The NHL will return on October 12 for Opening Night with the Penguins in Tampa facing the Lightning as the NHL drops the puck on its 105th season. Let’s look at the Metropolitan Division—which saw six of its eight teams play in the Eastern Division. The pandemic affected and realigned season—in the second of our four divisional odds previews which will see the league return to its previous alignment.
Odds to win the Metropolitan Division:
New York Islanders +275
Carolina Hurricanes +400
Pittsburgh Penguins +400
New York Rangers +550
Washington Capitals +550
Philadelphia Flyers +600
New Jersey Devils +1600
Columbus Blue Jackets +8000
New York Islanders Preview
The Islanders (+275 to win the Metropolitan Division, at BetOnline) are slight favorites to win the likely competitive Atlantic Division, and with a sparkling 21-4-3 record at Home last season and Goalie Seymon Varlaman (12/1 to win Vezina Trophy) in net, oddsmakers have it right.
The Isles (32-17-7, 156 GF-128 GA) finished in 4th place in the Eastern Division in the 2020-21 season and New York was eliminated by eventual and now two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning in the Stanley Cup Semifinals (4-3).
GM Lou Lamoriello did a nice job in the offseason for the Islanders (10/1 to win Eastern Conference), signing Kyle Palmieri (Devils), Goalie Ilya Sorokin, Anthony Beauvillier (28 points) and Casey Cizikas.
So the good is that Head Coach Barry Trotz and captain Anders Lee (18 points) have the majority of the team back and the Islanders (16/1 to win the Stanley Cup) will be ready for a run at the Stanley Cup.
The bad? For salary cap reasons, the Isles (83.7 PP%, #6) traded Defenseman Nick Leddy (Red Wings) and Forward Jordan Eberle (33 points) was drafted by the expansion Seattle Kraken, so some talent was lost off the frozen water.
Also, this team was weak on the Penalty Kill (18.8%, #20) and play its first 13 games on the Road, with a Saturday, November 20 date against the Flames being the Islanders first Home game at the new UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.
The Islanders (Regular Season Point Total 97½ points, Over/Under -115) nasty 13-game Road Trip will be the longest ever to open up a Regular Season and the second-longest in NHL history.
Matthew Barzaz (20/1 to win Hart Trophy; 45 points) and the Isles should make the Playoffs, but winning the Metropolitan Division isn’t a foregone conclusion and the loss of Leddy and Eberle and the early schedule are problematic for potential backers at the betting window.
With Barzaz (45 points), Josh Bailey (35 points), Brock Nelson (33 points), Jean-Gabriel Pageau (28 points) and Travis Zajac (20 points) the Islanders attack has some firepower but this team will probably need to score more than the 2.71 GPG they did in 2020-21 to win the division.
With 33-year-old Varlaman (19-11-4, 2.04 GAA) in goal, the No. 2-ranked 2.23 GAA, last season and most of all of the right pieces all back in place, the Islanders are the deserved odds favorites in the Metropolitan Division but that Road schedule and the opposition make them impossible to bet for now.
Carolina Hurricanes Preview
The Hurricanes (4/1 to win the Metropolitan Division) are the co-second odds favorites in the Metropolitan Division and are coming off a strong season after finishing with the third-highest number of points in the Central Division (80).
Sebastian Aho (16/1 to win Hart Trophy) and Carolina (12/1 to win Eastern Conference) went an impressive 20-3-5 at Home and were tied for No. 4 in GAA (2.39), No. 2 in the league on the Power Play Kill (25.6%), and were No. 3 on the Penalty Kill (85.2%).
The Hurricanes (36-12-8, 179 GF-136 GA, +43 GD) added Frederik Andersen in a Goalie swap for Petr Mrazek with the Maple Leafs in the offseason but Carolina lost key Defenseman Dougie Hamilton (42 points) to the Devils in free agency.
Also off the ice, Andrei Svechniekov (42 points) got a committed deal from the Canes (8 years, $62 million). The 21-year-old Russian RW leads all draft picks from 2018 with a total of 59 goals and 140 points.
And former first-round draft choice Jesperi Kotkaniemi (20 points) signed a one-year, $6.1 million deal and will play for Carolina after the Canadiens formally declined to match the Canes offer, so Montreal ended up getting two 2022 Draft Picks (1st, 3rd Round) in exchange.
With Aho (57 points), Svechniekov (50/1 to win Hart Trophy), Vincent Trochek (80/1 to win Hart Trophy; 43 points), Martin Necas (80/1 to win Hart Trophy; 41 points), Jordan Staal (38 points) and Nino Niederreiter (20 goals), the Hurricanes have a nice group who can score goals and also play some defense.
But losing Hamilton hurts some and this division is really a toss-up, so shopping around for some value on Carolina (Regular Season Point Total 97½ points, Over/Under -115) is recommended.
