Monday’s are usually a slower day in the NHL circuit, but that’s not the case this week as the league will take advantage of the American holiday and give us a ten game slate that runs from noon eastern until 1AM.
Let’s take a look at the three plays that catch my eye:
I expect both the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators to have good seasons this year as they try to rebound from slightly disappointing seasons last year. Nashville made the Stanley Cup Final in 2017 and won their division in 2018 and 2019 but were eliminated in the qualifying round last season in the bubble. Carolina made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2019 before losing in the first round of the playoffs last year.
The line in this game implies that these two teams are basically even as home-ice advantage is basically non-existent in a world without fans. I disagree with that premise entirely.
Carolina has long been an analytical darling, finishing in the top seven of the league each of the last three seasons in terms of expected goal rate. In the past, the concern was the Hurricanes lack of high-end talent as well as shaky goaltending.
That may have been the case previously, but over the past few seasons Carolina has done a great job of shoring up these issues.
Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen all finished with over 60 points last year in just 68 games. This point production puts them at borderline elite levels. Svechnikov continues to grow in just his third season in the league as he becomes one of the better offensive players in the sport.
In goal, Petr Mrazek and James Reimer make up a formidable tandem. Both netminders finished with positive numbers in terms of goals saved above expectation last season. While neither goalie will be mistaken for a top-level elite NHL netminder, both were more than adequate for the Hurricanes. They’ve provided Carolina with their most consistent goaltending since the Cam Ward days.
Nashville comes into the game with a 2-0 record, but this early in the season it’s important to dig deeper and understand what’s going on under the hood. Through two games, Nashville has just 40.85% of the expected goals and under 40% of the high danger scoring chances.
Goalie Juuse Saros has been spectacular for the Predators, stopping 71 of 74 shots he’s faced thus far in the young season. If Nashville continues to play in their own zone like they did in the first two games, Saros will need to play at this level every night which doesn’t seem very sustainable.
I think both teams are improved and should be good teams this season, but I consider Carolina in a tier above the Predators and at basically a pick’em, I roll with the Hurricanes here.
The Bet: Carolina ML @ -111
These teams played on Saturday night and the Montreal Canadiens ended up winning the game by a score of 5-1. I recommended betting on over 6.5 goals in that game, and we lost by a half goal. Nothing that happened in that game did much to change my handicap.
These two teams are both young, fast, exciting teams. Montreal was a popular sleeper pick to make a run this season and I even recommended placing a Stanley Cup future bet on them at +3000 before the season. So far on the season, they’ve picked up 3 of 4 possible points and scored 9 goals in two games.
The Canadiens were one of the best puck possession teams in the league last year but they struggled to turn that into consistent offense. Fortunately for Montreal, their core youngsters are now a year older. Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi are both expected to take major step forwards this season which should improve the Canadiens offensive output.
In addition to the youngsters, Montreal bought in Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli, both players who have 20+ goal seasons under their belt in this league. When you combine these additions with the improvement from the rookies and the talent already on the roster such as Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher and Jonathan Drouin, these Canadiens are very capable of putting a crooked number on you as they have already shown this season.
Edmonton is led by arguably the two best players in the league. Connor McDavid is widely considered as the best player in the sport and has already scored a hat-trick this season. Leon Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy as league MVP last season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Kailer Yammamoto and Jesse Puljujarvi add high end depth to the roster.
I know Saturday’s game went under, but a lot of credit has to be given to Carey Price, the netminder for Montreal. Price had a spectacular game, stopping 34 of the 35 shots he faced. While Price is widely considered one of the better goalies in the league, I don’t think anybody expects him to have a repeat of that performance.
After the injury to Mike Smith, the Oilers goalie situation is in shambles. Smith was expected to split time with Mikko Koskinen, but that won’t happen now. I’m not convinced that Koskinen is anything more than an average 1B goalie; someone who needs his rest and will be exposed if he plays too many games.
Let’s run it back here and bet that this version of Canadiens vs. Oilers goes over 6.5 goals.
The Bet: Over 6.5 goals @ -105
When betting sports, primarily college sports, there’s value in handicapping a “spot.” How badly does a team need a game, are they looking ahead, are they due for a letdown, what’s the motivation level for each team?
This is a profitable way of evaluating games in college, but similar thinking applies in hockey. Let’s be honest: it’s a long grueling season and teams are due for let downs just like other sports.
I think in the game between the 2-0 Minnesota Wild and the 0-2 Anaheim Ducks, we need to look towards the winless Ducks.
It’s important to note what both of these teams have done thus far. In their opener, Anaheim was tied after two periods with the Vegas Golden Knights before losing the game in the third period. In the second game against the same opponent, Anaheim lost in overtime. On the flip side, Minnesota needed overtime in both of their games against the Los Angeles Kings to eek out two wins.
For those unfamiliar with hockey, the Golden Knights are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup and are amongst the best teams in the league. The Los Angeles Kings are not expected to do much of anything this season. Context matters. Anaheim lost two hard fought games against a great team while Minnesota squeezed past an inferior opponent twice.
Anaheim is a sneaky pick by some people to compete for a playoff spot in the NHL’s West Division. A lot of the hype for the Ducks comes from the belief in their goaltender John Gibson. Gibson had a rough season last year, but prior to that he was one of, if not the best, goalies in the league.
I think Anaheim will realize the importance of this game and the imperative nature of getting their first win. In a shortened season where teams will only play against their own division rivals, digging yourself into a big hole will be hard to overcome.
I think Minnesota is being slightly over-valued due to two overtime wins while I like what I saw from Anaheim, even if they lost both of their games.
Anaheim gets off the schneid on Monday night as a plus-money underdog.
The Pick: Anaheim ML @ +115
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NHL Expert Picks
Hurricans at Predators - Carolina ML @ -111
Canadiens at Oilers - Over 6.5 goals @ -105
Wild at Ducks - Anaheim ML @ +115
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