Usually, October is the highest scoring month in the NHL every season. Teams averaged 3.11 goals per game last year in October, which was well over the full season average of 3.02. Early in the season, we see goalies shake the rust off and teams get settled into their defensive roles and systems.
This year due to the pandemic, there was no hockey in October. The trend of early season scoring has not stopped as 60% of the games thus far through the first two nights have gone over the listed total.
On Friday’s five game NHL slate, I’m expecting an abundance of goals in these two match-ups in particular.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators
Toronto is a team that immediately should turn your attention towards the over. With offensive stars like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander, this team can score goals with the best of them. Their team defense leaves a lot to be desired.
It’s no surprise in their first game against the Montreal Canadiens, the game finished with a final score of 5-4 in favor of the Leafs. They scored plenty of goals and managed to beat one of the better goalies in the league five times. Despite this, they still conceded four goals to Montreal, a team notoriously known the past few seasons for struggling to score and take advantage of their offensive zone time.
Despite having more of the possession in their opening game, Toronto still allowed nine high danger chances to Montreal. Their defense breaks down much more than their coach, Sheldon Keefe, would like. In addition, goaltender Frederik Andersen is extremely hot and cold. He’s prone to bad games and giving up weak goals.
Toronto’s opponent in this game will be the Ottawa Senators, who will be taking the ice for the first time. I’m very intrigued by some of the young players on Ottawa’s roster and by some of their offseason acquisitions.
The biggest new name in Ottawa is Tim Stutzle. The German forward was the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and he is coming off a World Juniors tournament where he impressed the whole world, scoring 6 goals and 13 points in 8 games.
Joining Stutzle up front will be fellow youngster Josh Norris. Norris is a former first round pick in 2017 who scored 61 points in 56 games last season in the AHL. Stutzle and Norris will join players like Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson and Connor Brown who have already made an impact in the NHL.
Ottawa’s biggest move in the offseason was signing Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov is a supremely talented player who has put up 81 goals and 182 points over the past three seasons for the Florida Panthers. Also joining Dadonov will be Derek Stepan and Alex Galchenyuk, two players who have had successful seasons in the NHL throughout their careers.
Matt Murray was acquired by the Senators to be their new goalie. Murray is best known for winning two Stanley Cups for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his career has not progressed as he would have hoped. Last season, he was the 6th worst goalie in the league in terms of goals saved above expectation.
I’m high on the potential of the Senators offense, but I don’t trust their goaltending. I can say the same thing about the Maple Leafs. I think both teams will score three goals in this game at the very least, meaning the game should go over the total of 6.5
The Bet: Over 6.5 goals (-120)
Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres
One of the cool new things about this NHL season is that teams will play each other in two or three game series often throughout the year. We saw Washington beat Buffalo by a score of 6-4 on Thursday night, and the two teams will run it back on Friday night with less than 24 hours to rest and recover.
The first game between these two teams went over the total by a significant margin, and I think there’s potential for even more goals in the rematch on Friday night.
Washington is one of the most feared offenses in the league and they showed why on Thursday night. With a top 6 forward group consisting of Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, TJ Oshie, Tom Wilson, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jakub Vrana, there will never be a shortage of goals. The team also has arguably the best offensive defenseman in the league in John Carlson.
Buffalo made tremendous improvements to their offensive unit this offseason. The Sabres signed arguably the top free agent on the market when they inked Taylor Hall to a one year contract. In addition, they traded for Eric Staal who is a very good 2nd line center behind Jack Eichel.
The aforementioned Eichel is one of the best players in the game. Joining Hall, Staal and Eichel is youngster Victor Olofsson who is coming off a big year. Jeff Skinner is a guy who has scored 40 goals in this league but struggled in his first year in Buffalo. It wouldn’t be shocking at all if he bounced back. Sam Reinhart has been a consistent producer for the Sabres too.
Buffalo’s big issue reared its ugly head again on Thursday night when their goaltender Carter Hutton was beaten five times on just 27 shots. The team will likely turn the crease to Linus Ullmark on Friday who should offer more upside but is far from a star goaltender.
In the other crease, Ilya Samsonov played the opener for Washington which likely means rookie Vitek Vanecek will make his NHL debut on Friday night. We have no idea what to expect from Vanacek at the NHL level. He’s had a solid but unspectacular career in the minor leagues.
Let’s recap. We just saw these teams combine for ten goals on Thursday night. They will now play again on Friday night, more tired and therefore prone to make more defensive mistakes.In the opener, neither Jack Eichel nor Alex Ovechkin, two of the most feared goal scorers in the sport, scored a goal. Washington will likely start a rookie in his first NHL game.
I hate overthinking bets, and with these two teams and their wide open offensive styles, I’m loving the over again.
The Bet: Over 6 goals (-109)
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NHL Expert Picks
Maples Leafs vs Senators - Over 6.5 goals (-120)
Capitals vs Sabres - Over 6 goals (-109)
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