I actually released just one free NHL pick last week and it featured the Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators – game from last Thursday from Music City.
I took the Predators to win that one in regulation, something that indeed took place at -115 odds. The Preds handily won that one by a score of 4-0, giving us another unit’s worth of profits and also got us back into positive territory on the season.
Season Record: 8-7
Now, let’s take a look at my lone free NHL pick for tonight’s nine-game NHL schedule, featuring the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins in a Metropolitan rivalry matchup from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.
Flyers vs. Penguins Betting Odds:
Over 6.5 (-110)
Under 6.5 (-110)
Flyers vs. Penguins NHL Pick
There are few rivalries more enjoyable from an entertainment perspective than the Battle of Pennsylvania as the Flyers and Penguins get together for the first time this season.
The Flyers saw their three-game winning streak snapped on Sunday against the Islanders, dropped a 5-3 decision after scoring at least four goals in each of their last three games. While they signed Kevin Hayes to add some much-needed talent down the middle, the Flyers also solidified their back end in the offseason by acquiring veterans Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun in separate deals, and while their defense has notably improved since finishing 29th in that department last season, their lack of goaltending has gotten them into trouble.
There isn’t a confirmed starter on the Flyers’ behalf at this point, however neither netminder is playing well at the moment. After back-to-back rough outings followed by a couple of games off, 21-year-old Carter Hart started Sunday’s game against the Islanders and went on to allow f1ive goals on just 14 shots, getting pulled midway through the second period, the second time of the last three games in which he’s received the hook. After a strong start to his season over the first three games, Hart has posted a horrid .721 Sv% over his last three starts in which he’s allowed 12 goals on only 43 shots.
Perhaps another putrid outing opens the door for presumed backup Brian Elliott to make his third start over the last four games. Elliott was solid in shutting out the Islanders on 19 shots in half a game’s worth on Sunday, but he also coughed up four goals in his latest start on Saturday against a low-scoring Blue Jackets club. His overall numbers on the season are still very good with a 2.28 GAA and .926 Sv% across four starts and six appearances, however I can’t help but think there’s a serious chance of regression in those numbers considering his .913 career save percentage.
After a slow start to the season, the Flyers’ offense has kicked into another gear. They’ve scored at least three goals in four straight games and in five of their last six. Their offense enters this one tied for seventh with 3.50 goals per game on the season while their 35.4 shots per game ranks second. Their top line of James van Riemsdyk, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek have seen their positive regression kick in of late, however there is still plenty of room for these guys to improve given their low shooting percentages compared to career norms.
On the Penguins’ side, they snapped a three-game losing streak on Saturday in Dallas with a clean 3-0 shutout of the punchless Stars. The win salvaged a road trip in which they lost the first two games to Florida and Tampa Bay, but they come back home tonight where they won two of three before departing for their road trip.
Despite injuries to some key offensive contributors in the early going, the Penguins rank 13th with 3.25 goals per game on the season. Evgeni Malkin, Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Bjugstad have all missed significant time to this point, however the good news is that Bjugstad is back in the lineup while Galchenyuk is likely for tonight’s contest after missing the past nine games. That’s two-thirds of their second line returning for this one which should give them an offensive jolt while lengthening their forward group at the very least.
The Penguins have been good defensively in allowing just 2.50 goals per game, good for seventh in the league and they’ve held teams to under 30 shots per game. That said, I wonder if there’s regression to be had. This is the same team that ranked 26th in team defense last season with a .913 Sv% from their goalies. This time, the save percentage is at .916 yet they’re allowing almost a full goal per game less than a season ago. I’m not ruling out a change in philosophy that’s seen them improve year over year, however with Jack Johnson and John Marino forming their bottom pair, it’s tough for me to see them preventing goals at this rate consistently moving forward.
The Penguins also haven’t confirmed a netminder for this one, but odds are it goes to Matt Murray who has started nine games this season and posted a real nice 2.33 GAA and .918 Sv% on the season. A fully-productive Murray would go a long way for Pittsburgh’s chances this season and he’s certainly off to a good start while his .918 Sv% is just one tick above his .917 career mark.
We’ve certainly seen some doozies between these two clubs before. Their playoff series in 2018 was filled with goals, although three of four meetings last season resulted in the under. That said, tonight I’m looking for the over. Both offenses have been good, and the Flyers’ has been especially good of late. The Penguins’ offense is healthier with key pieces back and taking on a Flyers team that hasn’t gotten much in terms of goaltending of late while their 24th-ranked save percentage of .891 could very well hurt them again tonight. I would guess Elliott starts, but I’m certainly okay with this talented and deeper Penguins offense to put pucks past the veteran in this one. Otherwise, they’re facing a sophomore netminder that has been torched of late and has next to zero confidence at the moment.
I love this rivalry, and for the first edition of the 2019-20 Battle of Pennsylvania I will be looking for a high-scoring affair and the over.