NHL best bets: Navigating Game 7 weekend

Richard Lautens / Toronto Star / Getty

Let's get one thing straight: The best bet of the weekend is the over on how many times a member of the media describes Game 7 as the "two best words in all of sports."

With five Game 7s in the NHL over the next two days, it's easy to get excited about the do-or-die nature of these first-round series. You may have some extra reason to be on the edge of your seat if you've been following along with this space, but if not, let's take a look at what's worth betting this weekend.

Bruins (+115) @ Hurricanes (-140)

We've been on the Bruins since before the series started, then we wanted some more after Game 1 and again in Game 4, so I think it's fair to say our opinion has been obvious. Boston has driven the even-strength play this series by a marginal amount, edging the Hurricanes in expected goals at five-on-five (10.59-9.3).

Of course, neither team has won a game on the road, which would suggest Carolina has been dominant at PNC Arena. However, the Bruins have had more expected goals at even strength (6.39-5.2) in games hosted in Raleigh.

Before the series, I had the Bruins as a moderate favorite to win outright and 50-50 to win any given game at Carolina. At +115 for Game 7, Boston's still worth a bet if you're not previously invested in this series.

Pick: Bruins (+115 or better)

Lightning (+105) @ Maple Leafs (-125)

Call it destiny or reasonably decent handicapping, but this matchup couldn't have gone more according to plan for sharp bettors. My numbers expected a dead-even series with game-by-game results accentuated by home-ice advantage - a win probability close to 60% for each home team.

After six games, the even-strength play is as close to level as possible:

TEAM 5-ON-5 XG 5-ON-5 HDC
Lightning 10.82 54
Maple Leafs 11.69 51

The high-danger scoring chance (HDC) tally has slightly favored the Lightning, while the Leafs have the edge in expected goals (xG). Meanwhile, the home side has won four of the six contests (66%).

At -125, Toronto is implied to win this game 55.6% of the time, and I've got the team's win probability at 59.9%. Of course, there's the matter of alleged curses and history at hand, but we don't have a formula for that.

Pick: Maple Leafs (-125 or better)

Kings (+175) @ Oilers (-210)

The Oilers lost Game 1, and we happily hopped on Edmonton mid-series at a pick'em price. So, as discussed after Game 4, there's not much left to do but let it ride since backing the Oilers now means laying a big -210 price on a team that's only outplayed the Kings at a 54% rate at five-on-five for the series.

In fact, the Kings have edged the Oilers 30-28 in even-strength high-danger chances at Rogers Place, and Edmonton comes into the game with a hobbled Leon Draisaitl and the consistently inconsistent Mike Smith.

It's hard to argue against the value on Los Angeles unless you're already holding the Oilers to win the series at -110.

Pick: Pass or Kings (+175 or better)

Penguins (+125) @ Rangers (-150)

Before Sidney Crosby was knocked out of this series in Game 5, the Penguins were +115 on the moneyline in New York. After a loss in Game 6, where they were again better than the Rangers at even strength (3.25-2.48 in expected goals), the Penguins are +125. Oddsmakers have adjusted between 2% and 4% for Crosby's absence.

Next to the Avalanche, Pittsburgh has been the most dominant team of the first round - driving play even without Crosby. However, assuming he can't play, it's hard to imagine they're only 4% less likely to win at Madison Square Garden. Plus, the Pens' goaltending situation has hit critical mass after Louis Domingue gave up the softest of game-winning goals on Friday.

We're holding Penguins series tickets from before Game 1, and that's as far I'm willing to go.

Pick: Pass

Stars (+170) @ Flames (-205)

The Stars' mission was to get this series to Game 7, and since that's been accomplished, our bets on Dallas (+1.5 games) have cashed. With no obligation to either side, it's worth mentioning that if you can find the Flames at anything short of -200, that would be the best price we've seen on them at home.

The Flames have been notably better at even strength, so if you hopped on our recommendation to bet on them mid-series, you're in great shape. The total jumps out more than any other matchup since the games in Calgary have been drastically low-event compared to those in Dallas (26 total five-on-five HDC in Calgary versus 81 in Dallas).

The Stars can match lines easier in Calgary and play a textbook underdog road game, so look for a historically typical close-to-the-vest deciding game.

Pick: Under 5.5 (-110)

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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NHL best bets: Navigating Game 7 weekend
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