All posts by Alex Moretto

Stanley Cup futures market: Why you should avoid last season’s finalists

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When people see a post telling them to avoid betting certain teams to win the Stanley Cup, there's a tendency to overreact. The automatic assumption is the author thinks those teams suck.

Spoiler: I don't.

The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins could definitely still win the Stanley Cup, as they're two of the NHL's top teams. But don't back them at their current price.

The 2019 Stanley Cup finalists are among the top three favorites to lift the trophy in June, just behind the league-leading Washington Capitals.

Team Odds
Washington Capitals 15-2
St. Louis Blues 8-1
Boston Bruins 9-1
Tampa Bay Lightning 9-1
Pittsburgh Penguins 9-1
Colorado Avalanche 9-1
Dallas Stars 14-1

*only teams with odds shorter than 15-1 are displayed

Both teams have earned a place atop the oddsboard, but at 8-1 and 9-1, there's next to no value in backing either to win the Stanley Cup. There's enough evidence to believe those prices are inflated, partially due to misleading records and recency bias.

The Blues have been one of the league's best and most consistent teams over the past calendar year, but a 2.53 expected goals for per game (xGF/60) shows they're not as good as the club's record indicates. That mark, which ranks 23rd, is largely rooted in the Blues struggling to create scoring opportunities.

They're also 23rd in scoring chances per game (SCF/60) and 27th in high-danger chances per 60 minutes (HDCF/60). St. Louis has been converting a high percentage of its opportunities, which means the Blues are inevitably due for some regression. It's difficult to remain consistently successful against NHL-caliber goalies without a proven ability to generate quality chances. Of course, the Blues play smart fundamental hockey and don't approach games intending to simply outscore teams, but these numbers are at least cause for some concern.

St. Louis will never sizzle offensively, and injuries to some key forwards aren't helping. But the team's defensive numbers are perhaps even more worrisome.

The Blues are middle of the pack in expected goals against per game (17th), and in preventing high-danger scoring chances against (16th). They've come to rely heavily on a league-high .854 save percentage in high-danger situations. Jordan Binnington is good, but that's unsustainable.

The Bruins, meanwhile, may not find it difficult to suppress offense, but creating it is a problem.

They rank 21st in xGF/60 and, like the Blues, an inability to muster consistent scoring opportunities is the main culprit. Boston ranks 17th in SCF/60 and 25th in HDCF/60 while benefiting greatly from a 22.8 shooting percentage during high-danger chances. That's the fourth-highest mark in the league and an efficient source of offense that will be hard to sustain. In fact, we've already seen that number come down significantly from a month ago when Boston ranked first in that category.

Since Dec. 5 the Bruins have won just nine games while losing 14. They're playing well-below .500 hockey, and with the Tampa Bay Lightning surging behind them, their once seemingly insurmountable Atlantic Division lead is slipping from their grasp.

It's also worrying that Boston is struggling against top teams. Excluding the Bruins, 10 teams have notched 60-plus points heading into the All-Star break. The Bruins have produced a 5-11 record against those squads that they'll likely be facing on a nightly basis in the playoffs.

While the Blues and Bruins undoubtedly possess the talent to again reach the finals, where's the value in backing them at such short odds given these flaws?

Only one team has appeared in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals over the past decade - the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017 - and at these prices, you definitely shouldn't be betting St. Louis or Boston to become the second.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Consider this your last chance to buy low on the Dallas Stars

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On October 18, 2019, the Dallas Stars allowed three third-period goals in a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, falling to 1-7-1 on the season and setting off alarm bells after beginning the campaign with Stanley Cup aspirations.

At that point, the data didn't look good: Dallas would need to win at least 63% of its remaining games just to have a chance at making the playoffs. For context, the Calgary Flames finished atop the Western Conference last season by winning 61% of their total games. These Stars would need to better that mark the rest of the way - and it still might not be enough.

Still, Dallas general manager Jim Nill stuck with his roster. He believed in what he was building, and with perseverance came validation. Since that loss to Pittsburgh, the Stars have won 67% of their games (26-10-3), the second-best rate in the NHL behind the Washington Capitals (70%). They now sit third in the West despite playing the fewest games to date.

Then there are the underlying numbers. The Stars rank second in the West in expected goals for and against per game (xGF/60, xGA/60). They've generated the second-most high-danger chances per game (HDCF/60) in the NHL and own the fourth-lowest shooting percentage from high-danger areas (HDSH%).

What does it all mean? Well, Dallas is expected to score a lot and allow very little. The team is also creating a ton of very good scoring opportunities but converting a low percentage of them. The HDSH% is due for positive regression, which would lead to even more goals scored. Simply put, there's been nothing lucky about this run of success.

