NHL March Preview
We are now in the penultimate month of the NHL regular season and several elite teams are building momentum. The Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins are piling the pressure on the Panthers in the Atlantic Division, while the Hurricanes are running away with the Metropolitan Division. The Avs have pulled clear of the chasing pack in the Central Division, while a sensational run of results has propelled the Flames to the summit of the Pacific Division.
Yet some big teams appear to be running out of steam at the worst time of year. Injury problems are mounting and tensions are running high, setting the stage for a series of epic battles over the course of March. We have selected the NHL games we are most excited to watch this month, provided some key betting trends and offered a futures wagering update.
Edmonton Oilers vs. Chicago Blackhawks
Saturday, March 6, at United Center
Blackhawks legend Duncan Keith returns to Chicago for the first time when the Oilers roll into the Windy City on Saturday. The Canadian defenseman won three Stanley Cups and the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP during his 16-year stint with the Hawks. He was traded to the Oilers last summer. He has been out with a concussion, but Keith is now set to return in time for this game against his former club.
The Oilers are now on 61 points in the Pacific Division after winning six of their last 10 games, and they stand a good chance of reaching the playoffs. They have a brutal schedule in March, with a game every other day, so it will be important for Edmonton to win this game against the struggling Blackhawks.
Calgary Flames vs. Colorado Avalanche
Saturday, March 6, at Ball Arena
The Flames have stormed to the top of their division after going 9-1-0 in their last 10 games. If you go a little further back, they are 14-3-0, and they have beaten some excellent teams during that stretch. Matthew Tkachuk has been terrific, with 59 points in 51 games, and new signing Tyler Toffoli has settled in nicely. Some are now tipping Calgary to reach the Western Conference Final.
This game will be a stern test of their credentials. The Avs remain the favorites to win the Stanley Cup this season, and they sit top of every power ranking right now after beating the Red Wings, the Jets and the Golden Knights in their last three games. The win against the Jets was particularly impressive, as they scored six times without a reply to overturn a three-goal deficit. The defense is firing on all cylinders right now, and this is a game Colorado really should win.
St. Louis Blues vs. Nashville Predators
Saturday, March 12, at Bridgestone Arena
A run of four straight wins has carried St. Louis up to second in the Central Division. The Blues leapfrogged the Wild and the Predators, who are running out of momentum. Jordan Kyrou has now smashed through the 20-goal barrier for the season, while Pavel Buchnevich continues to impress.
The Preds are still clinging onto a playoff spot, but their recent performances have alarmed fans. They ranked 28th in the league for expected goals share at five-on-five in February, so they need to improve in the creative department quickly. The noise around Filip Forsberg is an unwelcome distraction, but it could rumble on for the next couple of weeks. The Predators need to prove they are a playoff team, and they could do so by beating the Blues, but that looks unlikely.
Los Angeles Kings vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Saturday, March 19, at Rogers Place
The Golden Knights have slumped down to third in the Pacific Division after back-to-back losses to the Coyotes and Avalanche. This supremely talented roster has failed to live up to expectations so far this season, but the Knights remain the second favorites to win the Western Conference and fourth in the Stanley Cup futures betting. It is time for them to justify that exalted status.
Meanwhile, the Kings are up to second in the division after going 7-2-1 in their last 10. They are starting to look like a dark horse in the west, so it will be fascinating to see if they can overwhelm the Golden Knights in Sin City.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Carolina Hurricanes
Tuesday, March 22, at T-Mobile
FanDuel now makes Tampa Bay the +130 favorite to win the Atlantic Division after it embarked upon a four-game winning streak. The Lightning are second in the standings, one point behind the Panthers, but they have played two games fewer. Star player Nikita Kucherov appears to be at the peak of his powers once more after shaking off an injury, and talk of a three-peat is building.
Can the Hurricanes stop them in their tracks? Carolina is also surging with momentum right now, having won five in a row, and it is priced at just -350 to win the Metropolitan Division. Frederik Anderson is in contention for the Vezina Trophy, and the entire team has been strong. The Canes now have the second-highest points tally in the league, behind only the Avs, and they will be keen to test themselves against a talented opponent, so this promises to be a fiercely competitive clash.
Florida Panthers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Sunday, March 27, at Scotiabank Arena
The Panthers’ air of invincibility evaporated with consecutive defeats to the Predators, the Blue Jackets and the Oilers over the past week. They are now slight underdogs to win their division. The goaltending is a cause for concern, with Sergei Bobrovsky struggling. The Panthers have games against Ottawa, Detroit and Buffalo to get back on track before the schedule heats up again.
This will be one of the Panthers’ biggest tests in March. The Leafs are one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, with Auston Matthews leading the charge with some astonishing numbers, but they also have a glaring weakness in the goaltending department. It all points to a high-scoring game at the Scotiabank Arena.
New York Rangers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Tuesday, March 29, at PPG Paints Arena
The Penguins scraped a 1-0 win against the Rangers a few days ago. It was one of the dullest games of the season, but this should be a more entertaining clash. Pittsburgh is now up to second in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the Rangers, and these teams will battle it out for supremacy during the remaining weeks of the regular season.
The Penguins are normally a more exciting team to watch, with Evgeni Malkin starting to get going, and Sidney Crosby can still light up games with his individual brilliance. The Rangers have been overly reliant on Vezina Trophy frontrunner Igor Shesterkin, and the offense needs to improve, so it will be interesting to see what sort of shape the team is in by the time it renews hostilities with the Rangers towards the end of the month.
- Home teams have won 53% of NHL games straight-up this season, but they are 385-461 ATS (puckline). That means away teams have covered in 54.5% of the games.
- Favorites have justified that status by winning 65.5% of the time this season. Home favorites have won 64.9% of the time, and away favorites have won 66.4% of the time.
- Over/under is currently 414-396 this season and 80-100 in overtime games.
- The Ducks have the best ATS record (31-21) overall. At home, the Blues’ 17-9 is the best ATS record, while the Capitals’ 18-7 is the best away ATS record, ahead of the Blues (17-7).
- The Bruins have the worst ATS record at 19-31. That is mainly down to their home performances, as they are 6-21 ATS at TD Garden. On the road, the Stars have the worst ATS record (8-16).
- Over has paid off in 32 games for the Blue Jackets this season and under has only landed 17 times. At the other end of the spectrum, under is 17-32-1 for the Rangers.
Futures Betting Update
DraftKings makes the Avs the +190 favorites to win the Western Conference. The Vegas Golden Knights are now priced at +425 with Caesars Sportsbook. The Flames are up to third in the betting at +800 with FanDuel, and the Wild have drifted out to +1000 after a poor run of results.
The Lightning are currently the +380 favorites to win the Eastern Conference yet again, while DraftKings has +400 on the Panthers. The Leafs (+500), Hurricanes (+600) and Penguins (+800) are in contention, while the Rangers are now out at (+1100) amid their offensive woes.
The Avalanche are the outright favorites for the Stanley Cup, best priced at +450 with PlaySugarHouse, BetRivers and Unibet. The Lightning are +750 with FanDuel and Caesars to win it for the third year in a row, while the Panthers are now out at +800. The Golden Knights and Maple Leafs are both priced at +1000, the Hurricanes are +1200 and the Flames have dropped to +1600.