to the NHL bye weeks, however. Ever since the league started holding these bye weeks last year, teams playing their first game after the break have been at a significant disadvantage. 20 of the league’s 30 teams lost their first game back from the bye last season, including several that were big favorites against awful opponents. And while it’s early, that trend has held true this season, with the Sharks’ overtime win over Arizona on Saturday the only time in 3 games that a team off its bye has defeated an opponent who hasn’t had extended time off.
Why am I rambling about this? Because we have another opportunity to take advantage of this trend Tuesday when the Nashville Predators return from their bye week to host the Vegas Golden Knights. Oddsmakers have made the Predators a -130 home favorite and the Over/Under is set at 6.
The Golden Knights themselves fell victim to the bye week curse, losing 3-2 in overtime at home to the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday in their first game back from the break. That was just the Knights’ third loss of any kind in their last 17 games overall, and only their fourth defeat in 22 games at home. Have I sold you on the bye week trends yet?
To be honest, Vegas handled the tricky return from the bye better than most teams. The Golden Knights outshot Edmonton 36-30 on the night, and they carried a 2-1 lead into the third period. Head coach Gerard Gallant is the consensus midseason choice for NHL coach of the year, and I expect him to have the Knights ready to continue playing solid hockey again here tonight. Vegas has not been outshot by an opponent in nearly a month, and that came against the powerful Tampa Bay Lightning, who outshot them by just 2.
Nashville, meanwhile, wasn’t playing that great going into the break. Even though the Predators closed the first half of their season with back-to-back wins over the Kings and Oilers, they’ve struggled to generate much offense ever since leading scorer Filip Forsberg went down to injury in late December.
They’ve scored just 15 goals in their last 7 games (14 if you take away an empty-netter against Minnesota), and have had less than 30 shots on goal in 6 of their last 9 outings. That offense could be crippled even more if Viktor Arvidsson, third on the team in points this year, misses tonight’s game (at the time of writing, he was questionable with a lower-body injury.)
I’m also not expecting Predators goalie Pekka Rinne to be at his sharpest tonight. Goaltenders probably suffer the most from the 5-day break (the CBA prevents teams from even practicing during this time, so he hasn’t seen many shots over the past week). And after going 5-1-2 with a microscopic 1.86 goals-against average in October, Rinne posted a collective goals-against average of 2.70 in November and December. I mention that because he hasn’t played as well recently as his full-season numbers (21-8-3, 2.48 GAA) might suggest.
After the Golden Knights’ unexpected and incredible start to the year, we all expected their bubble to burst at some point. But I think 42 games is a large enough sample size to conclude that Vegas’ 29-10-1-2 record is no fluke. As crazy as it sounds, the Knights are a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. TopBet certainly thinks so, listing Vegas at +700 odds to win the NHL championship in its inaugural season. That’s the second-shortest price on the futures board, behind only the Lightning (+550). Nashville, meanwhile, is a distant +1200.
Vegas has already defeated the Predators twice this season, blanking Nashville 3-0 January 2 in Vegas and edging them 4-3 in a shootout last month in Nashville. The Knights obviously won’t be intimidated by playing in what is admittedly one of the tougher rinks to visit in the NHL, and the Predators are at the distinct disadvantage of playing their first game in a week, not to mention still being without Forsberg and potentially Arvidsson as well.
Add it all up, and I love the value on the road underdog here.