Meanwhile, the Stars haven't been as reliant on their top line this season. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov still form one of the more dominant units in the NHL, but secondary scoring is much less of an issue than it was for this team in the past. Roope Hintz has stepped up in a big way, while Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, both signed over the summer, have been valuable additions.

Not only do Pavelski and Perry give this team a more balanced lineup, but they also provide the experience that can help take Dallas to the next level. That's a scary thought when you consider the Stars were eliminated in the second overtime of a Game 7 by the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues last season.

In addition to a deep crop of forwards, the Stars possess two of the league's most dynamic defensemen in John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen, who are complemented by one of the most underappreciated guys in Esa Lindell. Andrej Sekera has proven to be a valuable addition and Stephen Johns just made his return from a 660-day layoff due to concussion issues. This blue-liner group rivals any other in the NHL.

In goal, Ben Bishop hasn't missed a beat, posting a 2.28 GAA and a .927 SV%. The Stars haven't overworked him, either, thanks to the strong play of Anton Khudobin, who's posted nearly identical numbers (2.30 GAA, .927 SV%) through 20 games. That means Bishop should be fresh come playoff time and Dallas will have a reliable backup if he falters.

It's clear this roster features the skill and experience needed for a Stanley Cup run - yet Dallas is still reasonably priced at 14-1.

Team Odds
Washington Capitals 15-2
St. Louis Blues 8-1
Boston Bruins 9-1
Tampa Bay Lightning 9-1
Pittsburgh Penguins 9-1
Colorado Avalanche 9-1
Dallas Stars 14-1
New York Islanders 16-1
Vegas Golden Knights 16-1
Carolina Hurricanes 17-1
Toronto Maple Leafs 18-1

*only teams with odds shorter than 20-1 are displayed

Again, Dallas has been a top-three NHL team since the middle of October and it's only a matter of time before the odds are adjusted to reflect that. We've already seen it happen with the Blues and Avalanche, who were both listed at 14-1 as late as early December.

Consider this your last chance to buy low on the Stars.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NHL Wednesday betting preview: Back the Blues to put on a show

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We had to settle for a 2-2 night on Tuesday, but still managed to turn a small profit.

Of course, if you followed along with our trend of the night and bet the Vancouver Canucks' team total under 2.5 (+130) and under 1.5 (+375) - they were shut out in Winnipeg - then you had yourself quite a night.

There are only two games on Wednesday, but with countless game bets and props at our disposal, there's plenty available for us to extend our winning run.

GOATs and scapegoats

How about the season Dominik Kubalik is having? The 24-year-old rookie from the Czech Republic tallied a pair of goals Tuesday to take his total to 18 on the season, bringing him to 28 points in 45 games. Not bad for a seventh-round pick.

His two goals helped the Chicago Blackhawks (-105) battle back from a 2-0 deficit to send the game to overtime, where Jonathan Toews took care of the rest to cash in our bet. That's seven goals in five games now for Kubalik - our GOAT of the night - and 10 points in his last six.

We're far less thankful for the Predators' special teams. Nashville went 0-3 on the power play and just 2-4 on the penalty kill in a 4-2 loss in Edmonton, killing our bet.

Wednesday's bets

Chicago Blackhawks (+160)

Are you kidding me with this line? The Blackhawks are a must-play based off principle alone. The Montreal Canadiens remain without Jonathan Drouin, Brendan Gallagher, and Joel Armia, and are starting Charlie Lindgren in net. The Habs are below .500 at home this season yet are -180 without All-Star goalie Carey Price in net? Come on. The Blackhawks are 7-1 in the second leg of back-to-backs this season and are a terrific value play in Montreal.

Corey Crawford over 28.5 saves (-115)

The Canadiens attempt more shots than any other team on home ice, averaging a league-high 36.6 per game. Meanwhile, the Blackhawks allow 36.9 per game on the road - also the most in the NHL. There should be plenty of rubber thrown the way of Corey Crawford, and with the Habs largely struggling to turn those shots into goals, he should comfortably get over this number.

Brayden Schenn over 0.5 assists (+145)

Unlike backing Schenn over 0.5 points at -154, we can get a significant return on this prop. The odds significantly lengthen for him to get an assist, of which he has seven in his past five home games. He's only scored six times in 24 games at the Enterprise Center, but has 13 assists.

