NHL December Preview
We are now a quarter of the way through the NHL season and several elite teams have stormed to the top of their respective divisions.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals, Minnesota Wild and Calgary Flames are all on fire right now. Sportsbooks have responded by shifting their Stanley Cup futures betting odds dramatically. The Maple Leafs were priced at +1200 at the start of the regular season, but they are now as low as +700 with some NHL betting sites.
There are lots of great games to look forward to in December, so we have picked out the most mouth-watering clashes and provided a futures betting update.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Wednesday, December 1, at Scotiabank Arena
December gets underway with an immensely exciting showdown between the Avs and the Maple Leafs. Colorado was the clear preseason favorite to win the Stanley Cup. It still leads the way with most sportsbooks, but Bet365 now makes the Avalanche and the Maple Leafs joint favorites for glory, with both teams priced at +700.
It follows a remarkable run of results for the Leafs. They have gone 9-1 in their last 10 games, and won 13 of their last 15. November was a record-breaking month for the franchise, which secured a seventh consecutive road win. The goaltending department has been superb, the offense is devastating and the special teams have been on point.
Yet this could be their sternest test yet. The Avalanche made a slow start to the season, but they are 7-2-1 in their last 10. They trail Central Division leaders Minnesota Wild by eight points, but they have played four fewer games, and they will be keen to climb the standings during December.
It could be a tight game, but the momentum is with Toronto right now. DraftKings has -130 on a home win for the Maple Leafs, and that looks very tempting.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Washington Capitals
Monday, December 4, at Capital One Arena
The Caps sit top of the Metropolitan Division with the second-best differential in the NHL after winning 14 of their opening 23 games of the season. Alex Ovechkin fired in a sensational hat-trick against the Panthers and added another in an impressive victory over division rival Carolina Hurricanes.
He has 19 in 22 games this season, and he should cause all sorts of problems for the Blue Jackets when they meet in the nation’s capital on Monday. Columbus is clinging onto a wild card spot, largely thanks to the brilliance of Elvis Merzlikins and Oliver Bjorkstrand. They have exceeded expectations thus far, but they could be overwhelmed at the Capital One Arena, and Washington has the quality to cover the puck line.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Sunday, December 5, at Wells Fargo Center
Back-to-back defeats against the Wild and the Blues have halted Tampa Bay’s momentum somewhat, but the reigning Stanley Cup champion should get its season back on track in the weeks ahead. They have missed Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, but they should still find ways to win.
This looks like the sort of game that the Lightning can emerge victorious from. The preseason optimism surrounding this Flyers team has faded after it suffered a six-game losing streak. The injuries are piling up, and they could end up out of the playoff race if they cannot arrest the slide.
Dallas Stars vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Wednesday, December 8, at T-Mobile Arena
The Stars are currently riding the longest winning streak in the NHL, having rattled off five consecutive victories. They are surging with momentum right now, and they have soared up the Central Division standings. Jake Oettinger has delivered a string of dominant performances in goal, which has been crucial to their ascent.
Yet this is still a game that Vegas should win. They have been inconsistent of late, but key players are returning from injury, and the only way is up for Robin Lehner. It should be a fascinating game, but the Golden Knights should soon be back in the race for top spot in the Pacific Division, and it would not be surprising to see them flourish in December.
New Jersey Devils vs. New York Islanders
Saturday, December 11, at UBS Arena
The Devils will aim to pile more misery upon their local rivals when these teams meet at UBS Arena. The Isles made a strong start to the season, but they have now lost eight in a row and slumped to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
This game should represent a strong opportunity for the Devils to reignite their bid for a playoff place. Dougie Hamilton is repaying his large salary by maintaining a Norris Trophy level, with 12 points from 16 games. However, the Isles should have key players back in the team following a Covid-19 outbreak by this point, so they could make it a competitive, high-scoring and entertaining clash.
Vegas Golden Knights vs. New York Rangers
Friday, December 17, at Madison Square Garden
Things are looking up for the Rangers after they secured superb wins against the Islanders and the Bruins during Thanksgiving week. They have gone 7-2-1 in their last 10 games, which has left them third in the Metropolitan Division, with fewer games played than the teams above them.
This will represent a stern test of their mettle at the Garden. Vegas looks like a stronger team overall, but the Rangers have a couple of genuine superstars in Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad and an elite goalie, so they have a chance of success. If Chris Kreider and Adam Fox maintain their high performance levels, the Rangers could be top of their division by the end of the month.
Florida Panthers vs. Minnesota Wild
Saturday, December 18, at Xcel Energy Center
Two of the best teams in the league will lock horns in Minnesota a week before Christmas. The Wild are the top-scoring scoring team in the NHL this season. The defense has looked a little shaky at times, but they have still secured 15 wins from 22 games to move to the top of the Central Division. They are currently on a four-game winning streak, so they will carry a lot of momentum into the festive period.
The Panthers are currently top of the Atlantic Division, having scored just one goal fewer than the Wild this season. They also leak goals, so this should be an open, high-scoring game, with the likes of Ryan Hartman and Anthony Duclair sharing the ice.
Nashville Predators vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Sunday, December 19, at PNC Arena
The Hurricanes dropped three of their last four games and fell to second place in the Metropolitan Division towards the end of November. However, they should rebound quickly in December. Vincent Trocheck, Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnkiov, and Teuvo Teravainen have looked a little jaded but they should soon come roaring back.
The Predators remain third in the Central Division but they suffered heavy defeats to the Golden Knights and the Avalanche last week. They tend to struggle against elite opponents, so this could be a game in which the Hurricanes remind everyone of their quality by securing an emphatic win.
Dallas Stars vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Thursday, December 23, at United Center
It has been a tough start to the season for the Blackhawks. The return of Jonathan Toews was supposed to galvanize the team, but he has not exactly been firing on all cylinders. If he is close to his best by the end of December, Chicago could be dangerous.
The Blackhawks lack offensive depth beyond Patrick Kane and Alex DeBrincat, so they need to keep their key men healthy. There have been a few encouraging signs from this team in the past couple of weeks, so they could be ready to give the Stars a tough game two days before Christmas.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames
Monday, December 27, at Scotiabank Saddledome
This is shaping up to be the biggest game of the month. The Battle of Alberta is always an eagerly anticipated event, but it will be heightened in December thanks to both teams’ impressive form.
The Flames are currently one point clear of the Oilers at the top of the Pacific Division, but they have played two extra games. These teams look set to battle for supremacy in the division, at least until Vegas returns to its best, and it will be fascinating to see them collide.
It will be an intriguing clash of styles. The Oilers look positively terrifying when Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman are in full flow, and they have been devastating when it comes to special plays. Meanwhile, Calgary has flourished at 5-on-5 and the Flames hold the middle of the ice well, while Jabob Markstrom has been phenomenal. This should be an exhilarating clash.
Futures Betting Update
Most sportsbooks have +600 on the Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup, but Bet365 is offering a market leading +700. It also has the Maple Leafs at +700, whereas they are out at +1200 with FanDuel.
FanDuel and Unibet make the Panthers the +900 second favorite, and Unibet has a best price of +1000 on the Lightning. The Golden Knights are also priced at +1000 with several books, while Unibet has +1500 on the Hurricanes and the Oilers, and +1600 on the Caps.