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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:51 AM

Best Bets, Score Predictions for Thursday Feb. 18

NHL Daily Free Picks & Predictions NHL expert Matt Blunt provides his score predictions and best bets for two NHL games on Thursday Feb. 18, 2021.

New York Rangers vs. Philadelphia Flyers

  • Money-Line Odds: New York +102; Philadelphia -121
  • Total (Over-Under): 6

Score Prediction: NY Rangers 4 Philadelphia 2

Best Bet: Rangers ML

The Flyers are the next team to return from a protocol shutdown, and that spot has not been kind to recent teams in that role. Colorado returned from a long layoff and lost via a shutout, and Minnesota suffered the same fate the other night in L.A.

Buffalo lost their return game 3-1 with that one goal being the only one they scored in their first two games back. The lone recent returnee to win their first game back was the New Jersey Devils. They just so happened to beat this N.Y. Rangers team, 5-2.

That's not to say the Rangers took the Devils a little lightly in that spot, whether they did or not doesn't really matter a whole lot at this point. It does suggest that they won't be doing the same thing against a returning Flyers squad who had their pause come after scoring seven times in a win against Washington.

Breaks come at good and bad times for teams throughout the course of the season, and even though that win did snap a two-game losing streak for Philadelphia, outside of one loss to Buffalo, the Flyers had beaten everyone they played not named Boston this entire year. They get their first date with the Rangers after the layoff and a Rangers team desperate to snap their own four-game losing streak.

Teams and scenarios could be reversed (Rangers as home favorites off long shutdown) and I'd still prefer the spot for the underdog. The Flyers have “Game 5” with Boston (0-4 SU vs Boston) up next as well. Might be a case where the unwritten goal for Philadelphia tonight is to get their legs under them before the Bruins game.

Philly's taken notice of how tough it's been for other teams coming back from these pauses. The reaction time to the speed of the game takes some adjusting too. Not that you ever want to lose a game in this league, but the result probably means more immediately to the Rangers, and given the other aspects in New York's favor (playing hockey recently), New York's a very live underdog in this game.

Los Angeles Kings vs. Arizona Coyotes

  • Money-Line Odds: L.A. +138, Arizona -159
  • Total (Over-Under): 5.5

Score Prediction: Los Angeles 4 Arizona 2

Best Bet: Kings ML

Any time one of these California teams in the Western Division is out on the road against anyone not names Colorado or Las Vegas, the first inclination is to try and figure out if they are worth backing as an underdog.

The bottom half of this division could be thrown out of a grab bag at the end of the year to determine the standings and I wouldn't be surprised by any result. So then it's all about picking your opportunities when the price and situation line up, and the argument for the Kings and against Arizona can hold up for the Sharks as +170 underdogs against the Blues as well.

The price does seem a little out of whack for a Coyotes team you never really know how they'll react after basically playing a seven-game series with St. Louis. There is really no other precedent for something like that in the regular season, and the only time it does happen (playoffs), there is no next game where the result doesn't matter much.

Half the time Game 1's of a new playoff series need that feeling out process for most of them is because the reactions and thought processes have been so focused on doing things a certain way for that specific opponent previously that asking them to be at their best against someone new right away is tough.

Works against St. Louis and Arizona tonight, but going against the Coyotes feels like the better option because this Kings team can score more than the respect they get for it. They are a team that's upped the tempo quite a bit this season as it's showing in bigger numbers in both xGF/60 and xGA/60.

We can't rule out the possibility that the Kings may have figured out some defensive issues either, as they've had a shutout of Minnesota on Tuesday and held San Jose to just two goals in the game before that. With part of the play being in thinking Arizona isn't going to be at there best as they deprogram themselves from playing the Blues, defensive worries from the Kings weren't that big of a concern to begin with.

A split on the night from fading St Louis and Arizona as home favorites ultimately turns a profit if they do indeed have a tough time after that unique regular season run of games. The Kings are set up better to be the ones to get the win more times than not in that eventual outcome as they push this winning streak to three games.

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