Best bet

St. Louis Blues team total over 3.5 (-110)

The Blues have won nine straight on home ice and have scored at least four goals in seven of those games. It's hard to see them slowing down against a Flyers team struggling defensively of late, especially on the road, where they've allowed at least four goals in eight of their last nine games. They've also conceded at least five goals in their last four away from home, so sprinkle a little extra on the Blues' team total over 4.5 (+220).

Trend of the night

The Blackhawks have won five straight games in Montreal, limiting the Canadiens to just four goals and twice shutting them out.

This trend dates as far back as 2014, so it's hard to put too much stock into it, but we said the same thing last night about the Canucks in Winnipeg and they got shut out. Crawford being in net for this game hurts a bit, but you can get a great price on the Canadiens to score under 2.5 goals (+220) and under 1.5 goals (+575).

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NHL Monday betting preview: Back the Flyers as home ‘dogs

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Today might feel like an ordinary Monday, but it actually marks an exciting transition to nightly NHL betting previews. To completely misquote The Notorious B.I.G.: "Mo' picks, mo' money."

We capped off a very profitable weekend by robbing the books Sunday night, nailing a mortgage-the-house bet on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers game, which proved to be one of the easiest winners we'll hit all season. We crushed it with the over 6.5, Leafs' and Panthers' team totals over 3.5, and the first period over 1.5 goals. Florida won 8-4.

Let's strike while the iron is hot and jump into Monday's picks, but not before going over the good and bad from the weekend that was.

Goats and scapegoats

Vincent Trocheck is our money player of the weekend for his offensive outburst against the Leafs. The Panthers forward had a goal and two assists in the first 25:46, proving the catalyst for our wins.

Frederick Andersen comes in as a close second for being unable to stop a beach ball and getting pulled in the first minute of the second period.

Finally, Anthony Duclair is now our enemy. We were big on the Ottawa Senators on Friday night in Detroit, but they lost in a shootout and Duclair didn't help at all. Ottawa's leading scorer generated nothing against the league's worst team, failing to record even a single shot on net despite a team-high 3:32 of ice time on the power play.

Monday's bets

Calgary Flames (-110)

The Montreal Canadiens snapped an eight-game losing skid in overtime Saturday night, but this team is still battling a number of injuries and the bottom half of its roster resembles an AHL squad. Ben Chiarot is back but Brendan Gallagher's absence will be costly against a Flames team that has won seven of its last eight on the road and is 5-0 in 2020.

These teams are trending in opposite directions and, despite the fact the Canadiens have posted a worse record at the Bell Centre this season - 8-11-4, compared to 11-9-3 on the road - we can get the Flames at a very short price with this game being played in Montreal.

New York Islanders/New York Rangers over 6

The Rangers have found their scoring touch and are playing some good hockey at Madison Square Garden. Artemi Panarin has been an absolute stud as his team has scored at least five goals in each of its last four games on home ice. The issue is the Rangers also concede in bunches, resulting in six consecutive overs at MSG.

A visit from the Islanders shouldn't buck that trend, as they've scored at least three goals in six of their last eight on the road. Both teams are in a good rhythm offensively and shouldn't have much of an issue getting over this number.

Best bet

Philadelphia Flyers (+120)

Anything plus-money represents far too much value with the Flyers, who have lost a league-best seven home games this season (14-3-4). They ran into a hot Andrei Vasilevski - and an even hotter Tampa Bay Lightning - on Saturday, but offer great value in a bounce-back spot. The Boston Bruins are just .500 on the road since the start of December and have lost their last two trips to Philly.

Trend of the night

The St. Louis Blues have lost four straight home games against the Anaheim Ducks, their longest active home losing streak against any NHL team.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NHL weekend betting preview: Value with the Senators

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We've thus far enjoyed a great week on the ice with a 6-2 record, including a pair of generously priced underdogs coming through.

It started with a 0-1 night on Monday, but hopefully, you stuck to the script.

There's always more money to be won. Here's a look at the weekend action:

Game betting

Ottawa Senators at Detroit Red Wings (Friday)

Generally, you should save your money rather than wager it on a matchup between two of the league's worst teams. But there's value in backing the Senators in Detroit at close to even money. Ottawa is bad, but the Red Wings are a lot worse. Detroit has won just 11 games this season, and three came in the first week of the campaign. The Senators have had a tough road schedule but are 3-0 away from home against the bottom four teams in the East. They've already defeated the Red Wings twice this season and offer way too much value at such a short price.

