Home » News » Weekend Picks – Battle of Cup Contenders Highlight Busy Saturday in the NHL
Weekend Picks – Battle of Cup Contenders Highlight Busy Saturday in the NHL
Updated October 21, 2021
The NHL schedule this weekend features some great games – including an early-season showdown between preseason Cup contenders and the Seattle Kraken’s first home game in the franchise’s history. Get ready for a great weekend of hockey with our NHL weekend picks for October 23.
Tampa Bay Hosts Colorado in Battle of Preseason Stanley Cup Favourites
The best match-up this weekend is between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche – the two teams that opened the season with the best odds to win the 2022 Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay recently lost Nikita Kucherov to the LTIR (long-term injury reserve). For most teams that would be a huge concern. However, we witnessed Tampa Bay end last season with a .67 points percentage without Kucherov suiting up a single game (until the Stanley Cup Playoffs).
The Avalanche have three of a possible six points to start the season – but have Nathan MacKinnon back. MacKinnon picked up a point in his first game back and should continue to improve as he gets more regular season ice-time.
Tampa Bay’s biggest issue through four games is defence. Andrei Vasilevskiy looks a bit worn down – following his Conn Smythe performance last year. In four starts, he has allowed at least three goals three times (75%). During the Lightning’s Stanley Cup run, Vasilevskiy allowed three or more goals only nine times in 23 games (39.1%). We like Colorado in the battle of Cup contenders.
Toronto Maple Leafs look for Two Points Against Injured Penguins
The Toronto Maple Leafs – with Auston Matthews back from surgery – faceoff against the Penguins in Toronto this weekend. The Penguins are playing well early in the season – despite Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby being sidelined to start the season.
The Leafs play against San Jose on Friday night – which could hurt them on Saturday. The Leafs’ backup goaltender – Petr Mrazek – is out for at least two weeks with a groin injury. Campbell’s been great for the Leafs – but does not have much experience in his career playing back-to-back.
The Leafs’ backup situation without Mrazek is iffy. They will likely need some more goalscoring on Saturday if they want to get the win against the Penguins. We do not know yet if Matthews is fully back to the elite level he was playing at last season (when he scored 41 goals in 52 games).
The Penguins are also getting solid early-season returns from Tristian Jarry – with a .935 save percentage and 1.62 GAA in three games. The rest of their team is also picking up the slack with Crosby and Malkin out. We like Pittsburgh to pick up a road win against Toronto on Saturday.
The Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils Battle in Early-Season Overachievers
As of Wednesday, nine teams remain undefeated. If you were to bet at the start of the season that two of the last undefeated teams would be the Sabres and the Devils – people would call you crazy. Yet, here we are a week in and New Jersey and the Sabres are undefeated.
There is a reasonable chance that one or both teams have a loss by Saturday – but early results (especially from the Sabres) are impressive.
The wildest thing in the NHL right now is not just that the Sabres started the season 3-0-0, it is they have three wins without Jack Eichel. With or without Eichel most people pegged the Sabres as a bottom-two team in the Eastern Conference. However, it seems with their captain sidelined, the team is coming together.
New Jersey is playing well this year thanks to offseason moves to shore up the defence. Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton are playing well in front of Jonathan Bernier. The Devils also have their best player – Jack Hughes – playing at an elite level to start the season. The Devils with a better defence and their best player in the game have the advantage over Buffalo’s surprising depth this season.
Vancouver Canucks and Seattle Kraken Look to Ignite a New Rivalry
One of the most anticipated games of the first month of the season is the showdown between Seattle and Vancouver. Not only is this the first home franchise game for the Kraken – the fans and league hope this is the start of the next great NHL rivalry.
Seattle’s got mildly shafted to start the season – playing five straight road games to kick off the 2021-22 campaign. Early results with Seattle show some issues on defence. In four of five games, they allowed opponents to score at least three goals.
However, Vancouver has goaltending and defensive issues of their own to start the season. Vancouver has allowed 15 goals in four games this season and ranks in the bottom seven in penalty kill. It is looking like this game will feature a flurry of goals.
We like Seattle to win this game. Vegas was the last expansion team to join the league. They also opened on the road and won their first home game.
Find the best Vegas sportsbooks to bet on the National Hockey League below. New users who join through the links underneath can receive an exclusive welcome bonus – which you can use to bet on every NHL game this weekend!