NHL Best Bets: Can Oilers Survive Without McDavid?

With Connor McDavid sidelined, the Lightning simply have more firepower than the Oilers can handle right now. How should bettors approach Thursday's game?
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Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

There are 11 games on the NHL schedule tonight, including a handful of premier out-of-conference matchups. The Oilers, without star center Connor McDavid, will take on the hottest team in the NHL, the Lightning. Also on tap are matchups between the Stars and Maple Leafs, the Islanders and Predators, and the Capitals and Avalanche.

There’s plenty to wager on, but let’s take a closer look at two games in particular. Here are my two best bets for Thursday:

Edmonton Oilers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning: Lightning -1.5 (+130)

The Lightning are on fire right now. They’ve won eight games in a row and are 10-1-1 in the last dozen games. They’re poised to usurp the Bruins as the top team in the Atlantic Division. A dangerous mix of elite offense and stout defense, Tampa Bay has outscored its opponents 26-12 during their current eight-game winning streak.

On the other side of the ice, the Oilers come to Florida sitting in second place in the Pacific Division but are reeling following the news that their captain and best player, Connor McDavid, will miss the next two or three weeks with a quad injury. Although teammate Leon Draisaitl technically leads the Oilers in goals (32) and points (89), McDavid is still the straw that stirs the drink in Edmonton. More importantly, there is a precipitous drop in production when those two stars aren’t on the ice.

Edmonton’s big advantage over its opponent is offensive production from its top line and its No. 1-ranked power play. Both take a major hit with McDavid not on the ice. It’s hard to imagine the Oilers consistently finding a way to outscore their defensive struggles with only one of their two big stars on the ice.

The Lightning are dealing with a major injury of their own as well. Star winger Nikita Kucherov left Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury. His status is uncertain as of this writing. However, there’s some optimism that Steven Stamkos will be back in the lineup. Regardless, Tampa Bay simply has more firepower than the Oilers can handle right now and should earn a multi-goal home victory.

Washington Capitals vs. Colorado Avalanche: Over 6.5 goals (-115)

Alex Ovechkin, Nathan MacKinnon, John Carlson, Cale Makar, etc. This game is loaded with offensive firepower and star power, both upfront and on the blue line. One overseas sportsbook was a bit overzealous, posting an unheard of opening total of 7.5 (+200/-250), but that has since settled into the 6.5 range most sportsbooks are offering. But you can understand why the total is high.

The Capitals have plenty of premier scorers, but their goaltending has been shaky as of late. Ilya Samsonov, who was so good earlier this season, is scuffling a bit and has allowed 12 goals in his last three starts. Braden Holtby has been shaky all season and has allowed an average of 3.92 goals per game in his last dozen starts. Over the last month, the average Capitals game has featured 7.8 goals.

The Avalanche lead the league in scoring at 3.64 goals per game. Their last dozen games have featured 6.1 goals per game in total. While stronger goaltending as of late is a bit of a concern, there will be too much talent on the ice for this game to be low-scoring.

Season Record: 31-30-1 (-.84 units)

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