The National Hockey League All-Star Game is always a bittersweet weekend for me.

On one hand, it’s great to see all of the league’s top talent (and there’s a lot of talent in the NHL these days, more than we’ve seen in a long time) gathered onto one sheet of ice to showcase their skills. Whether it’s the skills challenge or the 3-on-3 tournament that has replaced the traditional All-Star Game, it’s must-watch TV for any hockey enthusiast who appreciates just how good these guys really are.

On the other hand, however, it’s an unwanted interruption to what’s been a really successful season for these NHL picks of the week. I need to go back and tabulate the exact record on the year, but we’re 6-1 in our last seven picks after last week’s comfortable winner on the Winnipeg Jets Moneyline (anyone who also took the recommended Jets -1.5 bonus bet cashed a fat +195 winner as well).

Technically, the NHL picks of the week feature won’t be interrupted, since the NHL season resumes once again on Monday. But when teams are off for four or five days off in the middle of the campaign, it can often take a few games for teams to get back “into the groove” and resume their normal tendencies — making handicapping a bit more difficult. Hopefully when things resume after the All-Star Break, we’ll be able to pick up where we left off.

In the meantime, let’s try to push the current run to 7-1 with one last winner before the NHL midseason classic. I’ve circled a marquee game between the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights as the best opportunity on the Wednesday board. Let’s break it down.

Nashville Predators/Vegas Golden Knights Betting Odds

It’s not often that you’ll find the Predators in the underdog role, but that’s what they’ve been assigned tonight for their visit to Vegas. Nashville paid +111 on the moneyline at the time of writing, while the Golden Knights were a -123 favorite. Early bettors haven’t seen much value in either side, with the line not moving much at all from an opener of Nashville +109/Vegas -120 at BetOnline.

The Over/Under and puck line odds also haven’t seen much movement since the opener. Oddsmakers set the total at 6 with -105 juice on each side, and the Under was juiced slightly more (-109) than the Over (-103) as of this morning. Meanwhile, the puck line odds (Nashville +1.5 is -237 and Vegas -1.5 is +211) had moved just a few cents towards Nashville since the opener yesterday afternoon.

Regardless of which side or outcome that you’re backing in this game, BetOnline is the place to do it. There was only “12 cents” difference between their odds on the moneyline and total, compared to the 20 cents of vigorish (or more) that most sportsbooks had factored into their line for this game. The smaller the difference between odds on a favorite and underdog, the smaller the profit margin for the book and the more favorable the odds for you, the bettor.

All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from at 11:00 a.m. eastern on January 23, 2018. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.

Predators Treading Water Over Past Month

For the better part of a decade, the Predators were consistently a decent team but never seemed to be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Of course, that all changed in the spring of 2017, when eighth-seeded Nashville shocked the hockey world by sweeping the powerful Chicago Blackhawks in the opening round, then riding that momentum all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. And even though that Cinderella run ended with a loss to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins, there was no Stanley Cup hangover in the Music City last season as the Predators finished atop the Western Conference standings.

After all that sustained success in Nashville, it’s become normal to see the Predators pile up the victories with regularity. That’s certainly what the Preds did through the opening 33 games of the year, owning a 22-10-1 mark by the middle of December. Since then, however, it has hardly been smooth sailing for the Predators. They’re just 7-8-3 since then, including a 6-game losing streak as well as a 10-game losing skid on the road.

If there’s one reason for Nashville’s recent mediocrity, I think it’s a lack of focus and effort in the defensive end of the rink. Prior to a 4-1 win in Colorado on Monday night, the Preds had allowed 28 goals in their previous six games, hardly the high level of defensive efficiency we’ve come to expect out of Peter Laviolette’s charges. Speaking of Laviolette, it’s possible his defensive-minded approach is wearing a bit thin as well. Every coach has his shelf life, and Laviolette has seen his shelf life expire in previous stops in Philadelphia and Carolina. Even though the Preds have been extremely successful under the head coach, playing Laviolette’s hard-checking style can get old after a while. Usually when that happens, we see the first signs at the defensive end.

It’s also possible that it’s just been a bad 15-game run for the Predators, and even the best teams go through tough times once in a while. Injuries certainly had a lot to do with it (Viktor Arvidson, Ryan Johansen, P.K. Subban and Filip Forsberg have all missed extended time due to injury over the past couple of months), but the Preds have been playing with a pretty full deck for the last couple of weeks or so. If they can get their defensive game back on track, this team certainly has more than enough firepower up front to get back to its winning ways. Nashville has scored at least 3 goals in eight of its last 10 games, production that is even more impressive when you consider the Preds haven’t scored a power-play goal in six straight. Facing a Vegas team that has allowed a power play goal in just one of its last seven, generating offense at even strength will be critical once again for Nashville’s chances in this one.

Vegas Rolling Along, Especially At Home

If you read the writeup of last week’s NHL pick of the week (when I successfully bet against Vegas), you’re already aware of the Golden Knights’ story this season. But just in case you didn’t, the Knights have spent the last couple of months proving that last year’s incredible run to the Stanley Cup final — making them the first team since the 1960s to reach the championship series in its inaugural season — was no fluke. After a slow start to the campaign, the Knights have gone 21-7-3 in their last 31 games, relying on the same formula of great goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury, responsible defensive play and balanced scoring.

They’re also really, really tough to beat at home. Yes, the Minnesota Wild got the best of them on Monday, downing the Knights 4-2. But prior to that, the Knights had lost in regulation time just once since November 16, going 11-1-2 in their previous 14 at T-Mobile Arena. It’s not as if Vegas has been beating up on league weaklings, either. They lit up the Penguins to the tune of a 7-3 rout Saturday night, also posting wins over the Capitals, Sharks, Islanders and Avalanche during the hot stretch.

Like Nashville, however, the Knights haven’t been nearly as stingy defensively of late. Vegas has given up 17 goals in its last five games — hardly cause for alarm, but still a noticeable increase for a team that had allowed just seven in its previous five. And as I noted earlier, special teams haven’t been inflating those statistics, with the Vegas penalty kill surrendering just two power play goals in its last 16 times shorthanded.

Nashville Predators at Vegas Golden Knights Betting Pick

When good teams are struggling in a certain area of the game (such as offense, defense or special teams), a natural reaction for many bettors is to expect them to place a high focus on that area and immediately correct those issues. For example, with the Predators and Golden Knights both having a tough time keeping the puck out of their net lately, you might be inclined to expect them to play a conservative style tonight — making the Under look appealing.

However, the reality is that when good teams aren’t getting the results they’re used to, frustration and a lack of confidence usually sets in, making it tough to turn those issues around quickly. It’s why we see high-scoring teams sometimes go into extended scoring slumps, or why stingy teams like the Predators and Knights can go lengthy stretches during which they give up way more goals than usual.

In the final game for each team before a week off for the NHL All-Star Break, I’m not expecting both sides to suddenly become defensive powerhouses once again. I am, however, expecting them to play a tightly-contested game, which works for the Over more than you may think. When both teams are contributing goals, it doesn’t take five or six from one side to see a game go Over the total. In fact, if both squads get at least three, we’re guaranteed to see at least seven goals, an angle I love to play when betting Over/Under in the NHL.

Betting Prediction

Neither side goes down without a fight tonight, both offenses are in fine form and each team’s defensive unit and goaltenders aren’t feeling the greatest about their recent performances. Add it up and I expect a higher-than-scoring tilt tonight in Sin City.

For my NHL pick of the week, I’m taking the Over 6 at the favorable price of just -102 juice at BetOnline.

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