The three words we’ve been waiting to say since October – HOCKEY IS BACK. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers are set to drop the puck on the 2021 NHL season at 5:30 P.M. Eastern Wednesday night and are the first of five games on Wednesday’s slate.
Pittsburgh is -275 on the puck line, while Philadelphia is +220.
Pittsburgh Penguins Betting Overview
The Penguins were stunned by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. Pittsburgh was seventh in the league when COVID paused play while Montreal was the lowest-seeded team to make the cut. However, the Penguins had little answer for the Canadiens’ defense and the goaltending of Carey Price.
Pittsburgh released Jack Johnson in the offseason, making their blueline better by subtraction, but they also lost Justin Schultz to division rival Washington. While this opens a spot for 23-year-old defenseman John Marino to slot into a Top 4 role, the defensive group as a whole leaves something to be desired.
Winger Jake Guentzel was limited to 39 games last season, suffering an upper body injury after scoring his 20th goal. He missed the rest of the regular season, but returned for the playoffs, scoring a goal and adding a pair of assists in four games. Fully healthy, look for Guentzel to continue his point-per-game pace.
Goaltender Tristan Jarry has a full grasp on the starting job, as the Penguins traded Matt Murray to the Ottawa Senators at the Draft. Jarry posted a 20-12-1 record last season with a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save percentage, with three shutouts.
Forward Zach Aston-Reese will start the season on injured reserve. Other than that, pending COVID test results, all players will be ready to play Wednesday.
Philadelphia Flyers Betting Preview
The Flyers were one of the biggest surprises of last season. They emerged from the Return to Play round-robin as the top seed, beat the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, then lost in the second round to the New York Islanders.
Led by their rising star goaltender Carter Hart, the Flyers stifled opposing offenses. Hart became the youngest goalie in NHL history to record back-to-back playoff shutouts. He ended the regular season with a 24-13-3 record with a 2.42 GAA and a .914 save percentage, with one shutout. Hart will build on both the regular season and playoff success this year.
Forward Oskar Lindblom has returned from his treatment of a rare form of bone cancer, which had ended his 2020 regular season. He returned for two playoff games, and was a finalist for the Masterton Trophy, awarded for sportsmanship, perseverance, and dedication to hockey.
The Flyers have four players on season-opening injured reserve, though they will likely be relegated to AHL play when healthy. The main roster should be good to go for Opening Night.
The Pick Is In
There’s no doubt the high-end scoring of the Penguins is elite, with Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin capable of scoring almost at will. However, the rest of the team will need to step up for a win. The defense may not be up to where it needs to be.
The Flyers will spoil Pittsburgh’s return to play, and will cover the 1.5 puckline.
SPOOKY EXPRESS FREE PICK: Philadelphia Flyers Puckline (+220).