In only a few days, the puck drops on the start of the 2021-22 NHL Season. The opening night highlights include the Tampa Bay Lightning opening their second-straight Stanley Cup defence and the Seattle Kraken making their NHL debut. In our NHL opening night betting predictions, we are going to check out those games and some of the games the following night – when the remaining NHL teams start their seasons.
It is the battle of the last two back-to-back Stanley Cup winners when Tampa Bay opens the season hosting Pittsburgh. Tampa Bay has won their last four games against Pittsburgh – although the two teams have not played since February 2020.
The Penguins start the season shorthanded. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will miss the start of the season, while Jake Guentzel is currently out until the 12th following a positive Covid-19 test. If Guentzel is out for the season opener, the Penguins are without their top-three points per game players from last season (minimum 15 games). Without those players – or only with a Guentzal who may not be in-game shape – it is hard to see the Penguins winning as Tampa arguably has the best roster in the league.
Tampa’s goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy just won the Conn Smythe Trophy, and the offense gets Nikita Kucherov back for the regular season. Kucherov almost won the Conn Smythe after posting 32 points in 23 games). They also have Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Steven Stamkos – three more top-50 players in the league. Hard to bet on an injured roster to beat the reigning champs.
The nightcap on Tuesday features a duel between the two most recent expansion teams in the National Hockey League. Only five seasons ago the Vegas Golden Knight shocked the hockey world when they made the Stanley Cup in their first season. Can Seattle pull off the same feat in 2021-22? Well, winning your first game of the year is a step in the right direction.
Seattle opens the year against one of the best three teams in the NHL. Vegas finished last season with the best goal-differential in the NHL. The Golden Knights did lose a few players in the offseason – most notably goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury won the Vezina Trophy last season but recently stated he plans to retire from the NHL at the end of this season. Vegas will roll with Robin Lehner this season – who finished top-six in Vezina Trophy three straight years before moving into a backup role last season.
Seattle is a significant road underdog against Vegas – which is something you like to see when betting on hockey. However, it is not the only reason we like Seattle to win the game.
Seattle drafted well in their expansion draft and built themselves a quality roster. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer finished with a league-high seven shutouts last season and finished with a 1.95 goals-against average. In front of Grubauer are Mark Giordano – the 2019 Norris Trophy winner – and Adam Larsson, an above-average defender. Forwards are a mix of veterans and youth for Seattle. The key – which is why we like Seattle – is the return of Yanni Gourde.
Gourde’s career shooting percentage is 15.3% and he has scored at least 17 goals in three of the last four years. Gourde’s played his entire career with Tampa Bay – playing behind their top forwards. If he plays, he could slot into the top line for Seattle with Jordan Eberle and Jared McCann – which on paper looks like a productive. Take Seattle to surprise Vegas on opening night.
The Toronto Maple Leafs seek redemption against the Montreal Canadiens when they host them in the opening game of the season. To recap, the Leafs blew a 3-1 lead to the Canadiens in the 2021 NHL Playoffs.
The Leafs have more talent and are a better regular-season team than the Canadiens. Last year, during the regular season the Leafs went 7-2-1 against Montreal and won four of five in Toronto (albeit it was in front of no fans). Of course, the postseason was a different story.
The Canadiens enter the season with a long list of injuries. Carey Price is doubtful for the season opener, their biggest offseason addition – Mike Hoffman – is out until December, and Shea Weber is expected to miss the entire 2021-22 season. Combine that with the Leafs having fans in their building for the first time since March 2020 – and we are smelling a Toronto victory to start the season.
Bad blood is renewed with the Rangers heading to the Capital to take on Washington. Maybe no teams in the NHL dislike each other more right now than the Rangers and Capitals.
Tom Wilson sparked a line brawl between the two teams near the end of last season – causing outrage and anger between the two clubs. It feels like the teams start the season in a battle of retribution and physicality. That means plenty of penalty minutes for both teams in a sloppy and physical affair. We like the under on this game.
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