Vancouver Canucks at Buffalo Sabres (Saturday)

The Sabres are 6-2 since the beginning of 2019 in home games with a start time of 5 p.m. or earlier, including a 3-0 record in 1 p.m. contests like Saturday's. Buffalo has also won seven of its last nine on home ice, losing only to the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canucks have been dominant at Rogers Arena but aren't the same team on the road, losing four in a row, and nine of their last 12, away to Eastern Conference teams. The Sabres continue to be undervalued and, with a lookahead line of -115, are definitely worth backing in Saturday's matinee.

Montreal Canadiens at Ottawa Senators (Saturday)

It won't be long before #TankForLafreniere starts trending in Montreal, if it isn't already. The Canadiens got off to a strong start this season but injuries and sloppy defensive play have derailed their campaign. They've lost eight in a row by just one goal (excluding empty-netters), so they're playing competitive hockey and starting to get healthy. This will be the second game in as many nights for the Senators, who have lost 10 of their last 11 on home ice in the latter leg of a back-to-back. Take the Habs as likely short favorites.

Boston Bruins at New York Islanders (Saturday)

The Islanders haven't won at home against the Bruins since November 2013. Boston has won eight in a row, and 11 of its last 12, on the Island. New York has lost four of its last five on home ice after opening the season 13-2-1, while the Bruins seem to have rediscovered their scoring touch. Back Boston to make it nine straight road wins over the Isles.

Tampa Bay Lightning at Philadelphia Flyers (Saturday)

It's hard to go against the Lightning right now. Winners of nine in a row, their first-half struggles are clearly a thing of the past. However, the Flyers have been absolutely dominant at home this season, posting a league-best 14-2-4 record. Getting them at +120 (lookahead line) is too much value to pass up.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers (Sunday)

The Maple Leafs have scored four or more goals in each of their last five road games, and seven of their last eight, while the Panthers have scored at least five goals in five of their last six at BB&T Center. Defense will be an afterthought Sunday night in the Sunshine State.

Game props

Arizona Coyotes at Carolina Hurricanes (Friday)

This marks the second game of a back-to-back for the Coyotes, who flew north to Carolina following last night's loss in Tampa. The first-period under has hit in nine of Arizona's last 10 road games played on no days' rest and represents great value here at plus money. The Hurricanes are one of the league's higher-scoring teams in the opening frame but the first-period under has cashed in three of their last six on home ice following a run of six consecutive overs.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Florida Panthers (Sunday)

As mentioned above, the Maple Leafs score in bunches on the road, just as the Panthers do at home. We're doubling, tripling, and quadrupling down on the over, with the Maple Leafs' and Panthers' team totals over 3.5, as well as over 1.5 goals in the first period.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NHL weekly betting preview: Making adjustments as 2nd half begins

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Now that every NHL team has played at least 40 games this season, the first Monday of 2020 signals the start of the second half.

Meanwhile, I've evaluated our bets from the opening half of the campaign and identified strong and weak points in our approach. For instance, we've been hitting on our underdog plays at a strong rate. Moving forward, we'll focus more on those value plays - while limiting the number of favorites we back - in hopes of ensuring a profitable stretch run.

Let's kick off 2020 with a bang.

Game betting

Edmonton Oilers at Toronto Maple Leafs (Monday)

While both of these teams are certainly capable of playing run-and-gun hockey, it's not the preference for either of them. The Oilers have been the second-most-profitable under team on the road this season, while the Leafs have trended to the under on home ice since Sheldon Keefe's appointment as head coach. With a high total of 6.5, the under warrants serious consideration here.

Colorado Avalanche at New York Rangers (Tuesday)

I like the Avalanche to beat the somewhat struggling Islanders on Monday before facing the Rangers on Tuesday. However, Colorado's in the midst of a 3-9 run on the road when given no rest, with six of the last seven such contests staying under the total. The Rangers are playing just .500 hockey on home ice, but they offer great value in this spot as home 'dogs.

Pittsburgh Penguins at Vegas Golden Knights (Tuesday)

This game is part of a seven-game homestand for the Golden Knights, who've already won the first four. And Vegas has lost just once in eight attempts when playing its fifth successive home contest. Meanwhile, the Penguins are in the midst of an impressive road run, which has seen them win five of their last six away from Pittsburgh. They've been scoring a ton of goals - as have the Knights on home ice - which suggests the over is the strongest play here.

Washington Capitals at Philadelphia Flyers (Wednesday)

The Flyers have posted an impeccable 13-2-4 record at home this season. The Capitals, once unbeatable on the road, have slipped a bit in recent weeks, losing in Boston and Carolina. This will be the second game of a back-to-back for Washington - which is playing at home on Tuesday - and when you consider the Flyers' impenetrable home form, they're certainly worth backing as 'dogs here.

