There are nine games on the NHL schedule on Tuesday, and only one of them – Chicago at Edmonton – is being postponed. Sure, we still have COVID-related issues on the ice, but we’re getting there. The number of postponements is slowly declining and COVID lists are growing shorter by the day. Hopefully, soon enough, we’ll be full steam ahead on the 2021-22 NHL season.
Not a single team has even played half its games yet, but the Eastern Conference playoff bracket seems to be set… already. There’s a very obvious gap between the second Wild Card team – Boston with 46 points in 35 games – and the first team out – Detroit with 39 points in 39 games. It’s not great for the competitive balance of the league, but it’ll certainly make the trade deadline more transparent. With so few teams close enough to consider themselves within striking distance, you can expect much less competition from the buyers for some of the league’s top available talent.
The Eastern Conference cream may have already risen to the top, and two of those teams are my best bets for tonight in the NHL. I’m selling high on one team and buying low on another. Let’s dive in.
Carolina Hurricanes ML (+105)
The Hurricanes haven’t been plus-money underdogs on the moneyline since December 9th in Calgary, a game they beat the host Flames 2-1. This is one of the best teams in hockey, and their front office has already made it clear that they’re going to be involved in every available player at the deadline. They’re going for it, and that’s a vote of confidence for the players – something I think will give them extra motivation.
On the ice, Carolina has the second-best points percentage in the NHL, and yes they’ll be traveling to Boston to face the hottest team in the NHL, but the Hurricanes are actually better on the road than they are in Raleigh. They’ve got two more road points than home points, and raucous environments don’t phase this team – great news for our bet.
The Hurricanes have had a bunch of postponements, but they’re been scorching hot themselves dating all the way back to the beginning of December. Carolina has won 10 of 13 and has collected at least a point in 11 of 13. Everyone is so focused on the Bruins recent hot streak, and rightfully so as they’ve won eight of nine, but Carolina is just as hot and they’re a deeper team from top to bottom.
— Jason Paul 🥥 (@WaveIntel) January 9, 2022
We can most likely expect Tuukka Rask between the pipes for the Bruins. He’s one of the best goaltenders in recent memory in the NHL and one of the best in Boston’s storied history, but he’s played just one NHL game this year and it was against the dreadful Flyers. The Hurricanes are a big step up in terms of skill and speed, and it’s going to take some time for Rask to snap back into form. Carolina isn’t a team you want to play from behind against, so if they do manage to get to Rask early, we’ll be set up nicely to cruise to the window and cash this bet. Play the Canes down to even money.
Washington Capitals ML (-135)
I just sold high on Boston; now we’re buying low on the struggling Capitals to break out of their funk against the Winnipeg Jets.
There are a ton of reasons to fade the visiting Jets in this one. The first is obvious and that’s travel. They’re a western Canadian team coming all the way to the east coast of the United States for the first game of a four-game trip. The second is a bit less obvious, but let’s take a look at their schedule. They’ve barely played any hockey over the last month. Since December 19th, Winnipeg has played just four total games and since January 6th, they’ve played just once. They’ll have had five nights off between their last game in Detroit and puck drop tonight – good luck keeping up with Washington’s playoff style of play and hard-on-the-puck, bruiser mentality. The Caps should be all over Winnipeg right from the start in this game.
And while there are plenty of reasons to fade an underachieving Winnipeg team, there’s also a few key reasons to buy low on Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals. Firstly, Ovechkin is back in the lineup, and sure he’s played a few games since returning from injury, but even he admitted he’s still a bit banged up. I expect him to be a lot closer to 100% and at the very least be more comfortable playing through injury in this one than he was against both the Islanders and the Canucks.
Secondly, it’s time to start winning, and the captain knows that. With their five losses in the last six games, Washington has fallen three points behind the first place Rangers and now sit just two points ahead of Pittsburgh for the final spot among the top three in the Metropolitan Division. With four of the next five games coming in DC, I expect this team to come out with a more aggressive attitude and more physical style of play. There’s still half a season to go, but it’s playoff mode for these teams fighting for home ice advantage in the postseason.
Let’s also not act like the Capitals have dropped a bunch of games to terrible teams, because they haven’t. Their first loss of this skid was against a divisional opponent in New Jersey, followed by losses to two tough Western Conference foes in St. Louis and Minnesota, and then losses to two of the hottest teams in the entire league – Boston and Vancouver. There are some winnable games in the coming weeks for Washington, starting tonight against Winnipeg. I think they get it done in convincing fashion, so play this line down to -145.
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