Computer Picks: January 14th—A Tough Test After a Brief Success

Updated: January 14, 2010 at 2:21 pm by Jeff Tay

I am going to sleep very well tonight for two reasons. The first reason has to do with the time of day at which I have elected to begin writing this edition of Computer Picks (close to 3AM), due to yet another case of chronic poor time management. The second reason though, is that I’ll be able to rest very easily knowing that I haven’t steered anyone towards the poorhouse yet with my little experiment here—and seemingly, I might have even played a small part in helping a few fellow gamblers pad their bankrolls in the last two days.

Wednesdays Results: 2-2 on winning side predictions & 4-0 on over/under predictions

Overall Record:

Predictions on Winning Sides: 7-6
Predictions on Over/Under: 9-3-1

This Thursday, however, appears to offer a few unique challenges for those of us who are looking to place a few wagers on the games based on the following projections (hence the “tough test” in the headline). First of all, many of the Over/Under bets that are available on Thursday’s NHL board are projected to be virtually unplayable, due to how close the projected scores are to the posted totals. Second of all, there will also be a few underdogs here that may be projected to lose, but are offering so much value on the moneyline that it would be more advisable to play them than the favourites that they are up against.

Due to the sheer number of games and how late it’s getting for me, I’m going to keep the details very short for this edition. Here we go:

Game #1: Buffalo Sabres 4 – Atlanta Thrashers 2 (BUF 72% – ATL 28% to win)

Key Stats: Buffalo has had a lot of success this season against bottom-ranked home defenses, such as that of the Atlanta Thrashers. They also very rarely have consecutive sub-par defensive efforts, which they did have against Colorado on Saturday. Atlanta has also lost the last home game of each multi-game home stand that they’ve had this season; 3 times as a favourite and once as an underdog.

Best Bet: The projection here actually leans slightly towards the Under 6.0, but only by 0.08 goals (Buffalo 4.24 goals to Atlanta 1.68)—definitely not a best bet by any means. Buffalo, however, is laying a reasonable price at -145. There is one very quirky head-to-head trend between these two teams though, and it’s that 6 out of the last 7 meetings have gone to OT/SO, and Atlanta has won 5 out of those 6 OT/SO contests. Don’t be shocked if this game, yet again, goes to overtime, in which case, I would not recommend taking Buffalo at -145.

Game #2: Ottawa Senators 2 – New York Rangers 4 (OTT 33% – NYR 67% to win)

Key Stats: Ottawa has already lost one meeting with the Rangers at MSG this season, by a score of 5-2. On top of this, they’ve lost by no less than 3 goals in each of their last 5 games. The only stat which keeps this projected score from being even more lopsided is New York’s low offensive output in recent games versus bottom-ranked road defenses such as that of the Senators. Against a lot of other teams, the projected score could have been 6-2 here.

Best Bet: Even at -175 the Rangers are well worth the price, as the Senators have proven over the past week that they flat-out cannot compete without their 3 key injured forwards. The Rangers put up a whale of a game on Tuesday only to get shut out by a whale of a game from Martin Brodeur, and anything close to that effort here should be more than enough against either of the Ottawa goaltenders. I would advocate the Over 5.0 here if I believed that Ottawa could mount any amount of offense in this game, but personally, I don’t believe that it is worth putting any money on (am I crazy to think that the Sens have no chance?).

Game #3: Philadelphia Flyers 4 – Toronto Maple Leafs 2 (PHI 68% – TOR 32% to win)

Key Stats: Here is a classic case of two teams heading in opposite directions. Philadelphia’s offense has generally ran in streaks of hot and cold so far this season, and right now they are (you guessed it) hot. Meanwhile, the Toronto team that, at the very least, used to have a decent offense running has even lost that as of late, scoring just 2 goals a game on a regular basis.

Best Bet: If you shop around, you may be able to find the Flyers at -130, which is a very short price given the circumstances. Toronto scores less at home than they do on the road and their alleged ‘good stretch of defensive games’ at home had a lot to do with the (poor) quality of visiting offenses that they had to deal with. The system has a slight lean towards the Under 6.0 as well, but not by much (0.37 goals).

Game #4: Carolina Hurricanes 2 – Detroit Red Wings 4 (CAR 32% – DET 68% to win)

Key Stats: Detroit looked really (really, really) bad in their 6-0 loss to the Islanders, but this is a very key stat in this prediction. Detroit has been a very good bounce-back team after losses in which they’ve conceded 5 or more goals. They are also a team that tends to win after being shut out in the previous game. Carolina has been playing well, but Detroit feasts on teams with both lower-ranked road offenses and road defenses, and Carolina hasn’t fared well against top-ranked home defenses.

Best Bet: The projected score for this game is actually Detroit 3.70 goals to Carolina 1.72 goals, which adds up to 5.43 goals combined. For all intensive purposes, the total here is virtually unplayable (at least according to the system). Meanwhile, neither team on the moneyline appears to offer enough value to be played profitably either. Detroit at -215 on the moneyline as a 68% favourite to win the game is only a break-even proposition, and Carolina would need to be more than +210 for them to be a profitable 32% underdog. It is recommended here to skip out on betting this game entirely.

Game #5: Florida Panthers 2 – Tampa Bay Lightning 2 (FLA 52% – TBL 48% to win)

Key Stats: This low-scoring projection comes courtesy of a 3-2 meeting earlier this season in Tampa Bay, as well as tendencies for both these teams to pull back on the running-and-gunning after the types of games that they’ve both had most recently against Washington. Both teams have also played to a surprising amount of Unders on the road and at home respectively.

Best Bet: Tampa Bay is actually the hotter of these two teams, so it looks like kind of an odd prediction to me. Not helping Tampa Bay though, is how big their victory over Washington was, so they could conceivably be flat for this one. Anyway, the system’s best bets are Florida and the Under 5.5.