Arizona Coyotes at Tampa Bay Lightning (Thursday)

Taylor Hall hasn't exactly hit the ground running with the Coyotes, scoring only twice in nine games while Arizona has posted just a 5-4 record with him in the lineup. The Lightning, meanwhile, finally seem to be figuring it out. They've won eight in a row entering this week and have shored up their defensive issues. But instead of laying a ton of juice with Tampa, consider the under 6.5 goals in a game featuring a pair of teams that have played stout defensive hockey in recent weeks.

Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks (Thursday)

The Stars will be decent-sized favorites when they visit California on Thursday, as they sit well ahead of the Ducks in the standings. However, the Ducks are a very different team on home ice (11-7-3) versus on the road (6-13-2). They've also won six straight over the Stars in Anaheim, holding Dallas to just nine total goals in those games, including a pair of shutouts. Ride with the Ducks as home 'dogs in this one.

Game props

Ottawa Senators at Washington Capitals (Tuesday)

You have to go all the way back to November 2013 to find the last time the Senators scored at least three goals in Washington. Ottawa has been held to two goals or fewer in its last eight visits to D.C., making its team total under 2.5 a very strong bet here.

Vancouver Canucks at Florida Panthers (Thursday)

These teams are no strangers to scoring - or allowing - early goals. The Canucks have hit the first-period over in six of their last eight on the road, while the Panthers have hit the mark in three straight at home and five of their last seven overall. So, there should be plenty of fireworks when these clubs meet in the Sunshine State; don't hesitate to back the over 1.5 goals in the first period.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2020 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

2020 Winter Classic betting preview

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Nothing says outdoor hockey quite like Dallas, am I right? And when you think of Cotton Bowl Stadium, your mind obviously goes straight to the National Hockey League, not the Red River Rivalry.

On New Year's Day 2020, the Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators will meet in the NHL's annual outdoor special. Here's everything you need to know about the game from a betting perspective:

Line movement

The Stars opened as slight favorites at -120, with the Predators sitting at -105. Nashville is 6-2 straight up (SU) as underdogs this season, while Dallas is 2-5 SU as favorites between -110 and -125. A total of 5.5 is expected.

Betting breakdown

First and foremost, this will be the southernmost outdoor game in North American hockey history. Of the over 100 outdoor contests previously held in North America, only five have taken place south of the 39th degree of latitude - yes, we're getting technical.

DATE LOCATION LEAGUE RESULT
January 2017 Bakersfield (Calif.) AHL Condors 3-2 Reign
January 2017 St. Louis NHL Blues 4-1 Blackhawks
December 2015 Sacramento AHL Heat 3-2 Condors
February 2015 Santa Clara (Calif.) NHL Sharks 1-2 Kings
January 2014 Los Angeles NHL Kings 0-3 Ducks

Dallas has an average daily high temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit in January, similar to that of Bakersfield, Sacramento, and Santa Clara. Warmer climates result in softer ice surfaces, which drastically impact game totals. All five matchups listed above finished under 5.5 goals.

Those conditions happen to be right in line with the type of hockey the Stars prefer to play. Dallas is 25-12-2 (67.6%) to the under this season, the highest percentage of any NHL team. The Stars are also the most profitable club to the under on home ice, posting a 16-5 record.

However, the Predators are the most profitable team to the over on the road, with a 13-4 mark in that regard, and the last six regular-season meetings between these clubs in Dallas have gone over the total. It'll be a true clash of styles when these two meet at Cotton Bowl Stadium.

Nashville has won three of its last four regular-season games in Dallas, though the Predators lost two of their three trips to Texas in the playoffs last season.

X-factor

Ice quality will be a significant determining factor in how this game plays out. The warmer the weather, the softer the ice will be, leading to slower play and less offense. That plays right into the Stars' strengths.

Pick

Under 5.5 goals

It's hard to imagine the conditions in Dallas being conducive to a fast-paced hockey game. The soft ice will mitigate the high tempo the Predators typically like to employ and result in a low-scoring affair. Roll with the under, and parlay it with a Dallas win, if you're looking to start 2020 out with a bang.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

NHL pre-Christmas betting preview: Packed schedule precedes 4-day break

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Although it started as bad as it could on Monday and the early part of Tuesday, we rebounded in a big way to close out the midweek slate on a 4-1 run, including three lucrative plus-money winners.

Let's carry that momentum into the break as we dive into a busy four days that features 34 games.

Four days without NHL hockey may sound depressing, but don't sleep on the world juniors - there's always money to be made.