Pittsburgh Penguins Preview
The seemingly ageless Penguins (4/1 to win Metropolitan Division) have two future NHL Hall of Famers in Sidney Crosby (wrist surgery) and Evgeni Malkin (knee surgery), but injuries to the two legends will see them miss the beginning of the coming season.
On Opening Night on Tuesday, October 12, Pittsburgh will play the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning at Amelie Arena in Tampa (ESPN, 7:30 pm ET/4:30 pm PT; Lightning -160, Penguins +144; Total 6 Over -115) in the first game of the NHL Regular Season for the league’s now 32 teams.
Pittsburgh (3.45 GPG) had no trouble scoring last season and with 34-year-old captain Crosby (28/1 to win Hart Trophy), Malkin (40/1 to win Hart Trophy), Guentzel (40/1 to win Hart Trophy) and Rust (200/1 to win Hart Trophy) all back, expect the offense to be there when needed, especially when the two vets return.
Goalie Tristan Jarry (25-9-3, 2.75 GAA) allowed 21 goals in six games as the Islanders eliminated Pittsburgh from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year, so the defense could again be an issue for Head Coach Mike Sullivan, Defenseman Kris Letang (33/1 to win Hart Trophy; 45 points) and this vaunted franchise.
The Pens (Regular Season Point Total 97½, Under -130) first game at PPG Paints Arena in The Steel City will be against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, October 16.
With Crosby (62 points), Malkin, Jake Guentzel (57 points), Bryan Rust (42 points), Letang (100/1 to win Hart Trophy), Jeff Carter (30 points), Pittsburgh (4/1 to win Eastern Conference) has the horses and the Penguins went an impressive 22-4-2 at Home last year but are hard to recommend now with the injuries to the two stars.
New York Rangers Preview
The Rangers (+550 to win Metropolitan Division) are also tough to recommend betting on in the Metropolitan Division with New York only going 14-11-3 at Home in Madison Square Garden in The Big Apple in the Pandemic-affected and abbreviated 2020-21 NHL season.
In their opener on Wednesday, October 13, the Rangers face off with the Capitals at Capital One Arena, in Washington DC (TNT, 7:30 pm ET/4:40 pm PT; Capitals -130, Rangers +118; Total 6 Over -115).
One of the league’s Original Six, the Rangers (27-23-6, 177 GF-157 GA) were led in scoring by Artemi Panarin (58 points), Mike Zibenejad (50 points), Ryan Strome (49 points), Pavel Buchenvich (48 points) and Adam Fox (47 points).
The Broadway Blueshirts (Regular Season Point Total 95½ points, Over/Under -115) turn to Igor Shesterkin (26-16-3, 2.59 GAA) and Alexandar Georgiev (43-38-9, 2.95 GAA) in the net after icon and now retired Henrik Lundqvist left for the Capitals last season
The 39- year-old Swede and five-time All-Star set for another heart procedure.
The Rangers (12/1 to win Eastern Conference) did help Ryan Lindgren (16 points) and their defense, signing Jarred Tinordi (Predators) and trading for Ryan Reaves (Golden Knights) and New York also signed Greg McKegg, Dryden Hunt (Coyotes) and Patrik Nemeth (Avalanche).
In the NHL Entry Draft, the Rangers (18/1 to win the Stanley Cup) took 18-year-old LW Brennan Othmann of the Flint Firebirds with the first of their eight picks in the first big move by new GM Chris Drury.
So with Panarin (16/1 to win Hart Trophy), Zibenejad (24 goals), the top pick in the 2020 Entry Draft Alexis Lafrenière (21 points) and Othmann, this team has decent talent, but losing legend Lundqvist last season left a very big hole in Manhattan.
Washington Capitals Preview
Living legend Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals (+550 to win Metropolitan Division) seem to never change, with veterans like Nicklas Backstrom (53 points), TJ Oshie (43 points), Tom Wilson (33 points), Evgeny Kuznetsov (29 points) and John Carlson (44 points) all experienced and reliable players.
At the +550 odds, the Capitals (28/1 to win the Stanley Cup) seem worth a shot to win the Metropolitan Division, especially considering that Washington (36-15-5, 191 GF-163 GA) ranked No. 5 on the Penalty Kill (84%) and No. 3 on the Power Play (24.8%) last season.
In goal, Washington (14/1 to win Eastern Conference) has Ilya Samsonov (13-4-1) and Vitek Vanecek (21-10-4) and will need to improve on the team 2.88 GAA from last season for the Caps to win this division and make a deep run in the Playoffs.
Ovechkin (Will Ovechkin Break Gretzky’s All-Time Goal Record? No -300, Yes +200), Backstrom and Washington (Regular Season Point Total 95½ points, Over/Under -115) were an impressive 19-7-2 on the Road last season and worth a look in Divisional, Conference and Stanley Cup betting markets.
Philadelphia Flyers Preview
Oddsmakers are giving the Flyers (6/1 to win Metropolitan Division) a much better chance to win this division than I would, with defense and goaltending likely again being the big issue with the Flyers.
