SportsGrid NHL Model Picks for Saturday, December 9


Dec 9, 2023

Saturday is synonymous with hockey. It’s typically the busiest day of the week in the NHL, featuring a bevy of intriguing matchups. That leaves many in-roads for bettors looking for edges in the gambling market. 

To help players get a winning edge, we’re highlighting some of our favorite plays from the SportsGrid NHL Model.

Los Angeles Kings vs. New York Islanders
Under 6.5 (-134): 5-Star Rating

It might not be too big of a stretch to say that this is a potential preview of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Los Angeles Kings have asserted themselves as a Western Conference powerhouse, sitting just behind the Vegas Golden Knights in the Pacific Division, with some of the best analytics in the game. Likewise, the New York Islanders have carved themselves out a spot in the Metropolitan Division playoffs, currently occupying the third seed. These playoff hopefuls clash in an inter-conference showdown on Long Island. 

Although they are second in their division, the Kings have moved to the top of the expected goals-for ratings. LA’s mark of 58.8% is 1.5% clear of the next closest team, illustrating its dominance over the rest of the league. Defense has been a fundamental part of their success, with the Kings allowing the fewest scoring and high-danger chances in the NHL. 

The Islanders don’t play with the most defensive structure in their own end, but thankfully, they don’t have to. The Long Island residents have some of the best goaltending in the league, moving them to the top of the heap in the Eastern Conference. Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov have combined for the third-best save percentage at five-on-five and sixth-best Rating across all strengths. Those efforts have staked the Islanders to some precious points early in the season. 

The Kings play a stifling brand of defensive hockey, and they will be met with resistance by Islanders’ netminders. This game should play out as a defensive struggle, leaving an advantage in backing the under 6.5. We rate it as a five-star play.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Seattle Kraken
Kraken Moneyline (+105): 5-Star Rating

The return of Andrei Vasilevskiy has yielded the positive results many expected it would for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts are 3-3-0 with Vasilevskiy between the pipes, exacerbating an already slow start to the campaign. Those woes should be extended at least one more game as Tampa Bay travels for a West Coast showdown versus the Seattle Kraken. 

Vasilevskiy can’t be held responsible for all of the Lightning’s issues. Tampa’s problems start with poor analytics. The Bolts rank in the bottom half of the league in expected goals-for rating, illustrating their issues with consistently getting outplayed by opponents. A lot of those concerns arise from play in their own end. The Lightning allow the seventh-most scoring and high-danger chances, letting teams walk all over them in their own end.

Analytically, the Kraken rate as a superior team. The NHL’s newest franchise has the 13th-ranked expected goals-for rating, posting a benchmark of 51.4%. They’ve ratcheted that metric slightly higher over their recent sample, with the Kraken posting a 51.7% rating over their past four outings. Included in that sample is an assertive 59.1% game score last time out against the New Jersey Devils, a contest in which the Kraken out-chanced their guests 31-18 in scoring chances and 12-5 in high-danger opportunities. 

Seattle has amplified its on-ice product lately, while the Bolts are still struggling to keep pace in 2023-24. Consequently, there’s no reason why the Kraken should be priced as home-ice underdogs on Saturday night. Backing them at plus-money leaves a significant advantage for bettors.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Colorado Avalanche 
Under 6.5 (-134): 5-Star Rating

Our last play of the day, is taking the under on another inter-conference total. The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers battle it out in what should be a low-scoring affair at Ball Arena. 

The Avs get a lot of credit for being an offensively gifted team, but don’t lose sight of their oppressive defensive metrics. So far this season, Colorado has allowed the eigthth-fewest scoring chances and fifth-fewest high-danger opportunities, limiting opponents to an average of 19.3 and 7.7, respectively.

Likewise, the Flyers have been an astute defensive squad. Philadelphia’ averages are just slightly off the elite Avalanche ratings, coming in at 8.0 quality chances and 20.8 scoring opportunities per game. Moreover, we’ve seen a substantial decline in high-danger chances against lately, with the Flyers holding opponents to an average of 6.7 over their previous seven. 

All signs point toward goals being at a premium in this one, a fact that’s reflected in our projections. Playing under 6.5 is rated as a five-star play.

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Thumbnail photo via Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

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