If you bet heavily on any of the preseason favorites to win the Stanley Cup, based on the odds at the time, you’ve gotten some scares of late. This NHL season has seen injuries to some big-time players, and they could have final implications toward their teams’ Cup chances. This column will come as chamomile tea to some of the worrywarts of the teams they follow. Others may need Alka-Seltzer after reading it. The best news about all the injuries: they happened early.
Let’s take a look at the most significant players who have gotten hurt, how their teams have been affected and the long-term outlook on the NHL betting picture:
Trouble in Boston
On Nov. 14 in Denver, captain Zdeno Chara went down with an MCL injury to his right knee. At 41, Chara wasn’t carrying the same load he did for so many years on the Boston blue line, but he’s still a hugely important player. He’s supposed to be re-evaluated in four weeks. I think it will be important for him to have a few weeks to play before the playoffs if he is to be effective for the Bruins. If his return gets pushed back too long, it’ll be time to worry. But Boston has gone 2-1-2 since he went down. Teams can survive injuries to key players in the short term, but usually no more than a few weeks.
The other big injury to Boston right now: Patrice Bergeron is recovering from broken ribs. He’s their most important forward.
Fellow defenseman Charlie McAvoy (concussion) has been out a while, but is practicing again. Also out is defender Brandon Carlo (upper body). The Bruins are still rated fairly high to win the Cup, at +1300 at 888Sport, but they have slipped some in the odds since the injuries and I’d be leery of them from here on out.
Lightning Still a Great Best Despite Goalie Injury
On Nov. 16, the Tampa Bay Lightning gave some bad news to its fans: Goalie Andrei Vasilevsky, a strong candidate for the Vezina Trophy, would be lost a minimum of 4-6 weeks with a broken foot.
The Bolts went 4-1-0 in the first five games. Let’s be clear: Tampa Bay has no shot at a Cup if Louis Domingue is the starting goalie from here on out. But, and this is a popular sentiment among some old hockey coaches: Sometimes, a “rest” for a goalie in the early parts of the season because of injury can be a good thing in the end.
Vasilevsky should certainly be fresh for the second half of the season and on into the playoffs, which the Lightning will certainly qualify for. At +900 at 888Sport, the Lightning remain a great bet to win it all.
In the short term? Be careful. You can’t hide goaltending issues for too long.
Back Off on Pittsburgh-For Now
The Pittsburgh Penguins got bad news earlier this month: Goalie Matt Murray could be out long-term, with a lower-body injury. It wasn’t like Murray was doing much good prior to the injury; his numbers, including an .877 saves percentage, were some of the worst in the league.
But look, Murray was the starting goalie for two Stanley Cup-winning teams. Now, the Penguins have to hope for sustained excellence from unproven goalies. I’ve been high on the Pens’ chances to win a third Cup in four years, but it’s time to back off now. Sure, everything could turn out just fine when/if Murray returns this season. But nobody seems to know how long he’ll be out.
Pittsburgh also just lost an important forward, Patric Hornqvist, to a concussion. At +1700 at 888Sport, the Penguins are looking more like a longer shot every day.