The NHL season is nearly a quarter of the way complete and it's been an intriguing campaign so far. One of the biggest takeaways has to be how wide open the race for the Stanley Cup is.
Despite parting ways with head coach Joel Quenneville, the Florida Panthers currently have the most points (31) in the league. The Panthers have just two regulation losses and are currently riding a four-game winning streak. After struggling at times last season, goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been spectacular for the Panthers. He's registered a 1.91 goals-against-average and has yet to lose in regulation during the 2021-22 season.
Meanwhile, the likes of the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes and Edmonton Oilers are all nipping at the Panthers' heels. The Oilers duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are ranked one-two in the league in terms of points and very few opposing teams have been able to slow down Edmonton's offense.
The Flames have also been a huge surprise thus far, despite the fact that their only move in free agency was signing forward Blake Coleman. But it also doesn't hurt to have a world class goaltender like Jakob Markstrom in between the pipes. Markstrom has to be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy after the first quarter of the season.
With full slates on Friday and Saturday across the league, let's get to a few picks that should win us some money.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
The Pick: Blue Jackets (-145): The Canucks have been one of the worst teams throughout the early portion of the NHL season. For that reason alone, I'm siding with the Blue Jackets in this one. The Canucks have dropped seven of the last eight games and averaged just 2.3 goals-per-game on the season despite having one of the sport's most exciting playmakers in Elias Pettersson.
On the other hand, the Blue Jackets have one of the more dangerous offenses in the NHL as they average 3.4 goals-per-game, which is good for sixth in the league. Columbus is currently without star forward Patrik Laine, who is battling an oblique strain. Still, this is a group that has no problem putting the puck in the back of the net.
On top of that, goaltender Elvis Merzlikins has been extremely strong in net with an 8-3-0 record to go along with a 2.44 goals-against-average. Merzlikins did recently have a stretch in which he allowed 10 goals in three games, but rebounded with a shutout win over the Jets on Wednesday.
Key Trend: The Blue Jackets are 5-1 in their last six games as a home favorite
💰 More NHL picks
The Pick: Maple Leafs (-160): Since losing five of their first seven games, the Maple Leafs have been one of the hottest teams in the NHL. This is a group that has won seven of its last eight games and star forward Auston Matthews has continued to thrive with three goals and six assists during that stretch. In addition, goaltender Jack Campbell has arguably been the league's top netminder as he owns a 1.68 goals-against-average -- the lowest across the entire NHL. In 10 games during the month of November, Campbell has allowed only 13 total goals, including six goals across Toronto's last six games.
Meanwhile, after winning their first four games of the season, the Sharks have struggled to stay consistent.
San Jose has yet to win more than two consecutive games since their opening four games. The Sharks have scored two goals or less in six of its last seven games, which doesn't bode well when facing a dominant offensive attack like the Maple Leafs possess. The Maple Leafs should be able to keep their winning ways alive on the road.
Key Trend: The Maple Leafs are 12-2 in their last 14 games as a favorite
🏒 Jets at Flames, Saturday, 10 p.m. | TV: NHL.TV
The Pick: Flames (-164): The Flames have been one of the more impressive success stories through the first half of the NHL season. Calgary is tied for the second-most points (29) in the NHL and has only lost three times in regulation. The Flames have outscored their opponents 19-4 over their current four-game winning streak and part of the reason for their stellar defensive effort has been the play of goaltender Jakob Markstrom.
Markstrom owns a 1.73 goals-against-average this season, which is the second-best mark in the league. The veteran netminder has also allowed just four goals over his past three games, which includes a shutout win over the Sabres last week.
As if the Flames' stellar play isn't reason enough to side with them, the Jets will be coming off the second night of a back-to-back. In addition, the Jets have lost four consecutive games as of Friday and have only scored four goals during that stretch. Winnipeg also is scoring just 2.8 goals-per-game, which leads me to believe that they most likely won't be able to keep up with Calgary.
Key Trend: The Flames are 4-1 in their last five games against a team with a losing record