Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. Everything has its limits, which explains how I’m able to eventually waddle away from a quality Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet. But before I do, you can be sure I’ll fill myself up to the point that the button is perilously close to popping off my pants, something I don’t do for normal meals.
So we’re back again three days later with another ‘pick of the week’ (we’ll really need to change the name of this feature if it’s going to be more than just once every seven days, but I digress). Another great betting opportunity has caught my eye tonight as we look to exploit something that has lined savvy NHL bettors’ pockets for the last couple of seasons: teams struggling in their first game following their bye week.
Before we dig deeper into that angle, let’s take a look at the betting odds offered for tonight’s tilt between the Senators and Penguins in Pittsburgh.
Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Odds
Any way you look at this matchup, it’s a colossal mismatch. Ottawa’s at the bottom of the entire NHL standings with 43 points, while the Penguins are just three points out of top spot in the Metropolitan Division — 17 points ahead of the Sens. And the standings probably don’t even tell the whole story, since you could easily argue that the Penguins have underachieved by their own lofty standards so far this year. While Pittsburgh’s 27-17-6 record looks decent enough at first glance, 27 victories through 50 games isn’t quite what we expect from a team that won consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
There’s also no surprises when it comes to the total. Ottawa’s been a huge Over team this season (30-17 Over/Under), while the Penguins’ offense is perennially among the best in the league. The bookies are protecting themselves from Over bettors by not only posting the total here at 6.5 goals, but also juicing the Over up to -130. If you’re willing to take a shot with the Under 6.5, you’ll have a chance at a +118 return.
All odds that are referenced in this article were taken from BetOnline.ag at 10:00 a.m. eastern on February 1, 2019. These odds may have changed since the time of this writing.
Senators Playing First Game After Their Bye
If you bet on NFL football, you probably know what a big advantage a bye week can be for teams. The week off allows players to nurse bumps and bruises as well as get a mental break from the regular-season grind, and it enables coaches to have extra preparation time for their next opponent. As a result, teams coming off their bye in the NFL tend to do very well against the spread in their first game back, especially if they’re playing a team that isn’t coming off a bye.
This year, the NHL is doing things a bit differently, scheduling as many teams as possible to be on their bye week simultaneously. That way, the league is minimizing the number of times a team coming off its bye week has to play a team that is in its regular flow. However, the NHL can’t always avoid it, and that’s what we have here with Ottawa coming off a bye while Pittsburgh has played twice this week already.
Ottawa is already pretty bad when playing with extra rest, having lost nine of its last 12 games following three or more consecutive days off. Playing their first game since a 3-2 loss to Arizona last Tuesday (January 22), the Senators are at a massive disadvantage tonight — particularly in the first period.
Can Pens Avoid Letdown After Big Win Over Tampa Bay?
As I just mentioned, the Penguins haven’t been subjected to the same long layoff as the Senators over the past week and a half. Following Saturday’s NHL All-Star Game, the Pens got back into action two days later when they hosted the New Jersey Devils. That game didn’t go too well for Sidney Crosby and company, as the Penguins lost 6-3 to a Devils team they’ve inexplicably had trouble against recently. But Pittsburgh bounced back in spades a couple of nights later, jumping to a 3-0 first-period lead over the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and cruising to a convincing 4-2 victory.
Ordinarily, I’d be a bit concerned about backing the Penguins following a satisfying effort like Wednesday’s win over Tampa. However, there are a few factors that make me comfortable that Pittsburgh won’t suffer a letdown here. First, the Pens badly need every point they can get in order to push for the Metropolitan Division title and an easier path in the playoffs. Secondly, this is a veteran squad accustomed to enjoying success (such as the two recent Stanley Cup wins), so I don’t think Wednesday’s win goes to their heads too much. And finally, the Penguins owe the Senators some payback. Ottawa’s already beaten Pittsburgh twice this season in Ottawa, so we can expect the Senators to get the Pens’ full attention tonight.
Ottawa Senators/Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Pick
The choice is clear here: we’re looking for a way to back the Penguins and/or fade the Senators. So what’s the best way to do it, and which way offers the most value?
The one option we should immediately eliminate is the Penguins -230 moneyline. It takes an extreme situation for me to lay that type of price in the NHL, where so many games are decided by the coin-toss propositions of overtimes and shootouts. It’s not that I’m not confident Pittsburgh will win, it’s that I think there are more favorable ways to play this one.
Personally, I’ve decided to go with the Penguins on the -1.5 puck line at +102 odds. Two-thirds of Pittsburgh’s wins (18 of 27) have come by two goals or more, while the Senators have already lost 26 games by two goals or more. Considering the situation that Ottawa’s facing here, I don’t see the Senators keeping this one close for very long either.
Another option you may want to consider, however, is the Penguins on the first period puck line. First-period betting is becoming more and more popular among NHL bettors, and I like it here because we’re able to focus the handicap strictly on the time of the game when Ottawa’s at its biggest disadvantage. BetOnline is offering the Penguins -0.5 in the first period at +120 odds, and I’d recommend that bet down to even money. The downside of -0.5 is that you’ll lose your bet if the game is scoreless or otherwise tied after the first period, but given how bad Ottawa’s defense has been on the road this year, it’s definitely a bet worth considering.