Game #6: Dallas Stars 3 – Montreal Canadiens 3 (DAL 48% – MTL 52% to win)

Key Stats: As much as the Dallas Stars are struggling on the road, this is apparently not a great situation for the Canadiens. The Stars have done well when rebounding off of 3-goal losses, while Montreal has not done well this season at home when trying to bounce back from a low-scoring loss. Dallas has been struggling on the road, but Montreal has also been struggling at home, so I suppose it could go either way.

Best Bet: The 3-3 prediction here is a little misleading, as both of these 3’s are actually rounded up from 2.67 and 2.85 respectively. There is practically no value in taking the Over 5.5 here, according to the system. There is a little value, however, in taking the underdog Dallas Stars here at +120. They aren’t figured to be that big of an underdog, so if these projections are correct then it’s actually a good bet.

Game #7: Minnesota Wild 3 – St Louis Blues 3 (MIN 49% – STL 51% to win)

Key Stats: The biggest factor which hurts the Wild’s projected score here is the fact that they are playing the second leg of a back-to-back here on the road. Otherwise, the Wild are a hot team going into a building where the home team struggles to win. The Blues’ most recent 4-1 victory over Columbus, as well as their early-season 3-1 home victory over Minnesota, also gives their stats a slight boost.

Best Bet: This 3-3 projected score is also rounded up from two numbers that are just a shade over 2.5. No lines have currently been posted yet for this game, but it could really go either way as far as the over/under 5.5 goes. The system also has the game capped as a virtual coin toss, so whichever side that offers plus money could be the way to go.

Game #8: Columbus Blue Jackets 2 – Chicago Blackhawks 4 (CBJ 34% – CHI 66% to win)

Key Stats: Columbus doesn’t have very many stats to help make them look good –if any. Chicago, however, has shown a willingness to trade chances at home with some of the lower-ranking teams in the league standings, often producing games that are unnecessarily close. These two teams played to a 4-3 SO Chicago victory earlier this season, so even though it is a mismatch on paper, the game could be somewhat closer than expected.

Best Bet: The Over 5.5 is a marginally recommended play here, since the projected total is 6 goals. Meanwhile, the moneyline odds set up quite an interesting proposition. Columbus has a history of playing close games with Chicago, having gone to OT/SO with them in 4 straight meetings, and at +250, they only need to win about 29% of the time in this spot for it to be a profitable bet. Take Columbus +0.5 in regulation or bet the game to go past 60 minutes if you think Columbus has a shot. Definitely don’t lay the -300 with Chicago though.

Game #9: New Jersey Devils 2 – Phoenix Coyotes 2 (NJD 53% – PHX 47% to win)

Key Stats: This is a clash of two statistical titans. Both teams have very positive stats going for them in this situation; New Jersey coming off a 1-goal performance on offense and facing a lower-ranked home offense, and Phoenix coming off a 3-1 loss as a home underdog. For the most part though, a majority of the trends point to a very solid defensive outing for both sides.

Best Bet: I’m not a big fan of ever taking the Under on a total of 5.0, but that’s the way the projected score has it (NJD 1.79 to PHX 1.61). The edge in value on the moneyline also slightly favours Phoenix at +115, even though they are ever so slightly projected to lose.

Game #10: Pittsburgh Penguins 4 – Edmonton Oilers 2 (PIT 61% – EDM 39% to win)

Key Stats: Pittsburgh is actually not playing very good hockey as of late, and going into the second leg of a back-to-back off a victory definitely doesn’t favour them. What does favour them though, is the fact that they are playing the Edmonton Oilers (speaking of not playing very good hockey). The Oilers have a huge pile-up of ugly stats which have all been compiled to formulate a projected 4-2 loss for them.

Best Bet: There is actually very minimal value in taking the Penguins on the moneyline at -155, as this happens to be the perfect price for a 60% favourite. The Over 5.5 might be worth a look, but the projected score doesn’t exactly say ‘must-buy’.

Game #11: Boston Bruins 2 – San Jose Sharks 2 (BOS 48% – SJS 52%)

Key Stats: This somewhat surprising prediction has a lot to do with San Jose’s previous home stand, in which they allowed 1 goal, then 6 goals, then 1 goal and then 4 goals, meanwhile scoring just 2 goals, 2 goals, and 1 goal, in the last 3 games of the stand. The Shark’s offense has slowed down a bit recently, and the computer figures that a scrappy, competitive team like Boston has a good chance at the upset, particularly coming off a 1-goal loss on the road (where Boston has done well this season).

Best Bet: According to the system, Boston +175 is worth a shot. The Under 5.0 should be skipped though, since it will most likely push, if anything.

Game #12: Anaheim Ducks 3 – Los Angeles Kings 2 (ANA 53% – LAK 47%)

Key Stats: Anaheim may be far from being one of the best road teams in the NHL. But they have won their last 2 road games, over Nashville and Chicago. Meanwhile, the Kings have lost 3 straight at home, all by 1 goal. Anaheim has been mighty good lately, and they appear to have a good shot at winning this game. However, they haven’t been very good in back-to-back situations on the road, but the system still has them picked.

Best Bet: It seems to me that this would be a very uncomfortable Under 5.5 to bet on, but that’s where the projected score is leaning. Meanwhile, Anaheim +120 could be a decent bet against an LA team that is losing a lot of close games recently.

Final Output: I am exhausted from all the typing (and not sleeping), and also a little bit frustrated that most of the picks for Thursday are so borderline and wishy-washy. Most of the games are projected to be either 3-2(sort of) or 4-2, and a bunch of them are either 50-50 or too much juice with a good favourite. I am definitely going to sleep on it before making any rash decisions on these games.