The 2021-22 NHL season is underway with the Tampa Bay Lightning going for a three-peat and a host of teams aiming to topple the two-time Stanley Cup winners. This weekend’s schedule has thrown up several fascinating match-ups and some great hockey betting opportunities.
Boston Bruins are rated in the upper echelons of the Stanley Cup betting and with that in mind, they will want to build momentum at the start of the campaign, beginning with this home tie at TD Garden against opponents who missed out on the play-offs last time around.
Having made the Finals in 2020, last season was a bitter disappointment and this could be the last chance for many of this group to shine together before they are broken up in the free agency. Predicting how Dallas will go from one game to the next is a tricky proposition but the stats are clearly in Boston’s favor. The Bruins have won 7 out of their last 10 against these rivals, and although they may find it hard to replace the offensive power of David Krejci, their opponents have bigger personnel problems.
Alexander Radulov may be back but there are question marks about Blake Comeau, Ben Bishop, and Jani Hakanpaa while Jason Robertson is out indefinitely. It is likely we won’t see the best of Dallas here, and a Boston win looks like a safe bet.
The return of Jonathan Toews is huge for Chicago, and his presence will add offensive dynamism and experience, while there is every chance that Marc-Andre Fleury will tighten things up in defense for the Blackhawks. Their strength in depth is likely to be their biggest problem, but in this case, they will be up against a team they have enjoyed playing in the past.
The Blackhawks have won 9 of their last 10 against the Penguins, an impressive record, considering that last season Pittsburgh reached the play-offs, while Chicago fell short.
The Penguins have shown they have the ability to defy their critics and to dig deep when it is required, but they clearly struggle against these opponents and if their Penalty Kill unit performs as poorly as it did last season, they will find life tough in these early weeks of the season. The home team will have extra days rest ahead of this game, but that shouldn’t be a significant factor at this point in the season and I’m siding with Chicago to grab a statement-making win here.
The 2018 Stanley Cup winners take on the 2019 and 2020 champions at the Capital One Arena but it is hard to escape the impression that the Capitals may still be on the downgrade while the defending champions are gearing up for a historic campaign.
Washington will be hoping to see the best of Evgeny Kuznetsov this time around, after a year to forget, and Anthony Mantha can build on a promising 14-game spell last season, but with their leading offensive trio all in their mid-30s, the Capitals may not be able to sustain a prolonged challenge this time.
Similar doubts have been expressed in some quarters about the Lightning, given that their two Stanley Cup wins were achieved in shortened seasons, and the losses of Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow are significant, even if they appear to have done a good job of strengthening the roster, and it will be fascinating to watch them attempt the threepeat.
In the short term, however, they are likely to be over-bet and that presents us with a possible opportunity here. The Capitals have a good record against Tampa Bay. They’ve won 6 of their last 10 meetings, and have averaged 35 shots per game, to the Lightning’s 27. The reigning champions will probably have the better season, but Washington look a good bet to grab a win here.
How well they cope with the loss of Dougie Hamilton will be a key factor in the Hurricanes’ fate this season, and they need to ensure that their Powerplay strength does not fall away in his absence. They will also be hoping that Andrei Svechnikov finally starts to deliver on his immense potential.
Carolina’s off-season restructuring has focused heavily on defense and if it works, we could see the Hurricanes going further than the Second Round this time, given that their offense remains strong.
That is reflected in the head-to-head stats against the Predators. Carolina have out-shot Nashville by an impressive 38-31 shot per game average over their last 10 meetings, winning six of them. If the Predators are going to improve this season, that gap is something that they need to close, but they will be reliant on younger players stepping up and that is a long-term project. Saturday’s game will be a good test of where they are, but for now, Carolina look a safer bet.
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