We made three NHL picks on last night’s five-game schedule but came up in short in going just 1-2 on the night.
Our winner came once again between the Blackhawks and Lightning where I took the Bolts -1.5 on the puckline, just as we did in their 5-1 season-opening win. This time, it wasn’t nearly as easy despite the Lightning opening up a 3-0 lead as the Blackhawks scored the next two and narrowed it to 3-2. That said, Tampa added two insurance markers and won that one by a 5-2 count.
It was all downhill from there. The Toronto Maple Leafs again showed plenty of rust on the back end while the Senators were ready to play. Toronto led 1-0 and 2-1 in that one, but Ottawa scored three quick second-period goals to take control and dealt the Maple Leafs a 5-3 upset loss and our Leafs -1.5 puckline pick missed by a mile.
Finally, while it was close, our Sabres underdog moneyline pick (+117) lost as they dropped a 2-1 affair to the Capitals. Buffalo probably deserved a better fate, out-shooting the high-powered Caps 31-21 in that one and 26-13 after two periods, but rookie Vitek Vanecek was stellar in his NHL debut and we were edged as a result.
The 1-2 night cost us exactly one unit as we slip into slight negative territory on the young season.
Let’s bounce back with tonight’s lone free NHL pick featuring the Ducks vs. Golden Knights in a rematch from Vegas!
- Season Record: 4-4
- Units: -0.09
Ducks vs. Golden Knights Betting Odds
- Ducks (+197)
- Golden Knights (-220)
- Ducks +1.5 (-125)
- Golden Knights -1.5 (+105)
- Over 6 (+102)
- Under 6 (-113)
Ducks vs. Golden Knights NHL Pick Breakdown
The Ducks played with Vegas for the first two periods of their season-opening loss on Thursday, sitting with a 2-2 tie entering the third before the Knights struck three times in the period — including an empty-netter — in a 5-2 win.
While the defensive effort was better than expected for two-thirds of the game, the offense struggled as expected. Youngster Maxime Comtois was responsible for both Ducks goals in that one, scoring both less than four minutes apart in the first period.
However, Anaheim managed just 22 shots in that one as their offensive woes from last season reared its ugly head again early this season.
The Ducks ranked 29th on offense last season and 30th on the power play, and despite their advanced metrics suggesting they deserved a better fate, an inability to finish cost them a season ago.
It’s a blend of youth and experience up front for the Ducks, but the youth is going to need to take major steps forward if this team is to compete. Comtois did that on Thursday, however on the whole the Ducks did not penetrate a sound Vegas defense and I’m not sure we should expect much different in this one.
The defensive effort was solid and the Ducks held the Golden Knights to 29 shots in the opener. The 2-2 score after two was a major confidence for the heavy underdogs, but a Mark Stone go-ahead goal less than a minute into the final frame was deflating and they just could not rally back.
The top four of Hampus Lindholm, Josh Manson, Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk is okay, however Fowler and Shattenkirk are known for their offensive contributions and the bottom pair of Jacob Larsson and Jani Hakanpaa combines youth and inexperience. It’s a duo that could be exposed this season despite Larsson’s upside as a former first-rounder at the age of 23. The team also signed Ben Hutton recently.
The Ducks actually won the possession game overall in terms of their 51.16% Corsi For% at 5v5 on Thursday, but were out-chanced 24-18 and lost the high-danger scoring chance battle 4-2. It’s a trend we’re likely to see as the season moves along, at least against the high-powered offenses of the Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues in the West division.
John Gibson endured a down season in 2019-20 and things did not get started on the right note this time around.
Gibson allowed four goals on 28 shots in the opener, good for an .857 Sv%, an ominous start after working to a career-worst 3.00 GAA and .904 Sv% last season. If there’s any chance of the Ducks hanging around in the top-heavy west, Gibson is going to need to be brilliant and he was not on Thursday.
That said, if the action through three nights of the NHL season so far has taught us anything, it’s that defenses and goaltenders are certainly showing some rust after a short 10-day training camp and the lack of exhibition games this season. It’s blatantly clear that offenses around the league are far ahead of defenses and goaltenders at this juncture and we’ve seen some high-scoring affairs as a result.
I’m a big John Gibson believer. Due to his playing for a west-coast franchise he doesn’t get the same coverage as many of the top-tier goaltenders around the league, but Gibson’s career 2.53 GAA and .918 Sv% is a testament to just how good he is, and he’s still just 27 with 287 career NHL games under his belt in parts of eight seasons, including this one.
