Greetings hockey fans, the 2021-22 NHL season is officially upon us. We've already had some thrilling action over the first three days of the season.
The Seattle Kraken have already managed to get into the win column with an exciting 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators on Thursday. In addition, the Kraken nearly defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in the season opener despite falling behind 3-0 early on. This definitely looks like a fun group that a lot of talent up and down the roster. Will they have the type of success that the Golden Knights enjoyed as an expansion team? That remains to be seen, but they're off to a very strong start.
Throughout the season, I'll be bringing you my NHL picks as we head into each weekend of action. Friday's slate only features three games, but each one is extremely intriguing. With any further adieu, let's dive into the picks and make some money!
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
🏒 Blackhawks at Devils, 7 p.m. | TV: NHL Network
The Pick: Devils (-130): Much like pitching matchups in baseball, betting hockey often comes down to what goaltenders are between the pipes for a given. After getting steamrolled by the Avalanche on Wednesday, the Blackhawks are starting Kevin Lankinen in net on Friday's battle against the Devils. The team is choosing to save veteran netminder Marc-Andre Fleury for the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday.
Lankinen served as the Blackhawks' primary goaltender down the stretch last season. In 37 starts, the rookie goalie accumulated a 17-14-5 record to go along with a 3.01 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage. Now it's worth noting that Lankinen didn't face the Devils last season as a result of the league limiting travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Lankinen allowed two goals or less in only 14 of the 37 games that he started.
Given that Lankinen had a tendency to give up upwards of four and five goals, I'm siding with the Devils' ability to put the puck in the net. While the Devils only scored 2.6 goals-per-game last season, captain Nico Hischier did only play in 21 of the team's games. Having a healthy Hischier centering New Jersey's top line is a welcome sight and I wouldn't be surprised to see his group beat Lankinen on multiple occasions.
Key Trend: Devils are 8-3 in their last 11 games as a favorite
💰 More NHL picks
🏒 Canucks at Flyers, 7 p.m. | TV: NHL.tv
The Pick: Flyers (-150): After missing the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the Flyers made significant changes to their roster over the offseason. The team completely altered their blue line with the additions of former Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis, former Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, and former Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle. In addition, the Flyers moved on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who had struggled in recent seasons.
The Flyers are going to need to rely on this group to protect the puck against a Canucks team that features young, exciting playmakers like Elias Pettersson and Bo Horvat. Unfortunately, Philadelphia won't have the services of Ristolainen for Friday's matchup as he deals with an upper-body injury. I still think that the Flyers have more than enough talent in their defensive group in Ivan Provorov, Ellis, and Yandle.
The Flyers also have plenty of depth at forward to score goals against the Canucks. The Canucks are 4-10 in their last 14 games as underdogs and are coming off of an overtime loss to the Oilers on Wednesday. Since this is the Flyers' season opener, they'll have a fresh Carter Hart starting in goal in what could be a make-or-break season for the 23-year old.
Key Trend: The Flyers are 5-0 in their last five games against Western Conference teams
🏒 Wild at Ducks, 10 p.m. | TV: ESPN+
The Pick: Over 5.5 goals (-105): The Ducks were probably one of the biggest surprises during the opening days of the NHL season. I doubt many people, myself included, believed that the Ducks would be able to dispatch of the Jets so easily. The biggest reason for that was the play of Ducks goaltender John Gibson. Gibson stopped 33 shots and only allowed one goal in a 4-1 win.
However, Anaheim won't have the services of Gibson on Friday as he's been ruled out due to an upper-body injury. Instead, the Ducks will start journeyman netminder Anthony Stolarz in net. Stolarz put together a 4-3 record with a 2.20 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage in eight games last season. The 27-year old surrendered at least two goals in six of those games, so I'm banking on the Wild being able to put a few past Stolarz. After all, the Wild did finish ninth in the NHL in goals last season and possess skilled forwards like Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, and Kevin Fiala that should be able to get the job done.
On their own, the Wild could get us close to the six goals that we need for the over to hit. Meanwhile, the Ducks offense was a welcome surprise in their season opener with a four-goal performance. If they can have even half of that type of showing, the over should hit with ease.
Key Trend: The over is 7-1 in Wild's last eight games as a favorite