Entering Monday’s NHL slate of games, there are a couple interesting early season trends developing, although it would be beneficial to take these results with a grain of salt since we are still just less than a week into the season and the sample size is rather small.
I was among many who assumed home ice would be devalued this season due to lack of fans but home teams have started the season with an impressive 22-10 69% record in the first five days of the season. The majority of games have been high scoring as well as the over has cashed at a 19-13 59% clip so far. Favorites and underdogs have cashed an equal 16 times this season in the first 32 games of the regular season which indicates the long-established rule of thumb in the NHL that it’s worth it to pick your spots and back underdogs when it is reasonable to do so.
Let’s take a look at a very busy Monday NHL card in which I have placed a handful of wagers.
Boston Bruins @ New York Islanders
The Boston Bruins split a pair of games against the New Jersey Devils and both went beyond regulation to be decided. Boston won in a shootout 3-2 on Thursday but lost the rematch 2-1 in overtime on Saturday. Boston’s offense has struggled to find the back of the net which isn’t surprising since the Bruins are without David Pastrnak to start the season and still have problems getting production from the rest of their lineup beyond the top line. The defense is undergoing some change as well with Zdeno Chara in Washington and Torey Krug signing with St. Louis in the offseason and that blue line is a work in progress too.
The New York Islanders were involved in a pair of shutouts against the rival New York Rangers–one in which they were victorious on Thursday and then one in which they were the victim on Saturday. The latter being a game that was a very bad performance all around from the Islanders. They were in the penalty box most of the night which prohibited them from getting any rhythm in their game at even strength.
The Islanders also coughed the puck up a ton with four of their turnovers resulting in multiple goals for the NY Rangers and that is something that head coach Barry Trotz mentioned in the postgame press conference. Trotz was critical of his top line center Mathew Barzal who took three offensive zone penalties in the 4-0 loss to the NY Rangers on Saturday saying “That can’t happen. That’s a sin to me.” The NY Islanders had a strange incident occur before the game on Saturday as their #1 goaltender Semyon Varlamov was injured in the pregame warmups when he took a puck up high to the face and couldn’t start in the game. His status for Monday’s game is still unknown and if he can’t play once again, Ilya Sorokin will get his second straight start in net for the Islanders after making his NHL debut on Saturday.
I expect to see a much better performance from the Islanders here and like the price of them as home underdogs and it’s worth noting home dogs are 10-4 71% this season. Mathew Barzal to score a goal is a prop to look at as well in this game as I often look for top players to play better after a bad game by them and their team.
NY Islanders +110
Mathew Barzal to score a goal
San Jose Sharks @ St. Louis Blues
I successfully bet against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday as they dropped a 5-3 decision to the Arizona Coyotes. Many of the flaws and problems I saw in this Sharks team entering this season were on full display, in particular their defense and goaltending which rank among the worst of any team in the NHL. The Sharks are already down near the bottom at 27th in the NHL in high danger chances allowed after their first two games against the Coyotes and what makes that a scary ranking for San Jose fans is that Arizona is far from a potent offensive juggernaut.
San Jose’s power play has kept their offense afloat as the Sharks connected for 3 power play goals in the two games against Arizona out of the 7 goals they have scored altogether so far. San Jose has been able to find the back of the net and they might have to score with regularity to mask a subpar defense and a very weak goaltending tandem of Martin Jones and Devan Dubnyk.
The Sharks will have to face what should be a very focused, motivated and superior St. Louis Blues squad playing for the first time since being on the wrong end of an ugly and embarrassing 8-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night. It was one of those nights for the Blues where nothing went right. They were not good at even strength and even worse on special teams where they went 0-for-4 on the power play and surrendered a staggering 5 power play goals to Colorado.
St. Louis head coach Craig Berube is tinkering with his lines and power play units following the 8-0 defeat on Friday so I would expect them to throw a different look at the Sharks in terms of both their line combinations and power play groups. Mike Hoffman made his Blues debut on Friday but the benefit of a very hard practice orchestrated by Berube on Sunday should lead to him being more comfortable and fluid on the ice for this game on Monday night.
