NHL picks: 4 best bets for Thursday night
Andrew Berkshire provides his best NHL picks and predictions for Thursday night's slate.
Visit the Betway Insider NHL picks page for tips and predictions throughout the season.
The first week of the NHL season has been nothing short of chaotic, with some expected contenders looking terrible, and expected lottery teams looking excellent.
The beginning of a season always brings a lot of attention to small sample size aberrations and wildly unexpected outcomes, so what can you expect on Thursday night? Let’s break it down.
Carolina Hurricanes to beat Montreal Canadiens -120
No one expected the Montreal Canadiens to be back in the Stanley Cup Final this year. After the losses the roster suffered in the offseason, it was always going to be an uphill battle to make the playoffs. However, starting the season by digging down instead of trying to start that climb has been a bit of a shocker.
Already 0-4-0 and outscored 15-3 with a schedule that hasn’t been overly tough to start, the Canadiens face arguably the toughest team on their schedule so far in the relentless Carolina Hurricanes, who are undefeated, and nursing a grudge against Montreal that ended in stealing Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the offseason.
Eventually things will turn around for some degree for the Canadiens, who have more talent on their roster than their results suggest, but there have been no signs whatsoever that they’ve started to figure things out so far, and the Hurricanes are an unforgiving opponent.
Columbus Blue Jackets to beat New York Islanders +110
After a rough first two games of the season against top end competition, the Islanders managed to defeat the league’s worst even-strength team in the Chicago Blackhawks by a 4-1 margin, but the score hid the fact that the Islanders have continued to struggle defensively to a ridiculous degree.
The Blackhawks dominated the game at even strength, controlling high-danger scoring chances 10-2, with goaltender Ilya Sorokin bailing them out big time. However, that isn’t something he’s been able to do most of the time this season.
The Blue Jackets have been similarly weak defensively, but unlike the Islanders, they’ve been getting spectacular goaltending throughout the start of their season. The Islanders are a much, much better team overall, but right now don’t be surprised if they drop another one to a team they should beat.
Edmonton Oilers to beat Arizona Coyotes -180
After a disappointing performance in the playoffs for the second-straight season, the Oilers have entered the 2020-21 season like they were shot out of a cannon. Already 3-0-0 with a great chance to win a fourth-straight game against the tanking Coyotes, the Oilers are a top-10 team in expected goals for percentage at even strength, which pairs well with their exceptionally dangerous powerplay.
How dangerous are the Oilers with the man advantage? Let’s put it this way, since the start of the 2019-20 season, Conor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have put up 84 and 79 points on the powerplay. The next best player in the league over that time is Nathan MacKinnon at 57. A 27-point gap between first and third place is absurd.
Overall through three games, McDavid and Draisaitl have a hilariously excellent eight points each, picking up right where they left off last regular season. I don’t think the Coyotes have the goaltending or the scoring ability to keep up with what the Oilers are doing right now.
Vancouver Canucks to beat Chicago Blackhawks +110
The Canucks and Blackhawks are two teams who have started the season with similarly calamitous thuds to the basement. The Canucks are messier, they score more and their defence so far is worse, but while they have Thatcher Demko in net with a solid .910 save percentage keeping them in games, the Blackhawks have seen Marc-Andre Fleury falter to begin the year with a ridiculous .840 save percentage.
After how the Blackhawks outplayed the struggling Islanders, it wouldn’t be surprising if they outplayed the Canucks pretty severely as well, but Vancouver’s stars have more scoring punch, and their solid situation in net will make things an uphill battle for Chicago.
The Canucks losing Quinn Hughes short-term is definitely an interesting wrinkle to take note of, but the surprisingly strong play of Oliver Ekman-Larsson should help Vancouver weather that storm against weaker offensive teams like Chicago.