The NHL returned to action this week after a brief Christmas break. As we move into 2023, let’s take a look back at some of the players and teams that impressed over the past 12 months.
From an individual perspective, once again, there was nobody as impressive as Connor McDavid, who is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy at most Canada sports betting sites. Another incredible year for the Edmonton phenom saw him rack up 143 points in 2022, some 22 more than the next highest player. McDavid was also one of just seven players to record 50 or more goals for the year, narrowly trailing Auston Matthews for first place in that category with 57 tallies. Goaltender Jake Oettinger led the league in wins for the year with 40, narrowly defeating Linus Ullmark and Igor Shesterkin, who had 39 each.
It was the Boston Bruins who were the team of the year, in the regular season at least, recording seven wins more than the next best, the Colorado Avalanche. It's no surprise that NHL betting sites have those two teams as the top two in the betting for the big prize, this June.
The Hawks continue to demonstrate that lethal combination of not scoring goals and conceding plenty. It seems that for only the second time since 2011-12, Patrick Kane will not be a point-per-game player this season. Kane has 26 points in 35 games, is a -24 and is shooting at just 4.8%, the lowest rate of his storied career.
A win over Chicago on Saturday night was enough to end Columbus' seven-game losing streak but not quite enough to lift them off the penultimate spot in these rankings. The Blue Jackets have played 21 of their 35 games this season at home but have the league's worst record on the road, going 2-11-1 away from Nationwide Arena.
The Ducks managed to take down a contender this week, defeating the Golden Knights 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday night. It was a welcomed but undeserved success for the Ducks, who have lost 27 of their 37 games this season, averaging a league-worst 4.11 goals against per game. Better days are coming, but they're in no rush to get here.
It feels like a shame that the renaissance of Erik Karlsson is likely to be in vain for the Sharks this season. Karlsson tied a franchise record with a 12-game point streak on Saturday, and now has 51 points for the season. That number comfortably leads all defensemen in the NHL. The Swede had just 35 points in 50 games last season.
The Coyotes’ form has dramatically improved since being given an extended run of home games. In fact, only the Minnesota Wild have better home form in the Western Conference over the past 10 games. The Coyotes felled two cup contenders this week, in Colorado and Toronto, winning both games 6-3 in their temporary home in Tempe, Arizona.
No team allowed more goals in December than the Canadiens, who leaked 61 goals in 15 games last month. The Canadiens ended 2022 with a -93 goal differential, the worst in franchise history, and their 337 goals allowed was the worst in the league in that time. That number was inflated by an embarrassing 9-2 defeat to the Capitals on Saturday night.
Only five players have played in every Philadelphia Flyers game this season, an indication of the injury troubles that this team has had to endure in 2022-23. Having said that, the Flyers have rebounded somewhat lately, winning three of their last five games, including a dramatic third-period comeback and overtime win over the San Jose Sharks this week.
A solitary victory against the hapless Chicago Blackhawks is not the week that the Blues would have been hoping for, if they are to bounce back after the Christmas break. The Blues had a miracle run to the Cup in 2019, as their Stanley Cup odds collapsed between January and June. A repeat in 2023 seems unlikely, particularly with ongoing injury issues to Vladimir Tarasenko and Torey Krug.
It feels increasingly unlikely that this Canucks team will make the playoffs this time around, unless they can string together a run of victories akin to what the Carolina Hurricanes are doing. Two defeats from three this week have all but confirmed that this team is not in a position to challenge their Western Conference rivals for a spot in the postseason.
There were three unlikely results in the Sens' games this week, as Ottawa managed to defeat the Bruins and Capitals, both in overtime, before losing to the Red Wings on Saturday night. The Senators ended 2022 with 40 wins in the calendar year, an increase of eight on their 2021 tally. A small but significant sign that things are indeed moving in the right direction.
The Predators need to start picking up consecutive victories soon if they are to have a realistic chance of playoff hockey in 2023. Nashville threw away a two-goal lead against the Golden Knights on Saturday, eventually coming back from two behind themselves to force overtime. However, they were ultimately unable to claim two points, losing in OT for the sixth time this season. Unless they can put a run together, they wouldn’t be wise NHL picks at present.
It is important, but difficult, to not get excited when a young team like the Red Wings start to put together a run of form. The Wings followed up their pre-Christmas victory over Tampa with a spectacular four-goal comeback against the Penguins, winning 5-4 in overtime. Zooming out a bit shows that the team still had a losing record in December, going 5-6-2.
The Sabres are on a 6-0-0 run over the past three weeks, with their last defeat coming on December 10th. Goalscoring has not been a concern for the top-heavy Sabres, who are the only team in the league to average four goals per game at this point. When they can hold their opponents to three goals or fewer, they have every chance of getting the win.
Not a bad week at all for the Oilers, going 2-1-0 including a couple of wins over divisional rivals Calgary and Seattle. Perhaps more importantly, the Oilers have tightened up defensively since the break, allowing just five goals this week. Edmonton had allowed 12 goals in the three games played before the break. Leon Draisaitl has missed two games but should return soon.