Game betting

Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers (Friday)

Looking to head into the Christmas break strong, the Leafs travel to New York on Friday for the first game of a back-to-back. Toronto has been playing better of late, but the Rangers have been a profitable team in this spot. They're on a 6-1 run as underdogs of +130 or greater, and 9-5 on the season. They also won both games in November on at least three days' rest against the Predators and Capitals. Back the Rangers as a home 'dog on Friday.

Winnipeg Jets at Minnesota Wild (Saturday)

The Jets last won on the road on Nov. 29 and have been playing .500 hockey for the past month. Winnipeg has lost three consecutive and five of its last six in Minnesota. The Wild have really turned a corner, forcing their way up the standings, and have posted an impressive 11-5 record as favorites this season. Early lines suggest they will hover around -125 on Saturday and are a worthy bet as a result of the short price.

Montreal Canadiens at Edmonton Oilers (Saturday)

The Canadiens and Oilers are able to play a number of different styles. Both lean on a tight defensive game, relying on forward speed to hit back at teams, which is what we should expect on Saturday as goals should be limited. Take the under here at anything six or higher, or make it a half-play if it's at 5.5.

Nashville Predators at Boston Bruins (Saturday), Washington Capitals at Bruins (Monday)

Losers of seven of their last eight, the Bruins are in the midst of a December free fall and will be desperate to get into the break for a reset. Limping into the break is a genuine possibility as they host a pair of hot teams that have flourished in this spot.

The Predators are 5-1 as a 'dog this season and the Capitals are 7-1. No team has been better in this spot than these two. Nashville is starting to find its scoring touch, while the Capitals own the league's best road record at 15-3-1. Back them both to leave Boston with two points.

Buffalo Sabres at Ottawa Senators (Monday)

Since the start of November, the Sabres are 2-12 playing outside of Buffalo (including a pair of games in Sweden). The status of top scorer Jack Eichel is up in the air, but regardless of whether he plays or not, I like the Senators in this spot. DJ Smith is doing an excellent job with this team and they're in pretty much every game they play. Ottawa is on an 8-1 run on home ice and are 3-0 this season as favorites. The Sens should be small favorites here, but either way they warrant a play.

Colorado Avalanche at Vegas Golden Knights (Monday)

With the amount of firepower these teams have you can never be fully comfortable backing an under, but the way the Avalanche and Golden Knights have been playing of late is telling. Despite the offensive prowess, they're each relying on defense-first hockey. Colorado is on a 6-2 run to the under on the road, while Vegas is on an 8-1 run at home. It'd be rude not to play the under here.

Game props

Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes (Saturday)

In their last 10 trips to Carolina, just once have the Panthers managed more than two goals. Take their team total under 3.5 against the Hurricanes, or under 2.5 if you'd prefer not to lay the juice.

New Jersey Devils at Columbus Blue Jackets (Saturday)

The Blue Jackets are one of the most profitable under teams in hockey on home ice, with 13 of 19 games in Columbus staying under the total this season. The Devils have been held to just one goal in each of their last three trips there and will be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back, with travel. Their team total under 2.5 feels like a strong bet here.

Calgary Flames at Dallas Stars (Sunday)

In their last six trips to Dallas, the Flames have a grand total of 10 goals. The Stars have held teams to two goals or fewer (excluding the shootout) in 13 of 19 home games this season, and three goals or less in 18. Only the Capitals have gone into Dallas this year and scored four. It's another team total under, which we've been hitting at a high clip this season, this time with the Flames under 2.5, and 1.5 if you're up for the thrill.

Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders (Monday)

Goals have typically been scarce in the opening frame when these two teams meet in New York, with the first-period under hitting in four straight and six of the last seven. The Islanders have hit it in four straight at home and we should expect that trend to continue here.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Santa’s naughty and nice list for NHL bettors

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Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list and checking it twice, and going to find out who's naughty or nice.

A simple glance at the standings doesn't always tell the whole story of which NHL teams have been kind to bettors this season, and which clubs have been naughty.

A few teams can expect to be spoiled on Christmas morning, while Santa will forgo visiting others altogether.

Nice list

New York Islanders

Barry Trotz is the closest thing to Santa Claus in the NHL. He's followed up an incredibly successful first season as head coach of the Islanders with an even more impressive one, starting the year 22-8-2. New York has been the most profitable team to bet on this season, returning $1,117 to the $100 bettor. There's no situation in which the Isles haven't been profitable: They've posted a 15-5 record as favorites and won seven of 10 as 'dogs.

In addition to turning a healthy profit on a night-to-night basis, the Islanders are rewarding bettors who backed them before the start of the season. They're set to comfortably surpass their 91.5 point total and should be a virtual lock for the playoffs after being even money to clinch.

