NHL hockey is back again this week, with the first game of the season set for Wednesday, January 13. Opening Night will begin early, with a 5:30 p.m. ET puck drop for the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins to kickstart this season’s 56-game regular season. There’s plenty to break down as we get set for this unusual year, but the usual splits and analysis can all be found below.
The betting odds for the upcoming NHL season closely resemble those of 2019-20, and most of the same teams who were in contention last year are among the favorites to contend this coming year too. Surprisingly, there weren’t a ton of needle-moving transactions made across the league this offseason, which helps to explain why there weren’t any large-scale changes to the Stanley Cup Odds. A handful of teams did make a significant move or two, however, and this was headlined by the Vegas Golden Knights. The Knights, whose playoff run ended in disappointment again in 2020, made a major upgrade on defense by signing Alex Pietrangelo to a seven-year deal. Pietrangelo was the Blues’ best defenseman for the last several years and has been a major offensive contributor from the back end for a long time. Nonetheless, the Knights are just the third favorite to win this season’s Stanley Cup, with the defending-champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche marginally ahead of them in the Stanley Cup Odds.
Stanley Cup Betting Splits
The most popular Stanley Cup bets are generally coming from the biggest sports betting jurisdictions, but Colorado fans seem especially excited about their team this season, and for good reason. The Avalanche were upset in the second round last season by the Dallas Stars, and while they didn’t make any major moves this offseason, they should improve simply from youth development and improved health. The Avs’ best players are almost all still in their early-to-mid 20s, so there’s plenty of room for improvement, and having starting goalie Philipp Grubauer healthy this season provides a significant internal upgrade as well.
Top 5 Team Total Points Bets
The team total points bets aren’t drawing as much attention overall as the Stanley Cup futures, but looking at the most common bets still shows a few interesting trends. Four of the top bets in this market are on overs for teams that missed the playoffs last year, while the one under bet is on a team that’s been as consistent as any in recent history. Predicting a down year for the Bruins does seem reasonable, however, as their roster is clearly aging and three of their best players are in their 30s (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask). The Bruins’ lone young star, David Pastrnak, is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season with a hip injury, and any game he sits out is a game in which the Bruins have a significantly reduced chance of winning.
Eastern Conference Division Splits
One of the biggest storylines of the recent offseason is the realignment of divisions, as not only were teams moved around from last season’s set up, they’ll also play a schedule of division-only games for the entire regular season. The goal here is clearly to minimize travel, but it also creates an unprecedented dynamic for the upcoming season. As for the betting splits, DraftKings Sportsbook bettors are leaning heavily on the Lightning in the Central Division, but the East Division Splits are much more spread out. There are four generally popular teams in the East — the Bruins, Rangers, Islanders, and Flyers — and all four are receiving a similar share of bets from the public.
Western Conference Division Splits
Out in the West, there’s actually not much love for the Golden Knights. The Knights are 2nd in handle and 4th in bets for the Stanley Cup, but the division betting on them pales in comparison to the Avalanche and the Blues. In the North Division, the Maple Leafs are the most popular team in terms of bet percentage, but the largest handle number is falling on the Montreal Canadiens, who appear to be a popular sleeper team this year. The Canadiens earned an impressive first-round upset over the Penguins in 2020, and made a few depth upgrades to solidify their roster going into 2021.
Awards Betting Splits
The Avalanche love continues into awards betting as well, as Nathan MacKinnon is easily the most popular bet for MVP despite being the second favorite to Connor McDavid. For Rookie of the Year, the top two bets are two players who will likely be rivals for a long time in New York. The Rangers drafted Alexis Lafreniere first overall in the most recent NHL Draft, and he’s actually co-favorites with Rangers goalie Igor Shestyorkin, who debuted with the Rangers last season. The most popular pick by bets and handle, however, is Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin, who was drafted six years ago. Sorokin has been playing in Russia’s KHL, but is expected to play a key role this year as a “rookie” for the Islanders.
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