Unders aren’t exactly the most fun bet to make in the National Hockey League. In fact, they can be downright agony. With totals for hockey games routinely between 5.5 to 6.5 goals, sometimes all it takes to derail a solid Under bet is for a coach to pull his goalie for an extra attacker late in regulation and the other team to easily slide a couple of goals into the unguarded cage. (By the way, those types of bad beats might happen even more often this season now that coaches are getting more and more aggressive with how early they pull their netminders.)
But right now in the NHL, Unders are paying the bills. After a high-scoring start to the season, defenses have settled in and are doing a good job limiting opposing attacks. Over the past week, Unders have cashed at nearly a 55% clip, which is profitable enough to back if you’re betting them at -110 odds but get even more lucrative when you consider that Overs are generally juiced. Oddsmakers are certainly projecting a downtick in scoring, beginning to post totals of 5.5 once again after setting most of the early-season Over/Unders at 6 or higher. In fact, in tonight’s NHL action, five of the eight games have a total at 5.5 while the other three have an Over/Under of 6.
One of those 5.5 totals has caught my eye for this edition of the NHL Pick of the week. Let’s break down this clash between the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks, then allow me to explain why I’m all over this total tonight.
Anaheim Ducks vs Chicago Blackhawks Betting Odds
Oddsmakers opened the Blackhawks as short home favorites on the moneyline, but all of the early money has been on Chicago. After opening yesterday as -105 chalk, Chicago steamed all the way up to -138 on the overnight betting lines at BetOnline. That’s a ton of respect for a Hawks team that missed the playoffs last year, and it may have opened up some value on the visiting Ducks. If you like Anaheim here, you can take a shot at a +125 return, a tempting proposition considering that the Quack Attack has won four of the last five meetings and five of seven.
The puck line offers a much more lucrative return on the home side, as you can cash a +200 ticket if you lay -1.5 goals with the host Blackhawks. Betting on teams to win by more than a goal is always a risky move in NHL hockey (if the game goes to overtime, you automatically lose because teams can only win by one goal at that point), but as I mentioned earlier, coaches are pulling goalies for extra attackers more aggressively this season. That increases the potential for a late empty-netter to cover the puck lines, something to keep in mind this season when betting favorites. It also makes it riskier to take the +1.5 with Anaheim here, especially since you have to pay -240 juice to do it.
Like I said in the introduction, the total is what’s got my attention here. Oddsmakers have listed it at 5.5 goals, but they’ve juiced it to the Over, requiring bettors to lay -115. The Under 5.5 pays plus money at BetOnline, rewarding backers with a +104 price.
All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 8 a.m eastern on October 23, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.
Ducks Look To Tighten Things Up
Preseason expectations weren’t that high this year in Anaheim, especially after it was announced that sniper Corey Perry would miss the first five months of the campaign due to knee surgery. This was already an offensively-challenged team that was going to have to scratch and claw for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference, so being without the former MVP and eight-time 25-goal scorer seemed like a death knell for Anaheim’s postseason hopes.
Fast-forward three weeks into the year, and Ducks fans must be feeling a lot better about their team. After collecting points in six of its first nine outings, Anaheim comes into this clash leading the Pacific Division with a 5-3-1 record and 11 points. Granted, the Ducks’ lead in the Pacific may have more to do with the fact that no one else in the division is playing that well (Calgary is the only other team in the Pacific that is two games above .500 right now), but it’s been a promising start in Anaheim.
At least that’s what it looks like on paper. Head coach Randy Carlyle isn’t nearly as impressed, ripping his team for poor defensive fundamentals and a lack of discipline in a 4-2 home loss to the Sabres on Sunday. Captain Ryan Getzlaf agreed, telling reporters that “we’ve got to get back to doing things properly, doing things the way we want to do them on a shift-by-shift basis, not just kind of when we feel like it.” Anaheim’s bread and butter over the last few years has been defensive play, so when the Ducks talk about doing things properly, they’re focusing on their own end.
Chicago Playing Fourth Game in Six Days
Like the Ducks, Chicago’s gotten off to a nice start in the standings, going 4-2-2 through its first eight games. The big key for the Blackhawks has been improved play from their offense, which has averaged nearly four goals per contest so far this season. But Chicago’s high-scoring start has masked some concerns on the defensive end, where the Hawks have been gashed for 32 goals so far (an average of exactly four goals per game).
That poor defensive play was exposed in a big way Sunday night as the Blackhawks allowed the high-powered Tampa Bay Lightning to record 55 shots – including a whopping 33 in the second period. Tampa Bay won that game 6-3, handing Chicago its fourth loss in six games (two of them came in overtime, but they’re losses just the same). When teams aren’t winning games, the players are a lot more likely to buy into their coach’s plea for improved play without the puck, and I think Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville will be stressing that tonight.
The Blackhawks will want to slow things down tonight anyway, because they’re in a tough fatigue spot. Not only is Chicago playing its third game in four days, it’s also playing its fourth in six. That much action in a limited amount of time is always difficult on players’ legs, which is why we generally see less offense in these situations. Sure enough, Chicago’s gone Under the total in 16 of its last 21 games when playing for the third time in four days, and in 11 of its last 16 when playing for the fourth time in six. With Anaheim in a fatigue spot of its own (third in four nights), I’m not expecting this clash to be played at a fast pace.
Ducks vs. Blackhawks Betting Pick
By now, you’ve probably figured out which way I’m looking to bet this game. But if I haven’t convinced you by now that the Under is the play here, here’s a couple more statistical nuggets to back up this play.
First of all, for all of the shots they’re allowing right now, the Ducks have allowed just five even-strength goals in their last four games. Anaheim netminder John Gibson is playing out of his mind these days, and I love riding a hot goaltender as long as I can. Secondly, the Under has historically been the way to play games between these two Western Conference rivals. Only seven of the last 26 matchups in Chicago have gone Over the total, and just nine of the last 3 meetings overall.
With both teams tired and looking to tighten up their play in their own end, I’m not expecting those trends to change tonight. Yes, we may need to sweat out the potential for a late empty-netter to turn a 3-2 game into a 4-2 result, but the plus money on the Under is enough to make me take that risk. For this week’s NHL pick of the week, I’m playing the Anaheim Ducks/Chicago Blackhawks Under 5.5 at +104 odds.