St. Louis has owned this series recently going 5-0 in the last 5 head-to-head meetings against San Jose. I think we will see more of the same here. I’m on the Blues and I’m going to split this wager between St. Louis in regulation and St. Louis on the puck line.
St. Louis In Regulation -135
St. Louis PL -1.5 +135
Carolina Hurricanes @ Nashville Predators
The Nashville Predators saw their season fall apart last year and suffered an early playoff exit in the process. They have gotten off to a solid start to the season in their attempt to bounce back as they swept a pair of games against the Columbus Blue Jackets to start the season at 2-0. After two games, the Predators have had 15 players on the scoring sheet with at least a goal or an assist showing a great amount of balance in scoring production throughout the lineup. Nashville has also tried to re-establish their defensive foundation which declined last season. So far, so good as the Predators surrendered just 3 goals on 74 shots in the two wins against the Blue Jackets backstopped both times by Juuse Saros who the team is hoping takes a big step forward as legitimate #1 goalie in the NHL.
Carolina split their two games with the bottom feeder Detroit Red Wings who were the worst team in the NHL by a mile last season. The Saturday night game which was a 4-2 loss to Detroit was one littered with defensive breakdowns and miscues by Carolina and head coach Rod Brind’Amour said his team was guilty of not showing up for over half the game as was quoted as saying postgame: “I didn’t know what I was watching for the first two periods. We gave away 40 minutes. You can’t do that in this league.”.
The Canes were without captain Jordan Staal who was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list prior to the game on Saturday and it is unlikely that he will play in this game. I think Carolina despite losing Staal will have a much more concerted and stronger 60 minute effort in this game. Nashville’s 2-0 record might be somewhat phony as it’s worth noting they allowed more scoring chances than scoring chances generated in their two games against Columbus and the Hurricanes should be a step up in competition for the Predators compared to the Blue Jackets.
Carolina is 7-1 against Nashville in the last 8 meetings including 4 straight wins over them here in Music City. Expect a similar result here.
Vancouver Canucks @ Calgary Flames
The Vancouver Canucks have found it difficult to get their offense going in their last two games, both of them losses following a season-opening victory against Edmonton. The Canucks power play has yet to score for them in 11 attempts but the power play and the offense, in general, is about to get a significant boost with the anticipated return of first-line center J.T. Miller to the lineup who is expected to make his season debut for the Canucks on Monday night. Miller tied for the team lead in goals and assists while leading them in points last season. He missed Vancouver’s first three games due to COVID-19 protocols. His return should make things better for his linemate Elias Pettersson who only has one point in three games.
The Canucks should also have defenseman Alex Edler in the lineup after he was forced to leave the game on Saturday due to injury. Vancouver’s 3-0 shutout loss to Calgary on Saturday was one that captain Bo Horvat said after the game was a situation where the Canucks didn’t show enough urgency: “We have to play like a desperate hockey team out there. It’s as close to the playoffs as you’re going to get, playing these mini-series. It’s going to be like that all year, and we have to be ready to respond here Monday night. You play every single game against a team in your division. All these points are important, and we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Calgary should be undefeated as they coughed up a 3-1 lead to Winnipeg in their season opener and lost 4-3 in overtime but the Flames bounced back in their win against the Canucks on Saturday night. The power play has been rolling so far with Calgary with four power play goals in nine attempts and will face a Vancouver team that has struggled on the penalty kill allowing five power play goals in their last two games. Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk all have two points in two games for Calgary and that’s a positive sign that the Flames best forwards are playing that way and making an impact offensively right now.
That being said, I like the spot for Vancouver following two straight losses and likely showing plenty of desperation here to avoid a third straight loss. You have to nip losing streaks in the bud in a shortened season like this one with nothing but divisional games and with them getting J.T. Miller back, I think we’ll see the Canucks play much better and also see their offense come to life.
Vancouver/Calgary Over 6 -110