Free NHL Bets & Picks: Tampa Bay Looks for Fast Start Against Florida
On October 6, 2017 the NHL has three games on. Here are my free NHL betting picks for Friday Night.
Florida Panthers (+1½ -210) at Tampa Bay Lightning (-1½ +180)
Both teams look for a strong start to the season after failing to qualify for the playoffs last season. The Panthers and Lightning met four times last year, splitting the series at two apiece.
Florida made the playoffs two years ago, but last season the Panthers finished ahead of only the Devils, Red Wings and Sabres. This season the Panthers added depth to the forward core in hopes of generating strong offense throughout the season.
Evgenii Dadonov, who was selected by the Panthers back in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, was signed back to the Panthers after spending five years in the KHL. He is expected to make an impact right away. Veteran Radim Vrbata and rookie Owen Tippett also will be in the lineup for opening day.
Tampa Bay enters this season only two years removed from back to back showings in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tampa Bay hurt themselves last season playing sloppy and the Lightning’s injury problems certainly did not help. Despite the Lightning’s problems they were able to finish only one point out of the playoff picture.
To the start the season captain Steven Stamkos will be back in the lineup after missing all but 17 games last season.
To strengthen the lineup, Tampa Bay added Stanley Cup Champion Chris Kunitz. On the defensive side they add highly touted prospect Mikhail Sergachev and veteran Dan Girardi. The Lightning, if they can stay healthy, will certainly be a Stanley Cup Contender and I expect that to show through on Friday night.
Being division rivals, many expect a close game, but I believe Tampa Bay will come out of the gates strong in front of the home crowd. The Lightning will jump right where they left off two seasons ago falling one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.
New York Islanders (+144) at Columbus Blue Jackets (-150)
Columbus steps on the ice for the first time following last season’s playoff appearance. The Islanders will be the Blue Jackets opponent after the Islanders missed out on the playoffs by a single point last year. These two teams met four times last year with Columbus winning the series 3-1.
After missing last year’s playoffs by one point, the Islanders exchanged Ryan Strome for Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle. Jordan Eberle played alongside captain John Tavares at the 2009 World Junior Championship and they made a good duo. With the addition of Jordan Eberle, the Islanders hope he can create a spark to get the offense going early with John Tavares.
Columbus finished a very strong season with a disappointing loss to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins, in a five-game series in the first round of the playoffs. Columbus looks to build off the strong season starting Friday night.
During the offseason the Blue Jackets traded Brandon Saad back to the Chicago Blackhawks for 2016 Calder trophy winner Artemi Panarin. Panarin will instantly add to the lineup, likely playing left wing on the first line with Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson. With the boost to the offense, Columbus should be able to take off right out of the gates against a hopeful Islanders team.
While the Blue Jackets finished third in a highly competitive Metropolitan division last season, the young players like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Sonny Milano and other prospects should be able to continue to make the Blue Jackets a better team. Columbus starting roster has an average age of 25, which is one of the youngest in the league.