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We are conditioned to never overreact to the very beginning of the season in any sport, and that especially applies in a sport like hockey where the schedule is a complete grind, playing 82 regular-season games over a 6-plus month span. Nevertheless, I found this stat interesting: Through the first week-plus of the season, last year's bottom six teams are 13-3-1. The final four teams in the playoffs from last year are 4-10.
I'm happy for Sabres fans, but I truly do not expect their good fortune to last. Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic put it bluntly:
after starting 3-0 the buffalo sabres playoff odds have moved up from 0.4 percent to 1.1 percent
— dom at the athletic (@domluszczyszyn) October 20, 2021
With that being said, the games still have to be played. Every game these teams play, we get a clearer picture of what they're all about. Thursday's 10-game slate will be a welcome sight. All betting odds are courtesy of BetMGM.
Dog of the day
Year to date record: 4-2-0
Year to date units: +2.65 units
This might seem hypocritical after talking about not overreacting to the first week of the season, but I'm fading the 0-4 Montreal Canadiens tonight. This isn't a full-on fade of Montreal, as I'm also a big fan of Carolina overall. Couple those two factors, and I'm backing Carolina on the puck-line (-1.5 goals) at +200.
Montreal has scored just three goals on the season. Key contributors such as Nick Suzuki, Brendan Gallagher, Tyler Toffoli, Mike Hoffman and Cole Caufield have yet to record a point through four games. Montreal is one of four teams yet to score a power play goal this season, despite the fact that they've played in more games than two-thirds of the league. Montreal is generating just seven high-danger chances per hour at 5-on-5, which ranks bottom three in the league.
Defensively, it hasn't been much better for Montreal. They rode their defensive structure to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but with starting goaltender Carey Price, No. 1 defenseman Shea Weber and shutdown center Philipp Danault all currently out of the picture, that has not transferred over to the new season. Montreal has given up 15 goals over their first four games.
On the other side, Carolina has won their first two games of the season, outscoring their opponents 9-5. They're generating over 3 expected goals per-hour at 5-on-5 through their first two games. Carolina can create offense and they have the firepower to score goals. I'm not sure Montreal can keep up.
With that being said, Montreal is at home and they need to win eventually. I could be walking into a trap here but I'll back Carolina to win the game at -120 and my dog of the day is Carolina -1.5 at +200.
Rest of the slate
The 10-game NHL slate is interesting as there aren't too many big favorites. I like some favorites that feel a little short to me.
NY Islanders @ Columbus: It hasn't been a great start to the season for the Isles, but they got their first win on Tuesday against Chicago. I don't expect much from the Jackets this season, so -140 seems like a fair price to lay on the Isles to even their record. Anders Lee should be back in the lineup for the Isles after he missed their previous game with an illness.
Colorado @ Florida: I'm all aboard the Panthers' bandwagon this season. I don't love fading Colorado, but they're expected to start their backup goalie. I'll take Florida at home, and lay the -125 juice.
Washington @ New Jersey: I think Washington is better than the Devils. New Jersey will be starting third-string goalie Scott Wedgewood. The Devils will also be without their best player in Jack Hughes, who separated his shoulder in their last game. I'll lay -125 with Washington on the road.
NY Rangers @ Nashville: Igor Shesterkin has been great to begin the year for the Rangers. New York's offense hasn't gotten going, but Artemi Panarin finally got on the board in overtime of their last game. I think New York is the better team, so I'll take them as a slight underdog at -105 vs. Nashville.
Here are the projected goaltending matchups for tonight's games, backup goaltenders are in bold:
Carolina Hurricanes (Frederik Andersen) vs. Montreal Canadiens (Jake Allen)
San Jose Sharks (James Reimer) vs. Ottawa Senators (Matt Murray)
Colorado Avalanche (Jonas Johansson) vs. Florida Panthers (Sergei Bobrovsky)
Washington Capitals (Unknown) vs. New Jersey Devils (Scott Wedgewood)
New York Islanders (Ilya Sorokin) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (Elvis Merzlikins)
Calgary Flames (Jacob Markstrom) vs. Detroit Red Wings (Alex Nedeljkovic)
New York Rangers (Igor Shesterkin) vs. Nashville Predators (Unknown)
Anaheim Ducks (John Gibson) vs. Winnipeg Jets (Connor Hellebuyck)
Vancouver Canucks (Thatcher Demko) vs. Chicago Blackhawks (Kevin Lankinen)
Edmonton Oilers (Mikko Koskinen) vs. Arizona Coyotes (Karel Vejmelka)