It can be widely agreed upon by NHL fans all over the world that the 2020/21 season was not one of the best. This was not because the standard of hockey that was being played had dropped dramatically, but rather that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the season had to be significantly altered. To begin with, each team only got to play 56 times, instead of the 82 they would usually play. The stadiums all had to limit the number of fans attending, with some allowed only as low as 10% of full capacity, due to local restrictions.
In addition, 7 of the NHL franchise are based in Canada, which had different travel restrictions to the United States. This meant the divisions had to be altered, with all 7 Canadian sides being in the same North Division, playing each other 9 or 10 times in the regular season. This was far from ideal.
The fans were still treated to the postseason and playoffs, with the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning the two sides to make it to the final. The Lightning took control early on, winning the first three games. The Canadiens finally struck back in game four, but a 1-0 victory in game five meant the Lightning took home their successive Stanley Cup.
The final game was held on the 8th of July, so ice hockey fans only had to wait three months before the new NHL season started up again. On the 13th of October, it all kicked off again, with the reigning Stanley Cup champions the Lightning taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Fans of these teams, plus all the other NHL franchises will be glad that it has started up again, and will be searching for the best NHL picks on their mobile sports betting apps for each round of fixtures.
As every team has played at least once, let’s take a look back at some of the standout results so far, and have a look at the standings in some of the divisions.
Reigning champions off to a rocky start
As previously mentioned, the Stanley Cup winners had the honour of playing in the opening game of the season, where they welcomed the Penguins to the Amalie Arena. The Penguins had made it to the 2020/21 playoffs but were eliminated in round one by the New York Islanders, so most people had this down as a home win.
That is not how this one played out at all. The visiting team were soon 2-0 up and would go on to score 4 more points. The Lightning could only muster 2 points in the whole game, with the final score finishing 4-2 to the Penguins.
Any good team will be able to recover from an early defeat, and thankfully for Tampa fans, the Lightning were able to turn things around in game two, when they visited the Little Caesars Arena to take on the Detroit Red Wings. It was a thrilling match, with each side having periods in the ascendancy. The game went to overtime, and it was the Stanley Cup holders who found a way to secure a victory.
Since then, they have placed twice more, beating the Washington Capitals 2-1, then losing 4-1 to the Florida Panthers, which leaves them in 6th place in the Atlantic Division.
Islanders struggling badly
Over in the state of New York, the Islanders are having a very poor start to the season. The form that got them to the Stanley Cup Semifinals has apparently deserted them, as they are currently rock bottom of the Metropolitan Division.
Yes, there have only been 3 games played so far, but that doesn’t mean that Islanders fans shouldn’t be concerned at this point. Their first game was against the Carolina Hurricanes, where they lost 6-3. It wasn’t a great score to lose by, but it wasn’t humiliating either. What would have been harder to take was their following result, a 5-1 smashing by the Panthers.
They did manage to stop the rot in their most recent fixture, where they travelled up to the United Center to take on the Chicago Blackhawks. They secured a 4-1 win, with Oliver Wahlstrom scoring twice for the Islanders. Can they kick on again in their next fixture against the Colombus Blue Jackets, to move up the standings? We’ll find out soon enough.
Minnesota and Edmonton looking strong
Over in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Wild are currently at the top of the pack in the Central Division, having won all three of their fixtures. They will hope to have a 4-0 record after facing the Anaheim Ducks next.
Meanwhile, at the top of the Pacific Division are the Edmonton Oilers, who have also a perfect record so far. They will look to maintain this on Friday the 22nd against the Arizona Coyotes.