Like many sports across the world, the 2020-21 NHL season was forced into some changes due to the coronavirus pandemic with organisers reaching the conclusion that the campaign must be reduced to 56 games, almost a third shorter than normal. However, with the regular season finally getting underway on January 13, matches have been played on an almost daily basis in an attempt get fixtures concluded in a matter of months. With some teams playing significantly more games than others, it is still difficult to make a solid judgment on which teams will make the playoffs, but that will not discourage supporters from placing bets on their favoured teams. With more than a dozen more fixtures to be played on February 13 and 14, who should fans be backing to get more points on the board?
Just like punters can assess the wide range of options when using True North Casinos, you can take a calculated risk in backing the Florida Panthers to get the better of Central Division leaders Tampa Bay Lightning. With Tampa Bay winning eight of their 11 matches without requiring overtime, it is understandable why they are receiving plenty of attention in the various betting markets, but the Panthers deserve respect having moved into second spot with a game in hand. While it does not go unnoticed that just four of the Panthers' wins have come in normal time, the betting odds will be in favour of you backing them to prevail in over time on Saturday night. Punters should also take notice of the 8/1 which is on offer for the Panthers to win the Central Division. Those odds will be much shorter should they gain their desired result against their state rivals.
Sticking with the top-of-the-table theme, the Toronto Maple Leafs go up against the Montreal Canadiens in the North Division on the same day. It is a similar scenario to the top of the Central Division with the Canadiens trailing the Maple Leafs by three points with a game in hand. However, both teams have been prolific when it comes to posting normal time wins, with four of their combined total of five defeats coming in overtime. Taking everything into consideration, it is difficult not to envisage this contest being decided by the narrowest of margins, just like it was back on the first weekend of the season when the Maple Leafs came from behind to win 5-4. With the Canadiens having recently struggled in their double-header with Ottawa Senators, we would back the Maple Leafs to outlast the visitors in overtime.
Turning our attention to Valentine's Day, we feel inclined to take more of a risk on a shock result, something which could occur in the fixture between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers. Looking at the East Division will show you that the Rangers are in bottom spot and the Flyers are in second, but that does not mean that you should automatically back the favourites. The Rangers have emerged victorious in two of their last three outings, which includes a win over third-placed Washington Capitals, while the Flyers put together a two-match losing streak before beating the Capitals in a goalfest on Sunday. Some markets may offer value as far as the Flyers are concerned, but we would support a mid-range bet on the Rangers.
The final match of the weekend sees the Vegas Golden Knights play host to the Colorado Avalanche in a match which is first versus third in the West Division. Holding a one-point advantage at the top of the table with a match in hand, logic suggests that punters should place faith in the Nevada-based outfit, but they have been far from convincing in recent contests. They had to withstand a third-period comeback from the Anaheim Ducks in their last outing before eventually winning 5-4, while bottom-of-the-table Los Angeles Kings pushed them all the way in the second of their recent double-header.
On the flip side, the Avalanche have won four of their last five fixtures, their only defeat coming in overtime versus Minnesota Wild after all three quarters had ended 1-1. Three of their wins came by margins of four, three and four, and it suggests to us that Colorado have the ruthless streak required to move themselves higher in the standings. Avalanche have not conceded more than one goal in their last 21 periods of hockey, and we are backing the visitors to strengthen their position in the table this weekend. Should you have faith in that bet coming up trumps, it may be worth taking the 8/1 which is currently on offer for the same team to win the Stanley Cup later this year.