Last week we started the NHL regular season with two games in Prague and tonight the NHL season starts off in the US with a solid doubleheader. I went 1-1 on those early games, let’s crush these and continue onto another successful season.
Rangers vs. Lightning (7:30)
Tonight’s game to kick off gives us a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals with the Lightning traveling to Madison Square Garden to face off against the Rangers, who they beat last season in six games. The Rangers went up 2-0 at home in that series but the Bolts didn’t look back rattling off four wins in a row to advance to their third straight Stanley Cup Finals. After back to back seasons of winning the Stanley Cup, the Lightning ultimately fell short of the three-peat as the Colorado Avalanche went onto lift Lord Stanley in six games. In the regular season last year, Tampa went 51-23-8, finishing in third place in the Atlantic Division. They knocked off the Leafs in seven games in the first round, swept the Panthers in the battle of Florida in the second round, beat the Rags in six games and then lost the Cup in six. Playing that much hockey in a three year span takes its toll on a team but the way this roster is built, they have longevity and potential for success with the best coach in the NHL behind the bench in Jon Cooper. In the regular season, the Bolts had the seventh highest scoring offense in the league, averaging 3.48 goals per game with the third best shooting percentage in the league (11.2%). They were very good on the back end as well, lead by one of the best goalies in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.49 GAA, .916 save percentage), the Lightning allowed an average of 2.78 goals per game, sixth fewest in the league. Their power play was eighth in the league in efficiency, scoring on 23.9% of their opportunities and they had the eleventh best penalty kill unit, killing off 80.6% of their penalties. Tampa has been in salary cap hell the last several years and in the offseason they inevitably lost two key players in forward Ondrej Palat, who had 49 points last season and defenseman Ryan McDonagh, who lead their penalty kill last season. The Rangers were a surprising team to many last year making a hell of a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, inevitably losing to the Lightning in six games after having a 2-0 series lead and a 2-0 lead in Game 3. They got a bit lucky and in the first round beat the Penguins in a crazy seven game series, then defeated the Hurricanes in seven games in round two. In the regular season, New York finished with a 52-24-6 record, coming in second in the Metropolitan Division. They were one of the best defensive teams in the league, allowing a second fewest in the NHL average of just 2.49 goals per game. Vezina winner Igor Shesterkin lead the NHL last season with an incredible 2.07 GAA and .935 save percentage. They had the seventh best penalty kill in the league, killing off 82.3% of their penalties. Offensively the Rags weren’t fantastic, averaging 3.05 goals per game but their power play was very good, scoring on 25.2% of their chances, fourth most in the NHL. The Rangers made a huge signing in the offseason, acquiring Vinny Trocheck along with Ryan Carpenter and they. added Jaroslav Halak to backup Igor. They lost second line center Ryan Strome, Frank Vatrano, Andrew Copp, Tyler Motte, Kevin Rooney and backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev. I’d lean the Rangers open the season with a big revenge win at home tonight but not enough to bet on it in a game that should be pretty much a coin flip. This matchup lines up two of the best goalies in the NHL and in their playoff series, the total stayed under 5.5 in every game of that series besides Game 1 where the Rangers won 6-2. I’ll ride the alternate under 6 in this game for half a unit (I used a boost to get this price on DraftKings Sportsbook).
Kings vs. Golden Knights (10:00)
The Vegas Golden Knights were one of the biggest disappointments of last season for me, going from being my pick to win the Stanley Cup to missing the playoffs for the first time in their existence with a 43–31–8 record. They finished the season in fourth place in the Pacific Division and just one spot outside of the Wild Card in ninth place in the Western Conference after lots of injuries and losing runs last year. Vegas had the twelfth highest scoring offense in the league last year, averaging 3.2 goals per game while allowing an average of 2.98 goals per game. They had the eighth worst power play in the league, only capitalizing on 18.4% of their man up opportunities. Their kill wasn’t a whole lot better with a 77.4% efficiency. Kelly McCrimmon made some moves in the offseason that made no sense to me. He traded away superstar forward Max Pacioretty to Carolina for nothing to clear up cap space after already giving away goalie Marc-Andre Fleury at the trade deadline earlier in the year for nothing. In addition to that, it was announced that their remaining starting goalie, Robin Lehner will be out for the entire season after having surgery, so they’ll have to roll with Laurent Brossoit, Logan Thompson and the offseason addition of Adin Hill between the pipes. I’d expect Thompson to be the primary goalie, giving the young rookie time to shine. They hired Bruce Cassidy to be the new bench boss for the Knights and Jack Eichel will be fully healthy for his first time since being traded over from the Golden Knights. There’s a lot of question marks to what the Knights have become and I think Vegas ends up having another disappointing season this year and likely missing playoffs (although I do think the Eich Daddy ends up having a great season). Last season, the LA Kings went 44-27-11 making the playoffs in third place in a weak Pacific Division. They surprised me with how well they matched up with Edmonton in the first round, ultimately falling in seven games to McDavid, Draisaitl and their Oilers. LA was one of the best defensive teams in the NHL last season, allowing a seventh fewest in the league average of just 2.79 goals per game. The Kings allowed the second fewest shots on goal in the league last year, an average of only 28.59 shots per game, limiting scoring chances. Offensively they had issues finding the back of the net though, averaging just 2.84 goals per game, twelfth fewest in the NHL. Both of their special teams struggled with the sixth worst power play in the league at 16.1% and eleventh worst penalty kill with a 77.1% efficiency. LA made a huge splash in the offseason, adding forward Kevin Fiala who had an incredible 85 point season last year in Minnesota. They lost Andreas Athanasiou and Olli Maatta. I like the Kings to win tonight at home to open the season and will take them for half a unit along with half a unit on Jack Eichel over 3.5 shots on goal (I also considered the over .5 points prop but would rather roll with SOG.
.5u Rangers/Lightning under 6 (-118)
.5u Kings ML (-110)
.5u Jack Eichel over 3.5 shots (-110)
Record: 1-1 (-0.05 units)
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