Wednesday will mark one week since the NHL season began, and we’ve already experienced some great games, big comebacks and bad beats. The league has a five game slate on Wednesday and two bets in particular stand out.
When the NHL announced that they would be forming an all-Canadian division, one of the first thoughts that came to my mind was how exciting it’ll be to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs and Edmonton Oilers face-off nine times.
These teams are basically clones of each other in more ways than one. Both teams have high flying offenses, questionable defenses and question marks in between the pipes. Both teams have severely underperformed media and fan expectations and NHL fans love mocking the failures of both teams.
Some of the best young players in the sport will go against each other in this game. Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner lead the Maple Leafs, while the Oilers have the dynamic duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Players like John Tavares, Morgan Rielly, Joe Thornton, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Tyson Barrie and Kailer Yamamoto are also good players in this league.
These two teams faced off twice last year, and the teams combined for 15 goals in two games. However, coming into this game the Edmonton Oilers are struggling to score. They’ve scored just two goals in their last two games. With the aforementioned superstars on the team, it’s shocking to see them not being able to score.
Thankfully, it just seems they are a little snake-bitten. When you look under the hood, the Oilers rank fourth in expected goals per game according to Natural Stat Trick. You can’t expect players like McDavid and Draisaitl to stay cold for long. There’s a saying in hockey that you should only worry if you aren’t getting chances. Edmonton is getting their chances.
In goal, both of these teams have question marks. Since Frederik Andersen joined the Leafs, there’s been a wide-ranging debate as to whether he had what it takes to lead the Leafs to a Stanley Cup. The goalie is inconsistent. Some nights he looks unbeatable while other nights he struggles to make saves. Over the second-half of last season, Andersen struggled and Leafs fans began to put heat on their goalie. It’ll be interesting to see how Andersen handles the heat.
For the Oilers, the team lost backup goaltender Mike Smith to injury. They’ll be leaning on Mikko Koskinen to carry the load. Koskinen has been an average goalie the past few years, but he has never been asked to lead a team without the support of a good backup goalie. It’ll be interesting to see if he can handle the increased responsibility.
In this game, I think Edmonton breaks out of their scoring slump and I can see the superstars on this team trading goals all night long.
The Bet: Over 6.5 Goals @ -120
The San Jose Sharks knew they needed to improve their goaltending after their disastrous 2019-20 season. For reasons unknown to me, they decided that the answer to their problems was Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk was a very good goalie for Minnesota a few seasons ago, but over the past few years he has declined. He hit rock bottom last year where he posted an .890 save percentage and was a bottom tier goalie in terms of goals saved above expectation. He cost Minnesota many points and was the main reason they struggled to keep the puck out of the net.
San Jose probably thought that Dubnyk just had an off-season, but at the age of 34, the trend is concerning. I think there’s a very good chance Dubnyk’s best days are behind him and the Sharks acquired a declining goalie.
Speaking of declining goalies, San Jose’s other goalie is Martin Jones. Jones led the Sharks to the Cup Finals in 2016 and many thought he had a future as an elite goalie in this league. Jones has now gone over two seasons since he had a save percentage above .900. Goalies with save percentages below 90% are basically writing themselves tickets out of the league. It’s not a one year thing with Jones now either as he hasn’t had over a .900 save percentage since 2018. He’s barely an NHL goalie at this point.
San Jose might be able to survive poor goaltending if the team played good defense in front of their netminders. Unfortunately, the beginning of this season has been anything but that. San Jose ranks dead last in expected goals against per 60 minutes at 5v5 in the early part of this season. Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson might be stars on defense for San Jose, but they are more known for their offensive ability.
St. Louis might not have a barnburner of an offense, but they scored five goals against the Sharks on Monday. Players like Ryan O’Reilly, David Perron, Brayden Schenn, Mike Hoffman and Jaden Schwartz are solid top-six players. They don’t have that surefire superstar with Vladimir Tarasenko on injured reserve, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I think the Blues put up a crooked number against the Sharks who can’t limit opponents chances and can’t get saves here in the early part of the season.
The Bet: St. Louis Team Total over 3.5 @ +107
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Expert NHL Picks
Oilers at Maple Leafs - Over 6.5 Goals @ -120
Sharks at Blues - St. Louis Team Total over 3.5 @ +107
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