Last season, Philadelphia (25-23-8, 183 GF-201 GA) gave up the most Goals in the NHL (201) and with Goalie Brian Elliot (3.06 GAA) now in Tampa, Carter Hart (3.67 GAA) and new addition Martin Jones (Sharks) will try to stop that leak.
The Broadstreet Bullies were 29th in GAA (3.46) and had more than half a goal less scoring (2.86 GPG) than they allowed and were No. 30 on the Penalty Kill (73.1%) so back Philadelphia (33/1 to win the Stanley Cup) at your own risk.
Claude Giroux (200/1 to win Hart Trophy; 43 points), James van Riemsdyk (43 points), Sean Couturier (41 points), Joel Farabee (38 points), Travis Konecny (34 points) and Kevin Hayes (31 points) all return, so expect the usual high-scoring games and Totals for this team.
But Philadelphia (16/1 to win Eastern Conference) did see 10-year veteran Jakub Voracek (43 points) traded to the Blue Jackets for Cam Atkinson and Nolan Patrick, Robert Hagg, Philippe Myers and Shayne Gostisbehere are all gone.
Besides Atkinson, GM Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers (Regular Season Point Total 94½ points, Over/Under -115) added Defensemen Ryan Ellis (28/1 to win Norris Trophy) and Rasmus Ristolainen in trades with the Predators and Sabres, respectively.
So Head Coach Alain Vigneault has some hope the defense will get better but don’t expect a big turnaround in goal and shutouts from the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia and 10/1 seems like more appropriate odds than 6/1.
New Jersey Devils Preview
The Devils (16/1 to win Metropolitan Division) had a horrible -49 GD last season, scored just 145 Goals, so backing New Jersey (50/1 to win the Stanley Cup) in any Futures market seems foolish unless maybe taking the Devils Regular Season Point Total Under 89½ points (-115).
New Jersey (19-30-7, 146 GF-194 GA) did strengthen itself by signing legendary Defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes, 42 points) to a seven-year deal, and added Forward Tomas Tatar (Canadiens, 30 points) and Goalie Jonathan Bernier (Red Wings).
So Pavel Zacha (25 points), Jack Hughes (31 points), Jesper Bratt (30 points) and Yegor Sharangovich (30 points) and New Jersey (25/1 to win Eastern Conference) could surprise everyone and maybe snag a Wild Card spot if all goes right?
Only if there are drastic improvements in the Devils GAA (3.32, #27), Power Play (15.1%, #28) and Penalty Kill (70.9%, #31) numbers. And having to face their Metropolitan Division ice-mates the Islanders, Hurricanes, Penguins, Rangers, Capitals and Flyers so much means maybe a .500 season at best.
Columbus Blue Jackets Preview
The assumed Metropolitan Division last-place team, the Blue Jackets (80/1 to win Metropolitan Division) are best off looking at another rebuilding year after going 18-26-12 last season and finishing with a -50 GD (137 GF-187 GA).
Oliver Bjorkstrand (44 points), Jack Roslovic (34 points) and Max Domi (30 points) all return for the Blue Jackets (200/1 to win the Stanley Cup), but Cam Atkinson (34 points) was traded to the Flyers for Jakub Voracek (200/1 to win Hart Trophy).
Columbus (100/1 to win Eastern Conference) will need to defend its Home ice better (11-9-8) and the Blue Jackets (Regular Season Point Total 76½ points, Over/Under -115) will also have to score more goals (2.39 GPG)
The Blue Jackets 18 goals on the Power Play was the third-fewest in the NHL, only ahead of the lowly Red Wings (17) and Ducks (11).
Who Wins the Metropolitan Division in 2021-22?
This division proves to be a nice betting market with five able teams in the Islanders, Hurricanes, Penguins, Rangers and Capitals all contending for the title with maybe two longshots if you have faith in the Flyers and/or the Devils. I don’t.
This healthy mix means a potential nice payout for any Hurricanes, Penguins, Rangers or Capitals backers in my mind, with all four currently seeing 4-to-1 or better Futures odds to win this Metropolitan Division in 2021-22.
My pick is on same-as-it-ever-was Washington and stalwart Backstrom (100/1 to win Hart Trophy) with Ovechkin’s health (he missed 11 games last season) and Samsonov’s (90.2 SV%) performance and hopeful emergence as a No. 1 Goalie likely big factors in DC.
With veterans like Alexander the Great, Backstrom, Oshie, Carlson and Dmitry Orlov—all over 30 now—and the third-best Power Play and second-highest number of Goals in the Eastern Conference last year, winning this division and making the Stanley Cup Finals are a definite possibility.
2020-21 NHL Metropolitan Division Winner Pick
Washington Capitals (+550)
Kevin Stott is a sports writer who has covered the Sports Gambling industry for over 20 years, handicapping sporting events for SportsbookReview, Gaming Today and Bleacher/Report and was an award-winning writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s View Newspapers. Stott is an avid sports bettor and a graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. ...
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