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Defense had no home in the Toronto Maple Leafs‘ 10-7 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. The teams cleared the 6.5-goal total at 9:19 of the second period. By the final buzzer, they had cleared it by 10.5 goals.
We’ve seen plenty of contests this season end with scores closer to an NFL game than an NHL game. The average goals per game per team is 3.07 through 835 games. It’s a significant uptick over last season’s 2.94 in 868 games.
The last season with this kind of offense was the 2005-06 season, which produced 3.08 goals per game per team. It was the season that followed the lockout cancellation of the 2004-05 campaign and one that ushered in a slew of rules changes and enforcement that upped the offense by over a half a goal per team per game. This season has been anomalous for different reasons — specifically, significant schedule changes and lineup absences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are fewer of those absences now. There hasn’t been a postponed game since Jan. 29. Things feel like they’re normalizing. The question is whether the scores will start normalizing, too.
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On the same night the NHL had a 10-7 game, it had six games hit the under and one push between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers. In a season in which betting the over has been money in the bank, 20 of the past 35 games have gone under. On Sunday alone, five of eight games hit the under.
Can we call this a trend? Obviously, we’ll need a larger sample. But as the playoff races solidify, games are naturally going to be played more closely. And as normalcy creeps into a season that has been anything but, perhaps we will see fewer football scores in the NHL.
Well, unless the Florida Panthers are playing. The over is 7-1-1 in their past nine games, with the total set at seven goals in five of them.
NHL continues gambling push
I attended the Stadium Series game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators at Nissan Stadium in Tennessee over the weekend. Strolling through the Fan Fest before the game, it was impossible not to see that times have changed:
Setting up activations at the Stadium Series fan fest were:
• Caesars Sportsbook, with giveaways and appearances by NHL alumni.
• FanDuel, with fans having the opportunity to test their accuracy skills by shooting pucks at targets for a chance to win prizes.
• DraftKings Sportsbook, which hosted the popular hockey podcast “Missin’ Curfew” with former NHL players Shane O’Brien and Scottie Upshall.
In some cases, fans had to download their app and place a wager before participating in the onsite activations.
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Mobile and online sports became legal in Tennessee in November 2020. Thus, the outdoor game’s fan fest looked mighty different than the one in Minnesota for the Winter Classic in January. Sports wagering isn’t legal in Minnesota, so the NHL didn’t have any sportsbooks creating activations there.
Again, the times are changing. At the 2020 Cotton Bowl Winter Classic in Dallas, MGM Resorts had a booth with interactive games and NHL alumni appearances. Former Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco was doing an autograph signing for anyone with an MLife card. But MGM wasn’t there as a sportsbook. It was there as “the Official Resort Destination of the NHL.” Caesars, by contrast, had “an official sports betting partner of the NHL” emblazoned on its kiosk. And it’s only going to keep growing.
Trick or trend
Senators at the puck line
The Ottawa Senators were actually favored to win a game on Saturday against the lowly Montreal Canadiens, only the second time in their last 15 games they went off as a money-line favorite. Alas, they lost that game, marking the second time in seven games they haven’t won on the puck line. We’re calling this one a trend. Overall, the Senators have won against the puck line 58.8% of the time this season, third best in the NHL.
Blues first-period over
The Blues didn’t score a first-period goal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, which was noteworthy for being only the second time in 11 games in which their games haven’t gone over the 1.5 goals total in the opening period, according to Chris Otto. But we’re calling this one a trick. St. Louis is 17th in the NHL in first-period goals with 47. The Blues have given up the 13th-fewest first-period goals (41) as well. This will swing back the other way.
Dougie Hamilton shot props
The New Jersey Devils defenseman returned to the lineup last week after missing 17 games because of a jaw injury. He picked up where he left off, shooting the puck with frequency. Hamilton had five shots against the Penguins and three shots against Chicago. Outside of that Jan. 2 game in which he was injured, Hamilton has generated three shots or more in nine straight games and in 13 of 16. That’s a trend right there.
Source: ESPN NHL