NHL October Preview
Reigning Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning will get the new NHL season underway when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Tuesday.
The Lightning are bidding to become the first team to win three consecutive Cups since the New York Islanders back in the early 1980s. However, they face stern competition from the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins and various other talented teams.
It promises to be another thrilling season. We have picked out some of the key games to look out for in October, and provided a futures betting update.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tuesday, October 12, at Amalie Arena
Tampa Bay is the -154 favorite with FanDuel to make a winning start to the season when it welcomes the Penguins to Florida. The Lightning have won their last four games against the Penguins, but the teams have not met since February 2020.
Pittsburgh racked up the fifth highest points tally in the league last season, so you can never write this team off. However, Sidney Crosby is out injured and Evgeni Malkin could also spend considerable time on the sidelines, leaving the Penguins reliant on Jeff Carter, Teddy Blueger, Brian Boyle, Evan Rodrigues and Sam Lafferty in terms of center depth. Pittsburgh has an ageing core and goaltender issues, and the Lightning should capitalize.
Seattle Kraken vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Tuesday, October 12, at T-Mobile Arena
The NHL’s latest expansion franchise will make its debut on the opening night of the season. Seattle Kraken will be hoping to emulate the Golden Knights’ inaugural season, which saw them go all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2018.
Experienced GM Ron Francis did well to assemble a core featuring Philipp Grubauer, Chris Driedger, Mark Giordano, Adam Larsson, Vince Dunn, Alex Wennberg and Jordan Eberle ahead of the new season, so Seattle should be competitive.
However, the Golden Knights are third in the Stanley Cup futures betting odds, behind only the Avs and the Lightning, and they should open the season with a statement win against the Kraken. Unibet has a tempting -139 on the Golden Knights to win on the three-way moneyline.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Wednesday, October 13, at Scotiabank Arena
One of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries will resume when the Habs head to the Scotiabank Arena to take on the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. The Leafs picked up back-to-back wins against the Canadiens towards the end of last season, but Montreal then secured a shock 4-3 series victory when they met in the playoffs.
The Habs ended up as conference champions, and they will be keen to defy expectations once again this season. However, they are huge underdogs in the Stanley Cup odds, whereas the Leafs are among the favorites. These teams recently met in a preseason game, which saw winger Nick Ritchie score his first two goals in blue and white to inspire the Leafs to a 6-2 win against. They are the -175 favorites with Unibet to win this game, while Bet365 has a market leading +165 on the Habs.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Colorado Avalanche
Wednesday, October 13, at Ball Arena
Stanley Cup favorites Colorado Avalanche will get their season underway when they host the Blackhawks at Ball Arena. The Avs look ready for a breakthrough season after re-signing captain Gabriel Landeskog and bringing in Darcy Kuemper to replace Grubauer. The devastating Nathan MacKinnon will lead the charge, but the Avs also boast impressive depth.
The Blackhawks were a bottom-10 team last season, but Chicago is expected to be a lot more competitive this time around. Jonathan Toews is returning, and fans are excited after Seth Jones, Marc-Andre Fleury and Tyler Johnson moved to the Windy City, so it will be interesting to see how this team performs. The Avs are the heavy favorites to win this game, and you can find enticing odds on them covering the puckline.
Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Ottawa Senators
Thursday, October 14, at Canadian Tire Arena
The Leafs will have just 24 hours to regroup before heading back into battle against another fierce rival. The Senators will be the fresher team, as this is their first game of the season, and they could capitalize upon fatigue within the Toronto ranks.
The Battle of Ontario is always a highlight within any NHL season, and there will be a great deal of interest in this game. The Senators have a talented top six in Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle, Drake Batherson and Shane Pinto, and they will need to outscore their opponents this season, as Ottawa’s defense looks weak. This could prove to be a high-scoring game, so a win for the Senators and over on the total goals line both look attractive.
Calgary Flames vs. Edmonton Oilers
Saturday, October 16, at Rogers Place
The Oilers are one of the most entertaining teams in the league. Edmonton lacks depth, but the sheer quality of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisatl is a joy to behold. They have the firepower to beat any team, and they should blaze a trail of destruction across the league again this season.
It will be exciting to see the Oilers begin the season against their great rivals, the Calgary Flames. The latest iteration of the Battle of Alberta should be an enthralling affair. Calgary looked rejuvenated at times last season under returning coach Darryl Sutter, and it will be interesting to see the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm and Andrew Mangiapane go up against McDavid and Draisaitl in a slug-fest.
Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Tuesday, October 19, at Amalie Arena
The Panthers are still licking their wounds after losing to the Lightning in six games in the Stanley Cup First Round back in May. However, many fans expect them to bounce back this season. The Panthers have been backed into +2200 with Caesars Sportsbook and FanDuel to win the Stanley Cup, with a lot of action going on this team.
An early season clash with the Lightning could provide a perfect gauge of this team’s playoff credentials this season. The Panthers got the better of the Lightning in regular season Governor’s Cup games last year, taking 11 points to 6, so Tampa Bay will be keen to reassert its supremacy in the Sunshine State.
Boston Bruins vs. Philadelphia Flyers
Wednesday, October 20, at Wells Fargo Center
Yet another ferocious rivalry will resume when the Bruins head to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. The enmity between these teams dates back to the 1970s era clashes between the Big Bad Bruins and the Broad Street Bullies, and tensions still run high when they clash on the ice.
The Flyers looked like legitimate contenders for glory in 2019/20, but they disappointed last season with goalie Carter Hart struggling. GM Chuck Fletcher made several changes in the offseason, but the Flyers look like they could struggle to deal with elite teams like the Bruins. Boston looks like an
Carolina Hurricanes vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Saturday, October 23, at Nationwide Arena
The Hurricanes clinched their first division title since 2006 after securing the third highest points tally in the league last season. They will bid to put the heartbreak of their playoff defeat to Tampa Bay behind them by mounting a bid for the Cup this time around.
The Canes lost Dougie Hamilton and Alex Nedeljkovic in the offseason, but they made a few shrewd additions, so they should enjoy another strong season. The Blue Jackets are firmly in rebuilding mode, so it will be interesting to see what sort of shape they are in by the time they face the Canes at Nationwide Arena.
New York Islanders vs. Vegas Golden Knights
Sunday, October 24, at T-Mobile Arena
The Islanders look perfectly capable of another deep playoff run this season. They have been eliminated in round 3 by the Lightning in the past two seasons, but they took the Stanley Cup champions to Game 7 this past summer. Veteran Zdeno Chara should beef up the defense, and the Islanders will be difficult to play against.
A trip to the T-Mobile Arena is never easy, particularly now that fans are back, and it will be intriguing to see how the Islanders get on in Sin City. Vegas scraped a 1-0 victory in their last meeting, but the Islanders have won four of the six games between these teams, so we should be in for a tight clash.
Futures Betting Update
BeMGM has a market leading +600 on the Colorado Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup. DraftKings and a few others are offering +700 on the Lightning, while BetMGM once again leads the way with +850 on the Golden Knights. You can find +1200 on the Maple Leafs, +1400 on the Bruins and +2000 on the Islanders.
Unibet is offering a market best price of +225 on the Lightning winning the Atlantic Division and +250 on the Leafs. The Avs are overwhelming favorites for the Central Division. Caesars Sportsbook leads the way with +350 on the Islanders to win the Metropolitan Division, and the Golden Knights are expected to cruise to victory in the Pacific Division.