Forward Brock Nelson gets an extra-special present this Christmas, too, after scoring three overtime goals.

Colorado Avalanche

A hair behind the Islanders, the Avalanche have been the league's second-most profitable team.

The darlings of the Western Conference have been a consistently safe bet. With an average line this season of -109, oddsmakers aren't overvaluing Colorado either. The Avs are 10-4 as favorites (+$425) and 11-8 as 'dogs (+$571). The fact they've been underdogs more than favorites shows there's been value in backing them through the first three months of the season.

After closing at 7-2 to win the Central Division on Oct. 1, the Avalanche are now 3-2 to claim top spot ahead of the Blues. They currently trail St. Louis by three points (albeit with two fewer games played).

Washington Capitals

Your Christmas would be paid for if you'd picked the right spots to bet the Capitals. They've been a cash cow as underdogs, posting a 7-1 record for a profit of $683. To a lesser extent, the Caps have also returned a profit as favorites, and there's another gift that keeps on giving: Overs are 12-4 in games played in Washington this year.

The Caps are also rewarding futures-market bettors. They could play below .500 hockey the rest of the way and still clear their point total, and they're 2-5 to win the Metro Division after closing at 7-2 on October 1.

Naughty list

Tampa Bay Lightning

Has there been a more frustrating team to back this season than the Lightning? I've lost count of how many times someone's told me, "They're too talented not to turn it around."

The average Tampa Bay line so far this season has been minus-172. That's the highest line average in the NHL, a full five points ahead of the Bruins and 19 over the third-worst Golden Knights. This is an overvalued team that was barely above .500 a week ago. Obviously, people are betting the Lightning enough that their record and performance don't matter for books, and that's a scary thought.

The Bolts have been 'dogs just twice all season, beating the Leafs at +100 and losing to the Capitals at +109. They've been favorites of -200 or more a staggering 10 times and are just 5-5 in those games, sinking your bankroll if you mindlessly indulged.

The Lightning would have to post a 36-14 record the rest of the way in order to go over their preseason point total. To cash tickets for anyone who backed them at -1100 to make the playoffs before the season started, Tampa will seriously need to turn things around.

New Jersey Devils

If you tend to be sucked in by preseason hype, then it's fair to assume you've been burned by the Devils this year in more ways than one.

Though they were dubbed winners of the offseason, that's about the only win they've managed. They've been the least profitable team to be on all year - if you bet a cool hundy on every New Jersey game this season, you'd have lost $1,194 already.

The Devils are 3-9 as favorites and 7-13 as 'dogs. They were 6-1 to win the division at the start of the season (shorter odds than the Islanders) and -110 to make the playoffs. In order to go over their projected point total, they need to finish the year 33-17 - no easy feat given that they just traded their best player.

Nashville Predators

If betting favorites is your thing, the Predators are not your favorites. Among Western Conference teams, only the Golden Knights have been favored more often than Nashville, which is 11-14 when laying juice. Betting $100 on every one of those games would have drained $1,254 from your bankroll already. That's the worst return on investment of any NHL team as favorites this season.

The Predators have somewhat made up for it by going 5-1 as 'dogs, which is why they're lower on the naughty list, but bear these numbers in mind. Oddsmakers can't figure out this Nashville team, so keep taking advantage until they do.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

2020 world juniors betting preview

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There's something inherently special about the World Junior Championship.

The once overlooked yearly showcase of the best young players in the country has blossomed into a tradition unlike any other. For two weeks, the world stops to watch the stars of tomorrow in junior hockey's most prestigious international tournament.

The 2020 edition begins in the Czech Republic on Boxing Day, the first time in three years the tourney is being held outside of North America.

Country Odds
Canada 5-2
USA 7-2
Russia 4-1
Sweden 9-2
Finland 11-2
Czech Republic 14-1
Switzerland 50-1
Slovakia 66-1
Germany 100-1
Kazakhstan 150-1

The favorites

Canada is priced as the betting favorite to claim gold but the gap between it, the United States, and Russia, is marginal at best.

Of the three favorites, Canada was the only country not to medal at the 2019 edition of the tournament, losing to eventual champions Finland in the quarterfinals. It was the first time ever that the Great White North failed to medal on home soil.

Out for revenge in 2020, Canada enters the tournament with a ridiculously talented group of forwards that includes seven first-round picks and the likely top two picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield. From top to bottom, there isn't a forward group in the tournament that can match what Canada will bring to Ostrava.

