The NHL season starts Wednesday with four games to provide a glimpse of what type of competition could be in store as reconstituted and reshuffled teams take the ice.
The Toronto Maple Leafs host the Montreal Canadians. The line opened with Toronto at -220 and Montreal at +180. Station Casinos have Toronto at -230, while the best odds for the Canadians are at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and William Hill at +195.
The next game is Boston at defending Stanley Cup champions Washington, where the Bruins, who share with the Capitals 11/1 odds to win the Cup, are the underdog at +115. Washington opened at -135, but has moved to as low as -125 at the Westgate.
But lest we only get a glimpse of teams with the highest expectations, Calgary at Vancouver stand to show us whether or not certain teams stand a chance to surprise us. The Flames are 33/1 to win the Stanley Cup, while the Canucks are third lowest at 125/1. Calgary is the favorite at -130, while Vancouver is anywhere from +105 to +115.
The nightcap is Anaheim at San Jose. The Ducks are without Corey Perry, who is out with knee surgery. They are still expected to get 94.5 points this season. They face the Sharks, who traded for defenseman Erik Karlsson, and once the move was announced the team’s odds to win the Cup went from 20/1 to 10/1. They are a strong -170 favorite to defeat Anaheim, who are at +150.
While the rest of the NHL gets underway on Thursday, here are some storylines that will play out this season.
Can Washington Repeat?
The Capitals won the Stanley Cup with an impressive performance against the Vegas Golden Knights. Part of that success was because of coach Barry Trotz. When the front office didn’t want to pay him what other coaches with similar resumes were getting, he resigned.
How much the team will miss Trotz is the biggest question of the season. Washington’s new man, Todd Reirden, was an assistant under Trotz, and was quickly handed the job.
Can Rierden make the transition to top man? It will be interesting to see how much of a honeymoon the fans, and the front office, give him.
Can Vegas Replicate?
It was the most improbable run for a team that was fueled on grit, emotion and motivation. Can Gerard Gallant recapture that magic and send the team back to the finals.
Bovada doesn’t think so. They have the Golden Knights at 11/1, bunched with Boston, Washington, and Nashville. Three teams Toronto, Tampa Bay, and Winnipeg are all ahead of them, odds-wise.
Vegas sportsbooks aren’t making the same mistake last year, when they had them as underdogs all year, and nearly took a bath. The Westgate has them at 8/1.
Will Tavares Lead Toronto to Cup?
When John Tavares landed with the Maple Leafs it made the team a Finals favorite. They leaped over Tampa Bay to take the top spot.
Is the 27-year-old as good as all the attention he is getting? Yes, but this is a team that needs to improve on defense and had a shaky goalie last year in Frederik Andersen, whose 3.76 goals against average in the first round of the playoffs was one of the highest.
Who Will Surprise?
Florida, Dallas, and Buffalo have all improved and could return to the playoffs after layoffs. The Sabres have the longest drought of the three, last making the postseason in 2011, second longest behind the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Panthers and Stars haven’t been since 2016. Florida added Mike Hoffman, while Dallas has Valeri Nichushkin returning from the KHL and should help push them towards the postseason.