NHL Best Bets, Score Predictions for Friday Apr. 23
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VegasInsider.com NHL expert Matt Blunt provides his score predictions and best bets for one NHL game on Friday, Apr. 23, 2021.
Minnesota Wild vs Los Angeles Kings
- Money-Line Odds: Minnesota -155; Los Angeles +132
- Total (Over-Under): 5.5
Score Prediction: Minnesota 4 Los Angeles 3
Best Bet: Over 5.5
The Wild are kind of stuck in this no man's land spot in the Western Division right now. Minnesota's assured a Top 3 spot in the division, have an outside shot at 2nd place and home ice in the first round, could finish first if they really got things to break their way, but in all likelihood will finish 3rd and visit whichever of Colorado or Vegas that doesn't win the division in the first round of the playoffs.
Meaning it puts the Wild in this odd spot in their season right now where they've still got a shot at improving so they might as well try to pile up the wins, because they can't fall any further in the end.
The only thing I think you can consistently expect from teams that have been in a similar position in previous years is to play fast and loose more often than not. Teams might as well try to make sure they've got their offense humming going into the playoffs knowing/assuming they can always clamp things down to some degree in those elimination games.
Minnesota's played great on both ends during this five-game winning streak they are currently riding, as they've scored 4+ goals in all but one of those wins, and haven't allowed more than two against in any game.
There is enough trust in the offense to keep things going for the Wild tonight, as the Kings are still one of the worst teams in the league in giving up goals (3.17 xGA/60 ranking 30th in league).
At the same time, I'm not sure I believe the Wild are a good enough team to keep rolling through these weaker rivals like they are during this winning streak (all five wins have come against either San Jose or Arizona) without at least a bit more adversity. Four of Minneosta's five wins during this run have come by three goals, as they've become quite adept at putting the hammer down when it's needed.
Yet, they still got bailed out by G Cam Talbot in that 4-1 win over Arizona in their last outing, as the Coyotes directed 40 shots at Minnesota's net, only to see Talbot turn 39 of them way. Be that loose in their own end against a Kings team that ranks much better in xGF/60 than Arizona does (2.71 vs 2.45), and LA will be just fine in terms of carrying their own weight for this 'over' play.
Minnesota's on a 6-3 O/U run as they've settled into that 3rd spot in the division, and they haven't been a team that puts together consecutive 'unders' too often these past six weeks. Since February 20th, Minnesota's gone 19-13 O/U overall, with just two streaks of three consecutive games staying 'under', and one other streak of two consecutive games staying 'under.'
So looking to go 'over' on a Wild game when they are coming off an 'under' has not been a bad option blind for some time now as it is.
With the Kings still having their own fighting chance at squeaking into the playoffs – trailing by five points with multiple games in hand – the idea that both sides will be out there playing a more freewheeling game only aids to any potential 'over' outcome. LA's got to make a push for the playoffs, and Minnesota's got to push for 1st place if it becomes available.
The head-to-head series is 4-3 O/U already this year, but the eventual winner in six of those games finished with at least three goals. The last meeting was a 4-3 win in OT for the Wild, and getting three goals from each side and letting the chips fall from there is how I expect to see this game play out.
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