NHL Daily Odds & Picks (Tuesday, March 30): Our Best Bets for Rangers-Capitals & Hurricanes-Blackhawks

Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Nedeljkovic

It’s an exciting time to be an NHL bettor. The trade deadline is in less than two weeks, the playoffs are six weeks away and the Buffalo Sabres ended their 17-game losing streak with a drubbing of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The excitement continues tonight with a nine-game slate. Here are our favorite bets for Tuesday’s NHL action:

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Michael Leboff: Washington Capitals (-108) vs. New York Rangers

Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

I’ve been pretty high on the New York Rangers lately but I think this line gives the Blueshirts a little bit too much respect against a Washington Capitals team that is playing like a Stanley Cup contender of late.

The Capitals have enjoyed a lot of success over the past five seasons, but they’ve never really been a 5-on-5 juggernaut. When you have players like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom running the show up top, you don’t need to dominate possession to win. The Caps have looked a different bunch this season, though. Instead of relying on their stars to provide a moment of magic to win them a game, the Caps have been winning the 5-on-5 battle by playing great defense in 2021. Washington sports the 10th-best expected goals rate in the NHL this season but believe it or not its the defense that’s doing the heavy lifting as the Caps are sixth in the league with a 1.98 xGA/60 at 5-on-5.

Expected goals (also known as xG) is a predictive statistic that gives an indication of whether results are based on sustainable factors like a steady creation of scoring chances, or whether it is down to aspects such as shooting luck or outstanding goaltending.

Simply put, an expected goals rate (xGF%) above 50% is considered good because it means a team is creating the majority of the scoring chances. Anything below 50% is usually a sign that a team is struggling to control play.

xG numbers cited from Evolving Hockey.

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It looks like the Caps are really starting to hit their stride lately, too. Washington has won 11 of 13 games in March and leads the NHL with a 64.8% goal share at 5-on-5 in that span.

The Rangers have put up some eye-popping performances of late but their expected goals rate is hovering below 50% over their last 15 games. The Blueshirts have the high-end talent to win games that they don’t necessarily control, but Washington’s defense will make that a tough task on Tuesday night.

I think Washington should be favored in this game and would bet them to -120 as long as Ilya Samsonov is starting in goal.


Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Pavel Buchnevich, Mika Zibanejad

Pete Truszkowski: Washington Capitals (-108) vs. New York Rangers

Puck Drop: 7 p.m. ET

These two teams played on Sunday afternoon, with the Washington Capitals skating away as 5-4 winners. Washington was leading the game 4-0 before a flurry of late goals from the Rangers made the score much more respectable. So while it looked like a close game by the final score, it was not all that close and is potentially giving us a good opportunity to bet on the Caps on Tuesday.

The Caps, who have won 14 of their last 16 games, have played like a top-5 team since the middle of February, which is when the team got players like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Dmitry Orlov and Ilya Samsonov back from injury. Washington’s defense has led the way, ranking third in expected goals against and high-danger scoring chances allowed at 5-on-5.

The Rangers have played better over the past few weeks and are doing a decent job of driving play, but they still are a middling team with five wins in their last 10 games. I think Washington is a much better team with more elite talent. The Capitals have barely lost for the last two months and I’m happy to take them in a pick’em against a non-playoff team.


Matt Russell: Carolina Hurricanes (-155) vs. Chicago Blackhawks

Puck Drop: 7:30 p.m. ET

It’s kind of lazy, because explaining why you want to bet a favorite in the NHL is often as simple as “They’re the better team, and they’re going to win a high-percentage of the time”. However, I wouldn’t ask you to lay a decently-sized price if I didn’t think that the amount of times that it wins is better than or equal to the frequency the odds suggest.

My “Let’s Do That Hockey” Model suggests that the Hurricanes should win this game in Chicago, about 60% of the time. As a result a price of CAR -150 is our target, but I’ll be fine settling with the -155 that’s available as of this writing on Monday night.

The reason this favorite moneyline is playable is due to the perception that the Blackhawks are better than they actually are. A lucky stretch that had them piling up overtime and shootout wins has caught up to them as the Hawks have won just 4 of their last 13. Similarly, they’ve also only earned more than 1.6 Expected Goals at even-strength just four times in that span.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes are the class of the Central Division according to my model, and have no problems playing on the road this season, where they are 10-5 against lesser foes. Give me the Canes anywhere near -155.


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