NHL Preview October 9th – 15th

The NHL season is still in is embryonic stages but it is already shaping up to be a highly competitive 2018/19 campaign. None of the Stanley Cup contenders have hit the ground running but with several facing-off over the course of the week, including a Stanley Cup Finals rematch when the Las Vegas Golden Knights travel to Washington, there is a chance to lay down a marker.

We start our preview in the ‘City of Brotherly Love’, where the San Jose Sharks will be looking to continue their dominance of the Flyers on Wednesday night.

Unconvincing Sharks face stiff Philly test

San Jose are expected to dominate the Pacific Division this season and remain 3.25 favourites to clinch the title, despite a stuttering start. All eyes were on big off-season acquisition Erik Karlsson on the first night at home to Anaheim, but it was the Ducks who came away with a 5-2 win.

The Sharks responded with an over-time win in Los Angeles against the Kings but now face their toughest test of the campaign so far, when they head east to take on a Philadelphia side who have also had an up and down start.

The Flyers thrashed the Golden Knights 5-2 in their season-opener but found Colorado too hot to handle, as they lost by the same scoreline. The loss to the Avalanche was doubly disappointing as James van Riemsdyk was forced to leave the game early with a lower body injury. He already appears to have an understanding with Wayne Simmonds on the third line, but the Flyers have the strength in depth to cope with his absence should he not play.

After two away games, Philadelphia now open up at home to the Sharks, a side they have struggled against recently, losing 16 of the last 19 meetings. This should be a goalfest given the strength of both offences with the Flyers fancied to get a rare win at 1.90, while over 5.5 on the goal line stands at 1.76.

Also on Wednesday, the unbeaten Dallas Stars will look to lower the colours of another Stanley Cup fancy, when they take on Toronto.
The Stars impressed when beating the Winnipeg Jets 5-1, Alexander Radulov scoring his second in as many games and they now take on the 9.00 joint-favourite Leafs on home ice.

Toronto came unstuck at home to a Thomas Chabot-inspired Ottawa on Sunday and have yet to convince, needing overtime to see off the Montreal Canadiens. They needed OT once more to beat the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, in yet another high-scoring match.

The Leafs look like they’ll need to outscore teams in the early stages given the deficiencies on defence but have the lines to do it, John Tavares having already opened his account following his arrival in Canada, while Auston Matthews has flown out the blocks with eight points. Toronto won both meetings against Dallas last season but will need to be on point to down this year’s Stars, with goaltender Ben Bishop looking strong and center Tyler Seguin having four points to his name.

Washington to capitalise on slow-starting Vegas

Thursday night sees the big match-up between the Capitals and the Knights, with the latter seeking their first regulation win of the season after bettering Minnesota in a shootout on Monday. It was always likely Las Vegas would take a step back after their fairytale run to last season’s finals, with last year’s MVP, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, having been pulled in the season-opening loss to the Flyers perhaps a sign of things to come.

The Capitals, who retained the majority of their Stanley Cup-winning squad, have been fun to watch in their opening two games, scoring 13 goals, seven of which came in a rout of Boston. T.J. Oshie has caught the eye with three goals and two assists, while Alex Ovechkin shows no signs of slowing down. The Caps should pick up from where they left off in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Predators seek Jets revenge

Looking ahead to later in the week, the Nashville Predators will seek to lay down a Central Division marker when they face the Winnipeg Jets at home on Friday. These two provided arguably the series of the play-offs last season, with the Jets eventually edging through in Game Seven, so expect high drama.