Oct. 6, 2021
NHL Metropolitan Division Betting Preview
The Philadelphia Flyers are a team this year that's teetering on the edge of being the sixth team in this division that has a chalky price on the “yes” for playoff prop this year, as this division is one that's always expected to be highly competitive.
Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are the big names at the top of this division most often, but Carolina and the New York Islanders are looking to become the next dominant organization for years to come, and the New York Rangers never want to be left out of the equation for too long either.
Odds to win Metropolitan Division
Per BetMGM - Subject to Change
None of that is good news for Columbus or New Jersey fans as those two teams are expected to be the punching bags of the Metro once again, and there really isn't that much compelling evidence out there to suggest otherwise. Even with significant improvement for either club, there are still just too many better teams than themselves to pass here.
Expectations of improvement for the Blue Jackets or Devils does leave the possibility for an 'over' bet for the season point totals of those teams, and the expected competitive nature of the other six actually could lead to some good 'under' looks in that market for the others. There are only so many wins/points to go around.
The Columbus Blue Jackets enter the 2021-22 NHL season with the longest odds to win the Metro Division (10/1). (AP)
NHL Metropolitan Division Best Bets
Winner: Hurricanes +475 / Penguins +475
For all the reasons mentioned above, it's these two teams that make the board for division futures as well. But it's also a nearly 5-1 price on two teams that are expected to be within two wins (or four points) of the favored New York Islanders – 95.5/96.5 points vs 99.5 points – and with all the wild variance hockey betting can bring, hoping that two games flip the other way is well worth this price.
I also think that coming into the season holding these two tickets could afford a bettor plenty of creative options as the season goes on to look at other contenders. The expectation of this division being close throughout is going to offer up some decent prices on all of these teams throughout the year.
Having tickets on these two teams at +475 gives you a +375 break even point to play around with any potential hedges elsewhere to guarantee yourself a profit should the Hurricanes or Penguins be the leading the way at stages.
The Pittsburgh Penguins look to win their first Metropolitan Division title since the 2013-14 season. (AP)
To Make Playoffs: Washington - No +115
There is so much chalk on the 'yes' for these Metro Division teams that is rather reasonable in most cases. The 'yes' on Carolina and the N.Y. Rangers arguably make the most sense, as expecting to be a Wildcard team at worst has to be a goal those organizations view as likely attainable this year. If I was a bigger believer in the Rangers this year they'd get more consideration, and I already outlined how I view taking the Hurricanes point total is the far better way to play their playoff prop in their case.
There is still the question of “who will be the odd team out” in the Metro division and it's always been between Philadelphia and Washington for me.
I'm not sure the Flyers make it either, but Washington's underdog price tips the scales to their side with the Caps being an older team as well, one that I always fear is too over-reliant on what Ovechkin does. The “Great 8” has made it no secret that he wants to chase down Gretzky's goal record (164 away) and the fear there is that team success can fade when statistics are chased.
The Capitals are playing $8 million or more to three guys already on the wrong side of 30 (Ovechkin, Backstrom, Carlson), and the $7.8 million they are giving to Kuznetsov this year as he turns 30 basically puts him in that same boat as well. That's a lot of expected production from four guys pending they all even stay healthy.
The Capitals could be that NHL organization that resembles the Detroit Tigers of the last decade in the coming years. The Tigers were handcuffed by big contracts to some select stars and were forced to sell them all off over the years before they've got one long-standing veteran (Miguel Cabrera) left chasing down career benchmarks and records at the end.
That's the fear with the Washington/Ovechkin trajectory for me right now, as the first step in that process is to see a drop in results. At an underdog price on the 'no', with how ultra-competitive this division is expected to be, taking a shot on a potential decline happening for the Caps this year is the end result.
Alex Ovechkin looks to lead his Washington Capitals to a sixth straight Metropolitan Division title. (AP)
Total Points - Over/Under Best Bet:
A 6-year average by placement for this division (2013-14 through 2018-19) follows:
That's the smallest average gap between third and fourth place of any of the divisions historically, so seeing the Metro Division be one that's highly competitive isn't exactly out of the norm. The 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons – the two years Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup – all four of the Top 4 teams in this division finished with 100 or more points, as they tried to do their best to make sure there were enough points to go around. The Metro Division champ finished with 120 and 118 points in those respective years as well.
Even the floor in this division is relatively consistent, as all six of those seasons saw last place finish with 70-79 points, meaning the Columbus Blue Jackets projected as the last place team with a point total of 76.5 is probably exactly right where it should be.
Team Total Points Odds
Per BetMGM - Subject to Change
No team with a triple-digit total, and seven of the eight teams with totals in the 90's suggests that any of those early thoughts on potential 'under' plays because there wasn't going to be enough points to go around is mostly out the window. The average for the Top 3 finishers in this division has been 100+ with the fourth being 98.16, all numbers that would cash 'over' tickets on the Top 4 projected teams in this division (NYI, NYR, Pittsburgh, Carolina/Washington).
You'd have go through the ordeal of splitting hairs on Carolina vs Washington for that fourth spot in that scenario, but the Metro Division winner has never finished with fewer than 104 points, and the second place team hasn't been sub-100 points since that first year in 2013-14. The last five full seasons (14-15 to 18-19) also saw the third place Metro team finish with no fewer than 98 points, and no fewer than 97 for the fourth place squad. That type of history almost forces a complete philosophical switch to thinking about blanketing a lot of these 'overs' 97 points or more for fourth place still cashes 'overs' for everyone but the New York teams this year at these current prices, but we all know things never work as smoothly as that.
