For a short time, at least until the Super Bowl comes around next month, sports fans have a lot of choices to make. There is the NFL Divisional Round this weekend, the NBA games, NCAA basketball games and now a new addition to the list. The NHL season will see its first pucks drop today and everyone is hoping there won’t be a need to have the season postponed like last year because of COVID-19. There have already been some changes made, such as a 56-game season and realigned divisions, and it’s time to hit the ice.
Lightning Might Strike Twice
The 2020 Stanley Cup winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are going to look to get the season off on the right foot when they take on the Chicago Blackhawks tonight. Because they had such a good run last year and ultimately beat the Dallas Stars for the championship, they have four consecutive home games – two against the Blackhawks and then two against their Stanley Cup rivals. There will be a number of changes in the lineup, with Kevin Shattenkirk, Carter Verhaeghe, Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette finding new homes, and Nikita Kucherov out for the year due to a hip injury.
The Blackhawks didn’t have a great season last year and hope to turn things around now. They are going to run into trouble, as captain Jonathan Toews is still out and Kirby Dach won’t be available, either, due to a broken wrist. The Blackhawks picked up several new players in the short offseason, but they’ll need time to adjust. That’s why the Lightning are getting -152 on Unibet, compared to +310 for the Blackhawks.
Leafs Favored Against Montreal
The Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs face each other tonight and have Carey Price protecting the net. Last season, he proved to be too much for the Leafs, with a 3-0-0 record against the team, and is going to look to get things started on the same path tonight. At the other end of the ice will be Frederik Andersen, who’s coming into the final year of his contract with Toronto and will be looking to impress anyone watching.
Montreal has had an outstanding performance against Toronto lately, but they always seem to run into trouble in away games. They’ve only won one out of five on the road against the Leafs, which oddsmakers believe could continue now. The Leafs are getting -145 and the Over/Under of 6.5 (+100) seems a little unrealistic.
The Philadelphia Flyers and the Pittsburgh Penguins always put on a good show, so it will be interesting to see how they do tonight. Pittsburgh is putting Tristan Jarry in front of the net after Matt Murray left in the offseason and he has big skates to fill. At the opposite end, Carter Hart is expected to shine for the Flyers and build on his previous successes.
The Penguins beat the Flyers two of the three games these two teams played last year, but that most likely won’t happen now. Philadelphia is getting -115 and 1.5 points at +225, which seems like a no-brainer. The Over/Under of 6 (-110) seems high, especially given the truncated offseason and short training camps.
Avalanche Start As Stanley Cup Favorites
The Colorado Avalanche are getting the new season off on the right foot, picking up a lot of action to take the Stanley Cup this year. They meet the St. Louis Blues tonight to see if that prediction is valid, and Philipp Grubauer will do what he can to support it. He’ll be back as goalie again and will also be able to count on Pavel Francouz if he gets in a pinch. Jordan Binnington will be in the net for the Blues and is looking for a chance to redeem himself from last year’s subpar performance.
The Avalanche are getting -145 tonight, but the +120 Blues might be the better choice. The Blues have a lot of talent and a recent Stanley Cup under their belt, and could be a surprise in this game. The Over/Under of 5.5 (-120) is a good option for an extra wager, with this game almost certainly going over.