NHL Division Betting: The Ottawa Senators and 5 Value Bets to Consider
We’re now about 3 weeks into the National Hockey League season, and surprises abound everywhere you look.
2 of the 4 divisions are currently led by teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year, with the New Jersey Devils off to a 6-2 start and the LA Kings finally suffering their first regulation time loss of the campaign Monday in Toronto. And the expansion Vegas Golden Knights own the second-best record in the NHL, winning 6 of their first 7 outings (though it’s certainly helped to play 6 of those games at home against mediocre opponents.)
Meanwhile, the defending Atlantic Division champion Canadiens look like 1 of the worst teams in the league through their first 8 games, the two-time Stanley Cup champion Penguins have already suffered 2 losses by 6 goals or more, and the Oilers, a Cup favorite at the start of the year, are averaging just 2 goals per game.
The good news for bettors is that we often see an overreaction in the futures odds or at least some adjustments that open up value on some of the better teams in the league that are off to slow starts.
Let’s take a look at the updated NHL division odds now that we’re about 10% of the way through the season, then identify 5 teams that offer the most betting value to finish atop their group this season.
Updated NHL Division Odds
Here are the latest NHL division odds at TopBet.eu (as of Tuesday, October 24):
- Tampa Bay Lightning: +160
- Toronto Maple Leafs: +185
- Ottawa Senators: +475
- Montreal Canadiens: +1000
- Boston Bruins +1000
- Florida Panthers: +1200
- Detroit Red Wings: +1800
- Buffalo Sabres: +3300
- Pittsburgh Penguins: +225
- Washington Capitals: +350
- Columbus Blue Jackets: +375
- New Jersey Devils: +750
- New York Rangers: +850
- Philadelphia Flyers: +850
- Carolina Hurricanes: +1000
- New York Islanders: +1000
- Chicago Blackhawks: +250
- Louis Blues: +300
- Dallas Stars: +350
- Nashville Predators: +350
- Minnesota Wild: +700
- Winnipeg Jets: +1100
- Colorado Avalanche: +1500
- Edmonton Oilers: +250
- Los Angeles Kings: +260
- Anaheim Ducks: +325
- Calgary Flames: +375
- San Jose Sharks: +700
- Vegas Golden Knights: +1500
- Vancouver Canucks: +2500
- Arizona Coyotes: +5000
NHL Division Betting: 5 Strong Value Bets
There may be safer bets out there than the 5 I’m going to list below, but I’m convinced that each of these teams are currently paying more on their division odds than they should.
Besides, at the price that most of these teams are paying, you could turn a nice profit if just 1 of these squads went on to win their division. We’ll start in Ottawa, where I believe the Senators offer the greatest value of them all.
1. Ottawa Senators (+475 to win the Atlantic)
Seriously, at what point are oddsmakers going to respect the Senators? Yeah, head coach Guy Boucher might not have his team play the most entertaining style of hockey in the world, but it’s a style that wins.
Last year, the Sens finished second in the Atlantic (only 5 points behind Montreal) and then in the playoffs came within an overtime goal of advancing to the Stanley Cup final. This fall, the Sens picked right up where they left off, going 3-0-2 in their first 5 games (including lopsided wins in Calgary and Edmonton) despite being without injured superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson.
Ottawa laid an egg in Karlsson’s return, losing 3-0 at home to Vancouver as -190 favorites, but that was a difficult spot following a western road trip. The Senators bounced back in style Saturday, handing the rival Maple Leafs just their second loss of the season with a 6-3 win over Toronto.
The thing I like most about Ottawa so far is that they’re doing it at both ends of the rink. The Senators are sixth in the league in goals scored per game, but their more impressive performance (and where they’re the most consistent) has been their defensive play, where their 2.4 goals against per game is third-best in the NHL.
The 2 teams ranked ahead of them on the Atlantic Division odds, Tampa Bay and Toronto, have much more dynamic offenses. But the Leafs have given up at least 3 goals in 7 of their first 10 games this year, while the Lightning has allowed more than 35 shots per game through its first 9 outings. Toronto (Auston Matthews) and Tampa Bay (Steven Stamkos) are also more reliant on superstars than Ottawa, which has already proven it can still get the job done without Karlsson.
2. Philadelphia Flyers (+850 to win the Metropolitan)
Goaltending always seems to be the Flyers’ Achilles heel, but whoever’s in net won’t even matter if Philadelphia keeps playing as strong defensively as it has to start the year.
With all due respect to goalies Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth, the big reason Philly ranks second in the league in goals against per game this season is a strong commitment to defense. The Flyers are holding opponents to just 28.5 shots per game (4th in the NHL), but even those numbers don’t tell the whole story. In 3 of the Flyers’ last 4 games and 4 of their last 6, they’ve held the opposition to 23 shots or less.
Already this season, the Flyers have beaten San Jose and Anaheim on the road, whipped the Capitals 8-2 in Philadelphia and beat the Oilers 2-1. Their 5-3 record through 8 games won’t bowl anyone over, but if they’d only been able to hold onto a late lead in Nashville a couple of weeks ago (the Preds scored 2 power play goals in the final 1:17 of regulation to steal a 6-5 win), the Flyers would be 6-2.
