NHL Opening night preview

The new NHL season is upon us with four season-openers taking place today, with plenty of intrigue to take us through the early weeks of the season, perhaps not least over whether the Washington Capitals can focus on the task at hand having finally winning the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals had so often flattered to deceive ahead of the play-offs, winning three Presidents Trophies without getting close to the Stanley Cup, but after many had believed they had missed their chance, Alexander Ovechkin and co finally got their hands on the big one last season.

Although losing coach Barry Trotz doesn’t appear to be ideal going into the new campaign, he was often made the scapegoat for their perceived struggles last season and in the play-offs, and the promotion of Todd Reirden could actually work in their favour.

Another plus point is the fact they kept their championship-winning squad pretty much together and if Braden Holtby can find rediscover his best form, they should certainly contend for honours once again.

The Capitals will of course be raising the banner on opening night and riding the crest of a wave, with a tough trip to Pittsburgh the following night, are taken to open their season account with a win at 1.80, against a Boston Bruins side that started badly last year.

There has been plenty of talk this off-season about San Jose Sharks and their chances of finally getting their hands on the Stanley Cup, after their blockbuster acquisition of elite defenseman Erik Karlsson.

The Sharks were already a regular play-off team but the Swede’s arrival is a real statement of intent and they are priced at 11.00 to go all the way this season.

Peter DeBoer will certainly not allow his troops any slack in terms of performance with the pressure to deliver now on, and, against a Corey Perry-less Ananheim Ducks, who they swept in the first round of the play-offs in April, they are expected to win at 1.57.

John Tavares’ arrival in Toronto has certainly ramped up the expectation levels for the Maple Leafs, so much so that they have been installed as the early favourites at 8.50 to lift the Stanley Cup.

Tavares adds to a strong core at centre alongside Auston Matthews and Nazem Kadri, although doubts remain as to the strength of their blue line.

The Maple Leafs are the second most successful team in NHL history, in terms of winning the Cup at least, but they have not tasted success since 1967. There have been plenty of false dawns since then, but Tavares’ arrival suggests they want to end their drought this season.

There are few reasons to be positive from a Montreal Canadiens viewpoint, and after having traded away Max Pacioretty, it looks like it could be a season of rebuilding.

Although they are considered rivals to the Leafs, these appear to be franchises heading in opposite directions and it is difficult to oppose the hosts at 1.41.

Vancouver Canucks go into the campaign without two of their top-three points scorers, now that Henrik and Daniel Sedin have retired, relying on youngsters Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and Elias Patterson.

However, they can at least open up with a win at a big price of 2.21 as they take on a Calgary Flames side that disappointed last season, havving lost their last five road games, going 2-9 in the last 11 and have only won 8 of their last 26 in Vancouver.