The 2021 NHL season is well and truly underway. The first puck was dropped on the ice back on the 13th of October, when the defending Stanley Cup Champions the Tampa Bay Lightning took on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Given they were the current holders of the top prize in Ice Hockey, the Lightning would have been the team that many people bet on to win, given their usually strong odds. However, anyone who did bet this way would have been disappointed, as the Penguins upset the odds to claim a strong 6-2 victory.

As the season has progressed, there have been a number of times where the betting favourites have lost ties they were expected to win. For instance, many people searching for NHL odds would have bet on the Carolina Panthers to beat the Seattle Kraken with relative ease. The Panthers were the bookmakers favourites as they were near the top of the Atlantic Division at the time, whereas the Kraken were struggling in the Pacific Division. However, despite only joining the NHL as an expansion team this year, it was the Kraken who prevailed, beating the pre-game betting stats, to go home with a 4-1 win.

The Panthers are a top team, so didn’t sulk on their unexpected loss for too long. Their next 3 matches all ended in wins for them, beating the Washington Capitals 5-4, the Buffalo Sabres 7-4 and the St Louis Blues 4-3. These results have shot them up to the top of their division over in the Easten Conference, just ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs on goal difference. They will be hoping to make it 4 wins in a row when they take on the Blues again, this time at the Enterprise Center in St Louis, Missouri.

In the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference, it is the Capitals who are currently sitting in 1st place after 26 games played. They have so far won 16 games, with notable victories coming against the Montreal Canadiens (6-3) the Panthers (5-3) and the Penguins (6-1). 

They are ahead of the New York Rangers on goal difference alone, but the Rangers have played 3 fewer games than the Capitals, so could well overtake them once they have played their games in hand. Up next for the Rangers are the Chicago Blackhawks, which is a repeat of the previous fixture, which the Rangers won 3-2. Some betting companies show the Rangers as 4 / 5 favourites, with the Blackhawks having sufficiently longer odds of 21 / 20. It will be interesting to see how this one will turn out.

Islanders struggling down at the bottom of the Metropolitan

If we take a look towards the foot of the Metropolitan Division, we will find the big rivals of the Rangers, the New York Islanders. Rangers fans will no doubt be overjoyed by the fact that the team they dislike the most is struggling a lot this year. However, it is not just a bad run of results that has caused the Islanders to be propping up the division, as they also had to postpone several of their fixtures due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst their players.

Let’s look at that story in more detail, and see how they’ve fared in the NHL since they were permitted to start fulfilling their fixtures once again.

Depleted ranks meant there was no other option

Coping without 1 or 2 players missing from COVID-19 would be bad enough, especially if they were the star forwards, as it would’ve affected not only the outcome of the game, but the pre/during game betting stats as well. So while the Islanders could have coped with a few absentees, it turns out that they would have been missing 8 of their regular starters, such as Josh Bailey, Kieffer Bellows and  Ross Johnston from their forward line, and Adam Pelech, Andy Greene and Zdeno Chara from their defense.

It meant that they were forced to postpone their fixtures against the Philadelphia Flyers, and their old nemesis the Rangers. Thankfully it was only 2 games, as anymore would have caused serious fixture congestion further down the line.

How has their form been since their return?

You would have hoped for the players, coaching staff and the fans sake that an enforced break would have given them a chance to regroup, strategise somewhat, and hit the ground running once they were allowed back on the ice. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened, as they have lost all 3 of their first games back.

Defeats to the San Jose Sharks (2-1) and the Detroit Red Wings (4-3) were far from ideal, as was the 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks. It truly has been a torrid season for the Islanders, with the COVID issues compounding matters. 

Will they be able to defeat the Ottawa Senators in their next game, to get their season back on track? The betting odds say possibly, as the Senators have struggled too this season. Let’s hope the Islanders can show the betting stats know what they’re saying, by winning this important fixture.