Tom Gable, Director of Race & Sports at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, provides our readers with insider tips and strategies for making the most of their sports betting ventures. This week, Tom is introducing us to the 2021 NHL season and the teams & challenges to watch for.
The NHL has started their new season (after finishing up their last one over the summer in a “bubble”) with the effects of COVID still playing a part in professional sports leagues’ schedules. The NHL has shortened their regular season to 56 games and realigned divisions to cut down on travel for teams. In this column we will take a quick look at some of the new division favorites and where you might find some value. The other important thing to remember if you are looking to wager on individual games throughout the season, there will be a number of times that teams play each other back to back, so you will be seeing more reserve goaltenders getting action and starting games. Keep that in mind when you are handicapping games and make sure you know who the starting goaltenders are before wagering. Think of it as betting a baseball game without knowing who the starting pitcher is. You wouldn’t do that, so this is just as important when wagering on hockey games. Also due to the division realignment, teams will be playing each other more frequently and will not get the opportunity to play some teams at all.
The North Division (the “all Canada” division): The Toronto Maple Leafs are the current favorites to win the North at +135 but I believe there is some value on the Montreal Canadians at +300. They have made some key additions offensively in Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli and also added Jake Allen as a back-up goaltender to Carey Price.
The East Division: The current favorites to win the East are the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers both at +250, with the Pittsburgh Penguins at +500. While the Penguins will go through hot stretches during the season, I’m not sure they have enough to really contend for the division title. The Flyers really didn’t change much in their make-up over the break after getting eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Islanders. Having another year of experience for goaltender Carter Hart, should be helpful to the team. Even though they are favored with the Bruins and got off to a good start, I would still consider them a dark horse win in the division. The Bruins lost two key players in Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, so if you are looking for some value currently, you may want to take a shot on the Islanders at +800.
The Central Division: The defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are unsurprisingly the favorite to win the Central Division at +115. The Carolina Hurricanes are next at +325 but I don’t see the Lightning having too much trouble securing this division. Carolina and the Dallas Stars are playoff-worthy teams. If you are interested in the Stars, they are currently at +550 to win the Central.
The West Division: This will be an interesting division to watch as three teams have a shot to win it. The Colorado Avalanche are certainly one of the best teams in hockey and are the current favorite at +150 to win the West. However, the Vegas Golden Knights are going to give them a run for their money and are a short second favorite at +175. It is not a stretch to say that either of these teams are capable of making it to the Stanley Cup Finals. The St. Louis Blues may be able to test both the Knights and the Avalanche. They picked up Torey Krug after losing Alex Pietrangelo and are currently sitting at +450 to win the division.