Russia is armed with a deep forward pool with 2019 world juniors scoring leader Grigori Denisenko and Vancouver Canucks prospect Vasili Podkolzin leading the charge offensively. However, it lacks the same depth of star power that Canada possesses. USA will rely heavily on Wisconsin teammates Alex Turcotte and Cole Caufield, but with the Americans returning just one forward from 2019, they're a significant step behind Canada and Russia on offense in terms of experience.

What the Americans lack up front, they make up for on the blue line. Returning defensemen K'Andre Miller and Mattias Samuelsson will lead an impressive, albeit undersized, group on the back end, with a wealth of skating and offensive ability. The unit should provide an important helping hand to a forward group that's about to be thrown into the fire.

Russia will rely on Montreal Canadiens prospect Alexander Romanov, who was named the best defenseman at the 2019 tournament, to carry its blue line. Romanov, who is capable of taking over a game, might be one of the most important players at the tournament. He'll be asked to log a ton of minutes and play in just about every situation for a Russian team that lacks depth on the back end. Daniil Zhuravlyov is a power-play specialist, but otherwise, Russia's options are a bit underwhelming.

The Canadians, on the other hand, will have one of the most experienced defensive units in the Czech Republic. Goaltending is the only thing that can hold Canada back. Olivier Rodrigue is having a terrific season with the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats, but there's no clear-cut starter in goal for the Canadians. As such, the most important position on the ice is Canada's biggest question mark.

That's where the USA and Russia hold a significant edge over the Canucks. Spencer Knight, the 13th pick in the 2019 draft, is having another stellar campaign and should provide the Americans with the excellent netminding they've become accustomed to.

Russia will likely turn to Yaroslav Askarov, a consensus top-10 pick in 2020. The Omsk native is looking to become the first 17-year-old to start for the Russians at the tournament since Andrei Vasilevskiy in 2012. Askarov led his country to first place at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and is set to become the first goalie selected inside the top 10 of the NHL draft since Carey Price in 2005. He's performed admirably at every level for both club and country and should have no problem claiming the starting job despite his age.

Pricing Canada as favorites is justifiable, though the Canadians have been derailed by bad goaltending in the past at the world juniors. If Rodrigue carries his excellent junior campaign into this tournament, there might be no stopping Canada. The USA is a much scarier side to back given its lack of experience, though Knight could mask a lot of its issues. Russia possesses high-end talent and offers terrific value at 4-1 as it aims to end a lengthy drought at this tournament, having not won gold since 2011.

The rest

Always the bridesmaid, Sweden has finished as runners-up 11 times, and have won gold just twice in the history of the tournament. The Swedes have a ton of talent up front, including a pair of highly touted 2020 prospects in Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond. Their defensive corps is loaded with skill, highlighted by Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin, but the unit was dealt a blow with the news that Adam Boqvist won't be released by the Chicago Blackhawks to join the Swedes in the Czech Republic.

The gap between Sweden's high-end talent and its depth players is fairly large, and that's a big part of the reason why the club generally seems to falter in the latter stages of the tournament. There are also question marks in goal, but you could do worse at 9-2.

It almost feels wrong to include the defending champions among "the rest," as Finland looks to become the first nation to win back-to-back gold medals since Canada's run of five straight golds between 2005 and 2009.

Finland brings back an exceptional roster loaded with NHL draft picks and 2020 eligible prospects. There's no question this team can compete with anyone, but the question is whether Colorado Avalanche prospect Justus Annunen - who's piecing together a terrific first half of the season with Karpat - can replicate the success Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had in goal for the Fins last year. If Annunen can fill the void, then 11-2 odds are criminal and need to be scooped up.

Being placed in Group A also works in Finland's favor, as the club avoids Canada, Russia, and the USA until the quarterfinals at the earliest. If the Fins top their group, they likely won't see any of those three teams until the semifinal.

As the host nation, the Czech Republic can't be disregarded, but the fact that it's playing the tournament on home ice was certainly baked into the odds. The Czechs haven't medaled at the world juniors since 2005 and their roster pales in comparison to the nations above them when it comes to elite talent, depth, and experience.

Switzerland offers the best value on the board at 50-1. The Swiss were a goal away from beating Canada last year and stunned Sweden 2-0 in the quarterfinals, en route to a fourth-place finish. They're expected to return as many as ten players from their 2019 team, providing them with a dangerous blend of talent and experience.

Beyond the Swiss, there are no real candidates to shock the world and claim gold. Slovakia's had a pair of third-place finishes at the tournament, while neither Germany or Kazakhstan have ever managed a podium finish.

Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.

Copyright © 2019 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.