It’s early, but Metropolitan favorites Pittsburgh (dead last in goals against) and Washington (22nd) hardly look invincible at the defensive end of the rink. The Penguins have also played a ton of hockey over the past 2 years and may not even be too concerned about winning the division, choosing instead to take a page out of the Cavaliers playbook and coast through the regular season. The Capitals were expected to take a step back this year after some major offseason losses, so the Metropolitan might actually be up for grabs this year.
Philadelphia has been one of the streakier teams in the NHL over the last few years (last year, they won 10 consecutive games early in the season, then went on to miss the playoffs), and it’s possible they’re just running hot to start 2017-18. But it’s easier to win consistently playing solid defense than by lighting up the scoreboard. At +850 odds, I’ll take my chances that Philly’s early-season success is sustainable.
3. Winnipeg Jets (+1100 Central)
Coming into this season, we all knew the Jets would score goals. They were seventh in the NHL last year in goals for, Patrik Laine put up 36 goals last year as a rookie, Mark Scheifele also cracked the 30-goal plateau and 4 other Jets produced 45 points or more.
What makes the Jets look like a potential contender in the Central is how their defensive play has improved. You wouldn’t expect to hear that about a team that is fifth-worst in the NHL so far in goals allowed per game, but it’s actually true.
Winnipeg’s poor defensive statistics are due to 3 awful performances by offseason acquisition Steve Mason, who was projected to be the Jets’ #1 goaltender this year. Mason was torched for 5 goals on 20 shots in an opening-night 7-2 loss to the Maple Leafs, gave up 6 more goals in his following start against Calgary and then surrendered 5 in a 5-2 loss to Columbus. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s a 0-3 record, 5.98 goals-against average and .846 save percentage for the beleaguered former rookie of the year, who has only had 2 seasons in which his goals-against average was under 2.50.
When a competent netminder is actually in goal, the Jets are actually keeping the puck out of their net and winning games. Connor Hellebuyck has yet to allow more than 3 goals in any of his 4 starts, winning all 4 of them with a sparkling .928 save percentage. Hellebuyck is a bit of a wild card, entering this season with only 82 career games under his belt, but the early returns suggest he might finally be the answer in net that Winnipeg has been searching for.
If that’s the case, the Jets become a lot more dangerous. They were 1 of only 2 teams last year to finish in the top 13 in the NHL in goals and miss the playoffs (the Islanders were the other), and 1 of just 6 teams to boast a shooting percentage above 10%. Their offense has yet to get untracked this year (13th in goals, 29th in shots), yet they’re 4-3 through 7 games. That can only be considered a good thing for Winnipeg’s chances in the Central.
4. Anaheim Ducks (+325 Pacific)
The Ducks go into Tuesday’s action 6 points out of first place in the Pacific and sixth in the division, not exactly the position you want to find yourself after 6 games.
But it’s actually pretty incredible that Anaheim is 3-3-1 through its first 7 games, considering . All-world captain Ryan Getzlaf and fellow forward Patrick Eaves have been limited to just 2 games, defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen have yet to appear in a contest, and pesky two-way forward Ryan Kesler is probably out until Christmas. Sniper Corey Perry has suited up in all of Anaheim’s games so far, but he’s also been hampered by injuries in the early going.
Besides, Anaheim has shown a tendency to start seasons slowly. Last year, the Ducks were 9-8-4 through their first 21 games. The previous year, they were 17-17-7 at the midway point of the campaign. And each time, they went on to win the Pacific Division. In fact, Anaheim has finished atop this grouping in each of the past 5 years.
The Ducks opened the season at +250 to win the Pacific, so now we’re getting 75 extra cents of value because of what? Anaheim’s .500 start without several of its top regulars? Fast starts by the LA Kings (6-1-1) and Vegas Golden Knights (6-1)? None of these early-season trends are going to last, and I fully expect Anaheim to be right in the thick of things by the time spring rolls around. That’s especially true if Edmonton, the Ducks’ top competition in the Pacific, continues to struggle without injured star Leon Draisaitl (who is believed to have suffered a concussion and could be vulnerable for another.)
5. Boston Bruins (+1000 Atlantic)
I wasn’t a big believer in the Bruins at the start of the season, but these odds are too good to ignore.
Like the Ducks, Boston’s had to overcome some significant early-season injuries. Patrice Bergeron, a multiple-time member of Canada’s tremendous national hockey team and a perennial candidate for the league’s top defensive player award, missed the first 5 games of the season before putting up a goal and 3 assists in his first 2 outings. David Backes also missed the first 5 games of the year, David Krejci had to sit out the Bruins’ 5-4 overtime loss Saturday to Buffalo and top netminder Tuukka Rask suffered a concussion.
When all those guys return, Boston’s got a nice blend of veteran leadership and offensive firepower to make the Bruins a contender in the Atlantic. Brad Marchand has already shown that last year was no fluke, scoring 6 goals and adding 5 assists in his first 7 games of the year. David Pastrnak is also producing at over a point-per-game pace, and Zdeno Chara is still there to anchor the blue line.
Like I said when discussing Ottawa’s chances, the Atlantic still seems pretty winnable for several teams despite strong starts by Tampa and Toronto. Stamkos always seems to get injured, which could quickly derail the Lightning (they missed the playoffs without him last year), and the Leafs’ poor defensive play keeps them vulnerable as well. With Detroit, Florida, Buffalo and Montreal already looking like non-factors in the division, Boston’s chances of winning the Atlantic seem a lot better than this +1000 price would suggest.