Five NHL teams to watch

November 2, 2021 08:22 PM
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Here are five NHL teams to watch in the week ahead.

Vegas Golden Knights

With Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty and William Karlsson sidelined, the Vegas Golden Knights are about to face their biggest test in quite some time. If the players in the lineup can’t raise their game, the team could be heading for a disaster. The schedule isn’t all that tough in terms of the competition they’ll face, but that’s just it. The team can’t really afford to waste this part of the schedule because it won’t get any easier. Goaltending has been the only thing that has really held the team together. No young players have stepped up, and Alex Pietrangelo is struggling. Until Stone, Pacioretty and Karlsson return, the Golden Knights will have to score by committee. It’s very hard to assess this team in its current state, and that will make it tough to have much confidence in my handicap when the Golden Knights are involved.

Nashville Predators

After playing Tuesday night at Calgary, the Predators were off to Edmonton on Wednesday to continue a six-game trip on which they’ll land Friday in Vancouver before heading to Chicago to play the Blackhawks on Sunday. The Predators have only three home games in November and won’t be back in Nashville until Nov. 13, which will be enough time to play one game, say goodbye to their loved ones again and head on the road until Nov. 22. Nashville has only one back-to-back during this stretch, but it will be a grind nonetheless. Of course, the Predators have a world-class goaltender in Juuse Saros, so they’ll have a chance as long as he’s in goal, but this is not a good hockey team and Saros can take it only so far. Bettors should be cognizant of the tired spots the Predators will be facing throughout November.

Washington Capitals

Just as Nicklas Backstrom was getting close to joining the team, T.J. Oshie suffered an injury while blocking a shot and is in a walking boot. The Capitals will play eight of 12 games on the road in November, and there’s no timeline on when Backstrom will return. But I’m not too worried about the Capitals. Washington has been playing great hockey. According to Evolving Hockey, the Capitals rank second in expected goals (for and against) at five-on-five. Washington has been outshooting teams 30-23 and outscoring them 3-1.5 on a per-60-minute basis. I don’t expect the Caps to sustain this level of play all season, but it’s a good indication they’re still contenders.

New York Rangers

The Rangers have been hot to start the season, but it’s almost entirely because of how good Igor Shesterkin has been. His .944 save percentage ranks third behind only Jacob Markstrom and Frederik Andersen. The Rangers haven’t been very good otherwise, especially on offense, as only five teams have scored fewer goals on a per-60-minute basis. It’s concerning, given that trading skill for toughness was something I did not agree with, but it could just be a small sample size too. After all, the Rangers were a top-10 team on offense in 2020-21. Either way, I am not very keen on betting New York, given the pricing I’ve seen lately. But I don’t often see much value in betting against Shesterkin, who I think is the best young goaltender in the NHL. I don’t buy the Rangers as legitimate contenders because they rely on their goaltender far too much. That could change, though, if the offense starts to heat up.

Detroit Red Wings

I want to talk about two of Detroit’s rookies and their Calder Trophy odds. Defender Moritz Seider and winger Lucas Raymond are sitting atop rookie scoring at the moment. In fact, they’re neck and neck, but I’d have to give the edge to Seider. Both players have looked the part of NHL players, but Seider’s position is much tougher to play and he has done so with ease. If Raymond and Seider continue to produce points at similar rates, voters will recognize that come the end of the season, and Seider will get more first-place votes. So that’s why I can’t understand why Raymond is the Calder Trophy favorite (+ 450) while Seider sits at + 1000. Given what we’ve seen thus far, the choice is clear. Seider is the value bet to win rookie of the year.

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