Now that a 56-game NHL season starting in mid-January is slowly starting to come more into focus as the league and players figure out the logistics and make decisions about how to start the season, why not take an eye towards betting.
Sports betting has really exploded onto the mainstream lately with apps and of course the somewhat recent legalization of placing bets in Pennsylvania at casinos. There’s money to be made, but no action here, just for the purposes of thinking a bit about the season to come.
Sidney Crosby: 48.5
Kris Letang: 46.5
Evgeni Malkin 41.5
—The tough thing about Crosby is that he usually misses either a handful of games a season (two or three), or will be out for 20-30+ games at huge chunks of a year at a time. There’s not much middle ground. That makes setting his line pretty difficult. I’d almost hazard a guess his total games player this season is either 50+ or less than 40 altogether. There’s good reason to think (and hope) it will be the former and Crosby will be in fine form bouncing back from his November 2019 core surgery.
—Since he returned from his neck surgery in the fall 2017, Kris Letang has appeared in 225 total games (regular season + playoffs), out of a possible 253 that the Pens have played. That’s not an ironman streak, but at almost 89% of all possible games is probably more than one might have guessed. 89% of 56 would be 50 games, but we’ll lower the line even further, betting many will still take the under even on a lower line. (The goal of the bookie, you’ll remember, is to try and set a line where about half the people bet one way, and half bet the other, so that they make money). Personally, I’d be risky and go over here, but then be worried about it all season long.
—Malkin, on the other hand, has only played 70+ games one time in the last seven NHL seasons. Unfortunately and usually through somewhat fluky circumstances (like tweaking a knee on a rut in the ice last year against Columbus in the season’s second game of the season), Malkin is good for missing about a 4 week stretch at some point. The issue with a shortened year is a four week absence might pile up to 12-14 games pretty quickly.
Jake Guentzel: 26.5
Sidney Crosby: 21.5
Evgeni Malkin: 20.5
Bryan Rust: 19.5
Kasperi Kapanen: 15.5
John Marino: 6.5
—Guentzel is usually good for half a goal per game, Crosby’s rate here is pretty similar to his 16 goal in 41 game last season (if you assume he’ll play about ~50 games this season).
—Rust is perhaps one of the most interesting players to project coming off 27 goals in 55 games last season. He’s also a player who tends to miss chunks of the season due to injury (including 14 games last season) and might be in store for a bit of a regression of off last season’s career bests.
—The Kapanen stats will also be very fascinating to watch come in. The thought process behind this line: 15.5 goals in 56 games would be about .27 goals/game. Kapanen’s career best season of 20 goals makes for .24 goals/game. Do you think Kapanen stays healthy, and/or meshes well with Crosby? If so, the best playmaker in the game might help Kapanen race to this number quickly. Does Kapanen flounder or get lost in the shuffle a bit? If so, the under is the play.
—Marino scored 6 goals in 56 games last year, and over bet here counts on a step forward in what could be a bigger role on the power play.
Sidney Crosby: 62.5
Jake Guentzel: 53.5
Evgeni Malkin: 50.5
Bryan Rust: 39.5
Kasperi Kapanen: 29.5
John Marino: 26.5
—Crosby’s rate here is 1.25 points/game times 50 games, a career-type of rate for him. Your decision is does he stay healthy for more or less than that? Does he also get hot or hit a cold patch?
—Since the start of 2018-19, Guentzel has 119 points over 121 games. His consistently has been incredible, and he actually improved his points/game rate last season to over a point-per-game and a career high. Will he have the health to play 50+ games or not? That seems to be the only question you need to answer on this bet.
—The latter three are all interesting. Rust did just score 56 points in 55 games last season, but again consider he missed a lot of games last year, and 17 of those points came on the power play since Crosby/Malkin/Guentzel/Patric Hornqvist all missed a ton of games and opened up opportunities for Rust to play a lot more. Will those opportunities still be there this season?
—Marino scored 26 points in 56 games last season. He missed some time due to the cheek injury too. But many are expecting a step forward, which means exceeding last season’s box car stats. Given that Justin Schultz is gone, it should be a good situation for Marino.
New prevailing internet fan whipping boy
Cody Ceci: -500
Mike Sullivan: +175
Mike Matheson: +185
Casey DeSmith: +225
Tristan Jarry: +300
Lastly, a fun one. With old what’s his name finally banished and hilariously signed by the Rangers, the Pens’ internet needs a punching bag. Someone to take out all faults, fairly or unfairly. The general manager could be a target as well, but his work is probably mostly done with the team assembled. The players and coach responsible for winning and losing on any given night will stand out more.
Goalies are always targets for hate, they have the toughest job and it is REALLY easy to critique their play from behind a keyboard, while watching the fourth slow motion replay in a row. Goaltending looks easy then! But, as it stands, Jarry is coming off an All-Star season in 2020 and has a lot of good will built up. Short of a disastrous start, he should be safe from being the team’s primary target of venomous pixels on twitter and sites like Pensburgh.
Mike Matheson is a player with a history of bumbles and costly turnovers, relegating him to healthy scratch status for Florida last season. It wouldn’t be difficult to imagine him not picking up the Pens’ system on the fly with basically no preseason and having a tough start. Better players like Sergei Gonchar and Paul Martin have had rough first years in Pittsburgh. Matheson won’t be given a lot of slack or leeway and it won’t be tough to remember he carries the second highest cap hit among defensemen on the team. That still lasts for SIX seasons.
Sullivan might not be on the organization’s hot seat, but after losing three straight playoff series, each one with more dubious and questionable decisions than the last, he’s on some of the fan’s nerves and will be when he’s playing Cody Ceci over Chad Ruhwedel or something along those lines.
But the runaway leader here is Ceci himself. He’s been a subreplacement level player who has been played over his head and sunk for seven seasons now. He’s slated to play third pair, but he’ll likely be counted on to be the “steady, safe” type of defender on that pair with what can be a shaky and inconsistent himself. It’s the perfect setup for poor play and the critical voices are going to be all over it.
Let us know in the comments what way you’re thinking. What overs would you take on the lines set above? And what unders are you liking?