The Islanders are probably the team that's easiest to pass on in both directions in this market, as the expected division champs should hit 100+ points in the Metro if it's the Islanders or not. They are projected to do so with these numbers and with what we've seen from them these past two years they are a hard team not to like.
The Islanders have been Tampa Bay's biggest challenge these past two championship seasons for the Lightning, taking Tampa to 6 games in the ECF in the bubble, and then losing 1-0 in Game 7 of the ECF to Tampa again last year. But it's those losses that an argument on the 'under' 99.5 points can make some sense as there is always the chance this core responds negatively to those narrow defeats and goes through the motions early on in the season. It's tough to do that and still reach 100 points in this league, so even with expectations big and rightfully so for the Islanders, it's a pass on the season points total for me.
The Rangers are projected to slide into that second spot in this division which would be considered quite a jump. This New York team finished a distance fifth place last year in the shortened campaign in the East Division, a union that had six Metro teams. Statistically you won't get an argument from me if you believe the Rangers under-performed last year, and a much better season in terms of results should be in store for them this year.
But they are probably another pass here too, as even though finishing Top 4 is the expectation with the Rangers, this division still is going to be tight from top to bottom, and sadly the story of a Rangers team under-performing is not a particularly new one for this franchise. Also, leapfrogging the teams with Crosby and Ovechkin on them isn't going to be something that's done without a fight, and although the history and expectation suggest an 'over' play on the Rangers, it's ultimately one I think it's better to pass on.
The 'over' plays do start coming next though, as Pittsburgh and Carolina are the two teams I do expect to finish in the Top 4 this year and live up to that 98-point average in the process. The Hurricanes were fourth in xGF/60 and 16th in xGA/60 last year as the moves to completely overhaul their goalie room was widely discussed this summer. For the large part the moves were thought of in a negative light because of the youth/talent Carolina let walk, but 16th in xGA/60 is still just average and I don't think you can fault them for wanting to make a change. Whether it will work out is another story, but the negative spin the goalie carousel had on Carolina this summer has bumped their expectation of T4th in this division a little too low.
The Carolina Hurricanes have finished in fourth place of the Metropolitan Division two straight seasons. (AP)
This team is still a beast offensively, and the move to pick up Montreal's Jesperi Kotkaniemi to add to their young core of skaters was as positive as it was petty. The speed this team has only helps the confidence grow in knowing that they are an organization on the rise, and I'm not sure the move to a Frederik Anderson/Antti Raanta net is going to work out all that bad. In Anderson's case, how many players have left Toronto and flourished after getting away from the overbearing, intense scrutiny that is the Toronto market? The attention he gets is likely to be night and day different between the two cities and I'll only ever view that as a positive.
Carolina is a team that I do believe competes for this division title in the end, and with a -180 price on the “yes” to make the playoffs, I don't see too many worlds where the Hurricanes live up to that playoff price and get in with 95 points or fewer. That's ultimately the bottom line with Carolina.
The idea is similar with Pittsburgh as their “yes” price on making the playoffs is -215 and they are going to get there with 96 or fewer points? I don't see it, as the entire Eastern Conference is too good for that to happen. With the 'over' 96.5 the short underdog at -105 right now, it's a much cheaper way to play Pittsburgh being a playoff team, and there is always that small chance that they miss out on the playoffs but still get to 97 points.
That's not likely either, but the fourth place average is still a full point over this point total, and after a couple of very disjointed years with the Penguins getting hosed in the 2020 restart as a No. 5 seed, Crosby, Malkin and company know that there aren't going to be too many more chances for them. Pittsburgh's another team I expect to compete for this division title and they'll need to hit 100+ points to do it.
Individual Awards-Players to Watch
With Crosby and Oveckin priced at +3500 currently in this market and having about 20 players ahead of them suggests a changing of the guard in this division is already on the horizon. Artemi Panarin (+1600) from the Rangers and Sebastian Aho (+1900) from Carolina are the two front-runners from the Metros in this category, and should either of those teams win this division this year, those two players will have a big part in that success.
But the parity that';s expected in this division with most being good hockey teams actually hurts the individual award chances for everyone. It's unlikely that any player/team does enough in the Metro to completely pull away and establish dominance like some of the other division winners are more likely to do.
You've got names like McDavid, MacKinnon, Matthews, Kucherov, Pastrnak, and Draisaitl all ahead of Panarin and Aho in this market because those guys don't necessarily need a first place finish by the team to separate themselves from the rest of the league.
James Norris Award
If the Rangers are going to at least prove me wrong and play up to some big expectations this season, D Adam Fox is going to have a huge role in that success. He's part of the top defensive pair and on the first PP unit for New York, and in just two full seasons he's already shown how much of a talent he is at the position.
He trails only Colorado's Cale Makar (+350) in price for the award, and as the second favorite, he's the one Metro player/coach priced with the best chance to win any award coming into the season. It's far from a big bet, but one that should be considered, especially for those that believe in the Rangers more than I do in 2021-22.