We’ll see if he can bounce back in this one.
The Knights came on firing on Thursday, scoring two goals within the first 2:13 of their season, only to see the game tied a little more than five minutes later. It was certainly an entertaining first eight minutes of that one on Thursday.
The concern with the Golden Knights is their depth down the middle. Fourth-line pivot Tomas Nosek scored one of the two early Vegas goals, but the bottom-nine centers of Nosek, Chandler Stephenson and Cody Glass are a group that leaves plenty to be desired. Keep in mind Vegas traded second-line center Paul Stastny to the Jets to help make room for the Alex Pietrangelo signing and also traded Cody Eakin to the Jets last season.
Despite the question marks down the middle, Vegas is elite on the flanks. Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith form one of the very best top-six winger groups in the NHL while Alex Tuch is a second-line winger on most teams.
Imagine halfheartedly going for a puck vs. Mark Stone and thinking you're not about to get embarrassed pic.twitter.com/o9ZWBQyF4A
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 15, 2021
Marchessault, Stone, Pacioretty and Tuch accounted for four of the five Golden Knights goals on Thursday and I would expect their winger to do much of the heavy lifting up front this season.
The Golden Knights’ offense produced the best advanced metrics in the NHL last season despite ranking 13th on the surface and ninth on the power play, but I would look for this group to jump back into the top 10, at least, given their elite puck-possession ways.
Pietrangelo is, of course, a major addition to the Vegas blueline, a group that plays with about as much structure as anyone else in the league.
Pietrangelo, Brayden McNabb, Alec Martinez and Shea Theodore are a rock-solid top-four defense corps (I bet Anaheim would like to have Theodore back) and while the bottom pair of Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud are an inexperience bottom pairing, the Golden Knights’ ability to control the puck in the offensive zone makes life easier for everyone on the blueline, and in goal.
Vegas slipped to 13th in overall defense last season, but also ranked eighth in expected goals against/60 at 5v5, fourth in scoring chances against/60 and ninth in high-danger chances against/60. A 27th-ranked save percentage at 5v5 from Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban certainly did them no favors.
Add in Pietrangelo and again, this is a top-10 defense to be sure.
Fleury remains as the 1B/backup option, but the trade to acquire Robin Lehner in exchange for Subban and additional assets looks awfully good at the moment.
Fleury’s game slipped last season, but Lehner came in and posted a 1.67 GAA and .940 Sv% with a shutout across three regular-season games before working to a 1.99 GAA and .917 Sv% across 16 postseason contests.
The organization rewarded him with a five-year deal this offseason as the 29-year-old is now fully entrenched as the team’s starter. Lehner turned aside 20 of the 22 shots he faced on Thursday, good for a .909 Sv%.
Head coach Peter DeBoer said on Thursday that he won’t be naming his starting goaltender until close to game time this season. That’s certainly a bummer when handicapping Golden Knights games as I’m more confident in their chances with Lehner in goal as opposed to Fleury.
Still, Fleury could get the nod despite the lack of a back-to-back scenario at play. He wasn’t atrocious last season, but regressed to a 2.77 GAA and .905 Sv%, the latter his worst figure since his sophomore 2005-06 season with the Penguins. It was a far cry from the 2.24 GAA and .927 Sv% he surprisingly produced in Vegas’ expansion 2017-18 campaign.
We’ll try and figure out who gets the nod as the day moves along, so follow me on Twitter @BKemp17 for updates!
Ducks vs. Golden Knights NHL Pick
It was a close game for much of Thursday’s contest, and as noted the Ducks slightly won the possession game on the whole, a surprising turn of events despite Vegas handedly winning the scoring chance battle.
I would expect Vegas’ puck possession numbers to vastly improve in this one, and once again I believe the Ducks are going to struggle to generate chances and shots against this Vegas defense.
We hit a winner with the Golden Knights -1.5 on the puckline, and tonight we’re getting the same +105 odds in that area as we did two nights back. To me, those odds continue to show great value as these two teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Vegas is a Stanley Cup contender and the Ducks are a team in transition from old to young.
As I write this piece today, the Golden Knights sport +160 odds to win the west, ever so slightly behind the Avalanche at +150. The Ducks, however, have already shifted from the +2000 odds before Thursday’s opener to +2500, still the longest odds in the eight-team division.
I don’t see much reason as to why we don’t simply roll with the Golden Knights -1.5 on the puckline again in this one.