More than one NHL veteran told me, back in the 1990s when I first started covering the league, that the good teams, essentially, didn’t really start to play hard until after Christmas.
A bad start by well-funded teams back then, in a non-salary-cap league, wasn’t as important because they knew they could buy out the store at the trade deadline.
In the capped-out league of today, with parity arguably never better, a bad start can doom any team. That’s why early-season injuries matter now in the NHL, and there are a handful of teams already with some top players hurt, ones NHL betting fans need to be wary of right now.
Let’s take a look at some of them as well as opportunities because of them fans of ice hockey betting should consider when wagering.
The Columbus Blue Jackets already started the season without a top defenseman, Seth Jones, who sprained a knee in late September and was listed as out 4-6 weeks. Jones, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, is a two-time All-Star D-man who can log a lot of minutes and play at both ends.
Now veteran center Brandon Dubinsky is out 4-6 weeks with a strained oblique. He suffered the injury at a practice on Sunday after playing very well the first two games of the season. He had two points and won 68 percent of his faceoffs.
Dubinsky is a real locker-room leader, a guy who keeps everyone accountable, a guy coach John Tortorella loves, having coached him also with the Rangers. Only six other teams have better Eastern Conference futures numbers right now than the Blue Jackets (+1150 at 888Sport), but already this is looking dicier.
Starting with Tuesday’s game against Colorado at Nationwide Arena, Columbus does have six of its next nine games at home. But they’ll start November with five of the first seven on the road. Be leery of this team. Hope you haven’t already bet a bundle on them.
It was a bad night all around for the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday in Denver. The Flyers lost to the Avalanche, 5-2, and a day later it was revealed off-season free-agent acquisition James van Riemsdyk had a right knee injury and would miss 5-6 weeks.
Van Riemsdyk scored 36 goals for Toronto last season and gave the Flyers premium depth up front, with a group that already included studs such as Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek. That long of an absence would mean a loss of 15 games - nearly a fifth of the season.
I think the Flyers will still score enough goals and be OK in that regard, but now the other top guys probably have to play a little more -- and now their chances for injury go up. Stay away from the Flyers for a while, just to be safe. They need to score a lot of goals to win, and now they’re down a top guy.
The Florida Panthers already were something of a long shot to win the Eastern Conference (+1700 at 888Sport, middle of the pack), and that was before goalie Roberto Luongo went down with a reported sprained MCL, out 2-4 weeks.
OK, first off, take the over on those estimated 2-4 weeks. A sprained MCL is a bad injury for a goalie, especially one at Luongo’s age (39). That prognosis sounds too optimistic to me. Better than a torn MCL, but still …
Now it’s up to James Reimer to keep Florida competitive in Bobby Lou’s absence. This is worrisome.
One thing in the Panthers’ favor: They only play three games in the next 10 days. But stay away from them in the meantime. From Oct. 16-24, the Panthers will play on the road at Philly, Washington, the Rangers and Devils. Go hard on the home teams in those tilts at Karamba.
The Anaheim Ducks (+1400 to win the West at Karamba, toward the uppermost of the pack) started the season without longtime top forward Corey Perry (knee surgery in late September, out five months from there) and over the weekend lost captain Ryan Getzlaf to a lower-body injury.
Early reports are that Getzlaf won’t miss significant time, but it’s still a blow to a team that has descended from the conference elite the last couple of years. Anaheim is always a hard team to figure out, but it’ll be tough to win consistently without those two guys.
Down the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, the Kings have been rocked once again by an injury to top goalie Jonathan Quick.
The early reports out of Los Angeles are vague about Quick. Lower body injury, supposedly day-to-day. But this is the same player who missed 59 games with a groin injury in 2016-17, and who was also unable to start game No. 2 of the last regular season.
Now it’s up to Jack Campbell and Peter Budaj to stop pucks for the Kings, for who knows how long. That is worrisome.
The Kings begin a four-game Canadian odyssey starting Tuesday in Winnipeg, followed by games in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Take the home teams at 888Sport in those games, eh?
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