We should have a very close game on our hands Saturday night when the Nashville Predators host the San Jose Sharks. But the Preds might be overvalued on our NHL odds board.
Free NHL Pick: San Jose +106
Best Line Offered: at Heritage
Jason's 2015-16 record as of Feb. 5: 1-1 ATS (–0.85 units), 0-3 ML (–3.12 units), 0-0-2 Totals (0.00 units)
Remember when the San Jose Sharks were one of the best teams in the NHL? It's been five years already since the Sharks last won their division, and they never made it into the Stanley Cup Final, so if you remember them at all, you probably remember them as choke artists. Hockey is a cruel game.
The Sharks are on the right path, though. After a down year in 2014-15, they're back in playoff contention under new head coach Peter DeBoer, sitting in second place in the Pacific at 27-19-4. They'll visit the Nashville Predators (24-20-8) this Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern; as we go to press, San Jose is hanging around the +100 level on our NHL odds board. Seems like a decent bargain to us here at the home office.
Back to School
Since it's 2016 now, let's go straight to the advanced stats to establish our baseline. Hockey-Reference has San Jose at +0.26 on the Simple Rating System, with Nashville trailing at –0.17 SRS. That's a difference of... let's see, carry the one... 0.43 goals on neutral ice. How many goals is home-ice advantage worth in the NHL?
Let's ask some stat nerds. In 2014, professor Tim B. Swartz and student Adriano Arce at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia (home of the Clan) published New Insights Involving the Home Team Advantage. They crunched the numbers and found that, in 2012, home-ice in the NHL was worth 0.30 goals – out of a total of 5.5 goals. Scoring's gone down a bit since then, and if the trends still hold true, so has home-ice advantage. Excellent.
Pekka Pickled Peppers
Naturally, we have to see who's in goal before we can pounce on that potential profit margin. According to Left Wing Lock, it looks like it'll be the usual No. 1 netminders: Martin Jones (.915 save percentage) for the Sharks and Pekka Rinne (.903 SV%) for the Predators. Works for us.
What about injuries? San Jose doesn't have any players on the injured list; Nashville has three, and it's their top three left wingers. Colin Wilson (LBI), Eric Nystrom (foot) and Gabriel Bourque (undisclosed) are all on injured reserve, although Wilson and Bourque have been skating with the team and could return before too long.
Seems like a decent enough spot to put the Sharks in our NHL picks. We're not super-stoked about it, though: They've dropped five straight games in Nashville. But this is hockey, where goals are hard to come by and variance is steep. We'll stick with what we've got this time, and may the cylinder be with you.