NHL Preview (Oct 19 to 22)

The acquisition of John Tavares in the off-season saw Toronto Maple Leafs installed as the early favourites to win the Stanley Cup, and their start to the season has only strengthened their position at the top of the market. The Maple Leafs are now 5.50 to go all the way, ahead of Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Nashville Predators all at 10.00.

Leafs won’t be blown off course

There is no doubt that Tavares’ signing is a statement of intent, but it is rising star Auston Matthews that has perhaps benefitted the most, scoring 10 of the Leafs’ league-leading 33 goals this season.

Although Matthews’ six-game goal streak came to an end in the 4-1 win over Los Angeles Kings last time out, he did provide two assists which saw him become only the fifth player in NHL history to score at least two points in the first seven games of a season.

Matthews is fast becoming one of NHL’s elite players and the Leafs will take on one of the greats in Sidney Crosby, when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early hours of Friday morning.

Although many will be tempted by the 2.30 on offer for the Penguins, they are a team that is not quite firing in the early stages – star man Crosby has yet to score a goal – and taking on a red-hot Toronto team (1.66) is hardly ideal in trying to end a two-game losing streak, going down to Canadian opposition each time in Montreal and Vancouver.

High flyers go head-to-head

Another team that can perhaps demonstrate their Stanley Cup credentials on Saturday is Nashville but they face a stern test in Calgary, as they look to avenge their one defeat so far this season.

The Predators were shutout 3-0 by the Flames earlier this month but have responded well, winning their next three games, conceding just four goals in the process.

Goaltender Pekka Rinne has been key to their defensive strength, saving 116 of 123 shots faced for a mightily impressive .943 save percentage and he will have to be on his game again against Calgary, who go into the game on the back of a 5-2 win over another expected Stanley Cup challenger in the Bruins.

Although special teams need to improve for the Predators, Roman Josi and co are expected to show their teeth and douse the high-flying Flames.

Ducks to enjoy Vegas win

Anaheim Ducks have enjoyed a solid start to the season, winning five of their seven games to sit atop the Pacific Division and can consolidate their position against the misfiring Knights.

The Ducks have made light of the long-term injury to Corey Perry, so far at least, and their defensive strength can tame Vegas.

The Knights have only scored 15 goals in their seven games so far and although four of those came in a recent win over Buffalo (only the second time they have scored more than two goals in a game this term), an injury to centre Paul Stastny is a big loss.