Sizing up openers as NHL drops puck

With the abbreviated NHL season set to open Wednesday night, let’s take a look at what’s happening.


Stars’ Opener Postponed

The Dallas Stars announced this week that six players and two staff members had tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, the team will not start its season before Jan. 19. With only 116 days to complete the season, it looks like the Stars will be forced to play all 56 games in 110 days or fewer.

At DraftKings, the Stars are -200 to make the playoffs, which implies they have about a 63% chance to do so. By my estimation, the Stars’ chances of making the playoffs are closer to 54.5%, which means a fair amount of value exists in betting on them to miss at + 155, considering that neither number reflects the new information.


Expect Schedule To Change Many Times

Training camps in Pittsburgh, Columbus and Vancouver have experienced disruptions due to players potentially being exposed to the virus, though those camps have resumed. But more postponements will happen, and the schedule will change. In fact, it will likely be altered several times. When that happens, you’ll find a revised copy of the full schedule here at VSiN that will include “tired spots.”


Crawford Retires, Leaving Devils Shorthanded In Goal

Goaltender Corey Crawford signed a two-year contract with the New Jersey Devils in the offseason after an impressive performance in the bubble. Crawford and Mackenzie Blackwood looked like one of the better tandems in the league. However, after being excused from the first few days of training camp due to what coach Lindy Ruff described as maintenance days, Crawford, 35, announced his retirement Saturday.

For a team that will have to rely heavily on its goaltenders and won’t provide much in the way of offensive support, this is a huge blow. Having two solid options in goal meant the Devils would have a fighting chance every time they hit the ice. Now they’ll be lucky not to get blown out every other game. My assessment is that Crawford is worth about 3.5 standings points over a 56-game season. Therefore, my projection for the Devils has changed from 55.4 to 52.


Opening-Night Moneyline Projections

Here are some preliminary projections from my proprietary game-prediction model for opening night. Be aware that lineups and goaltenders are not set in stone.

Pittsburgh Penguins (Tristan Jarry) at Philadelphia Flyers (Carter Hart)

It all starts late Wednesday afternoon when the Penguins and Flyers clash in Philadelphia. The Penguins should be carrying some chalk, as I estimate their chance to win the game at 52%, which equates to a line of -108. Back the Pens on the moneyline at + 100 or better.

Montreal Canadiens (Carey Price) at Toronto Maple Leafs (Frederik Andersen)

For hockey fans in Canada, it doesn’t get much better than this. Even if you’re not a fan of either team, the atmosphere is always electric when they get together. The Maple Leafs deserve to be favored, but if you can take the Habs at + 125 or better, that’s a good bet. My projected line is Toronto -115.

Chicago Blackhawks (Malcolm Subban) at Tampa Bay Lightning (Andrei Vasilevskiy)

The Stanley Cup banner will be unveiled inside Amalie Arena without fans, and there’s about a 72.5% chance the Lightning will end the night on a positive note. That means the Lightning should be listed as -265 moneyline favorites. There’s value in laying -240 or better with the Bolts on opening night.

Vancouver Canucks (Braden Holtby) at Edmonton Oilers (Mikko Koskinen)

Of all the openers, this one is closest to a coin flip. Edmonton is a slight favorite, with a 51% chance of winning. Assuming the Oilers don’t start Mike Smith, Edmonton -104 is a fair price. Vancouver at + 111 or better would be enough for me to want to jump in.

St. Louis Blues (Jordan Binnington) at Colorado Avalanche (Philipp Grubauer)

Two West Division powerhouses close it all out Wednesday night, and the home team should win the game about 55% of the time. In other words, the Avs should be carrying a -125 price tag. I don’t anticipate a play on either team since my projection is aligned with the market.


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