One thing you can depend on with the Islanders, lately at least, is that they will protect their goaltender, and their goaltender will perform. For three consecutive games now, the Isles have held their opponents to under 25 shots, and just one goal. Ilya Sorokin remains at the top of the Vezina odds, on NHL betting apps.
At the tail end of last season, the Florida Panthers won 13 straight games, outscoring their opponents 64-33 in that run. That was the last time that the Panthers managed to put together three successive regular-season wins. Indeed, Florida have only managed to win two consecutive games on three occasions this season, one in October, one in November and one in December.
Holding your opponent to just two goals gives you every chance of winning in the current NHL, and the Flames have managed to hold their last four opponents to just that. In turn, they've managed to win three of those games, losing only to their Alberta and Pacific Division rivals, the Oilers. Jonathan Huberdeau is starting to hit form, accruing seven points in his last six games.
No team can claim to have had the injury woes that the Washington Capitals have had this season. With over 250 games lost to injury, it is impressive that the Caps have managed to remain in any way competitive this season. John Carlson and TJ Oshie remain sidelined, but the Caps have still gone 11-2-2 in their last 15 games.
Only the Carolina Hurricanes have allowed fewer goals over their last 10 games than the Wild, whose defensive approach has resulted in eight wins over that span. That form has narrowed the gap between the Wild and the Jets for second spot in the Central Division. Jared Spurgeon epitomizes the defensive effort of this team; he has blocked 12 shots in his last three games.
The Kraken went 4-7-1 in December, a run of form that does not befit a team with serious playoff aspirations. It would be fair to say, however, that this run of form is not reflective of their overall play, as Seattle continues to create scoring opportunities at a higher rate than its opponents, on average. Goaltending is still a concern.
The Kings have been difficult to predict of late, winning games as underdogs against Colorado and Vegas, but losing when expected to win, against Arizona and Philadelphia. That all balances out over time, but USA sports betting sites might start to factor this unpredictability into their odds, going forward. The Kings are sitting comfortably in second position in the Pacific Division.
The Penguins are in a slump for the second time this season, with four straight losses bringing a dramatic halt to their previously impressive form of eight wins from nine games. Granted, however, that two of those defeats came in overtime, so the Pens are still picking up points. The 5-4 comeback win by the Red Wings is bound to sting, however.
The Rangers went into the Christmas break as one of the form teams in the league, having won eight of their previous nine games. The break didn't help, it would seem, as they have struggled in their two games since. The Rangers managed just one goal in their two games this week, losing 0-4 to the Capitals and 1-2 in a shootout against the Lightning.
The Christmas break came at just the wrong time for the Avalanche. Going into the break with four straight wins, it looked like things were finally starting to go right for Colorado. Three successive defeats this week, however, put more pressure on the Avs, who currently occupy the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Nathan MacKinnon has returned from injury just in time.
The Jets ended a three-game losing streak, their first such slump of the season, with back-to-back victories over the Canucks and Oilers. Although Minnesota continues to close the gap on Winnipeg for the second spot in the Central Division, the Jets should feel relatively comfortable at the moment. Kyle Connor has 38 points in his last 28 games.
Six points from six this week means the Dallas Stars now occupy the number one spot in the Central Division, with some breathing room. The Stars had eight different goalscorers this week, including Jamie Benn, whose rejuvenation continues apace. With 36 points in 38 games, Benn is within sight of last year's points total (46), as we approach the halfway mark.
A loss against the Bruins and a win over the Penguins has made this a broadly acceptable, if not necessarily inspiring week for the Devils. Although the losses have been stacking up lately, the more recent defeats have come against the Bruins, twice, and the surging Hurricanes. Jack Hughes ended 2022 with 83 points in 70 games, the only member of the 2019 draft class to hit over a point-per-game.
Vegas went 1-1-1 this week, needing overtime to seal their sole victory against Nashville on Saturday night. Injuries continue to upset this team's rhythm, with Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez all notable absentees from NHL lineups at present. Their early season form means that there is no need for Vegas to panic, they have plenty of credit in the bank for now.
Three wins from three for the Lightning after the Christmas break, and this team have shown once again that they are aiming to go deep into the postseason. An All-Star cast of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy is once again supported by a willing band of workhorses. No team has more wins in the past five seasons than the Lightning.
The Leafs welcomed the return of Morgan Rielly to their blue line this week, as they look to maintain a relatively healthy defensive core for the first time in a while. It was a steady December for the Leafs, going 8-3-1 and scoring at a rate of over four goals per game. Auston Matthews has yet to find his goalscoring touch, with just 17 goals to his name, but they remain one of the contenders at US betting apps.
Ten straight wins. Fourteen wins from their last 15 games. This train is rolling, and there is no sign of it stopping any time soon. With Max Pacioretty poised to return from injury imminently, the Hurricanes are only going to get stronger again. Betting sites have been cutting their odds on Carolina since the start of December, and that may well continue for a while yet.
Despite a poor week by their high standards, you'd have to go all the way back to December 9th to find the last Bruins defeat in regulation. Two overtime losses this week, either side of a 3-1 win over the Devils, meant that the Bruins extended their point streak to 10 games. The B's also continued their home point streak, now at 18-0-3 to start the season. Next up, it’s the Winter Classic against the Penguins, at Fenway Park.