NHL 2021/22 Season Point Totals: Three Over/Unders That Provide Value
Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Kirill Kaprizov
NHL training camps are officially underway, marking the beginning of what should be an exciting season, especially since most buildings in the league will be open to full-capacity crowds.
With under three weeks to go until Opening Night (Oct. 12), most markets for the upcoming campaign are live and have started to attract some action. For now, I am going to focus on three season point totals I think have value.
Always shop for the best line! It’s important to note that significant discrepancies exist between various oddsmakers’ lines on this market, with multiple teams showing a 3-4 point difference for their total depending on where you are looking. Therefore it is a certainly a smart move to put the effort in to shop around and find the best possible market for your wager.
Washington Capitals Over 95.5 Points (DraftKings)
The Capitals followed up their 2018 Stanley Cup breakthrough with three straight successful regular seasons, followed by disappointing first-round playoff exits.
The team’s defensive depth, goaltending situation and aging core are being looked at as potential weaknesses for the upcoming season, and with the Metropolitan Division figuring to be more competitive than ever, the Capitals open with a relatively low line of 95.5 points and many questioning whether the team will even be able to manage a postseason berth.
That said, I see some very logical arguments as to why the Capitals perceived issues and potential areas for regression may not play out as poorly as many think, compared to last season at least, allowing them to still claim a playoff spot in a crowded division and surpass the 95 point mark needed to cash this total in the process.
The Capitals lost defensemen Brenden Dillon and Zdeno Chara this offseason and, while most are viewing those losses as dings to their blueline depth, neither Dillon nor Chara were particularly stellar in 2021.
Washington will likely fill those vacant spots with 2018 second-round pick Martin Fehervary and returning veteran Michal Kempny, who is finally ready to play after a long rehabilitation. Kempny was exceptional during Washington’s championship run, so he could be a pretty massive addition should he find that form again.
Kempny and Fehervary will be competing for ice time with Trevor van Riemsdyk and Alexander Alexeyev. While van Riemsdyk has yet to find a settled role in the NHL, he did show well in a small sample size last season. Alexeyev has yet to play an NHL game but is a first-round pick that seems to be ready to make an impact in the big leagues.
Between these options I think it’s likely the Capitals will not only fill the holes left by Chara and Dillon, but they may actually get better results compared to what we saw last season.
In net Washington will run back the duo of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. Like with the defense, there are plenty of skeptics out there pointing to Washington’s netminding tandem as a reason to be bearish on their outlook for this season.
Samsonov certainly didn’t perform at his best last season, putting together an up-and-down season after suffering a preseason ATV injury, followed by time spent on the COVID-19 protocol list. Samsonov is not far removed from his terrific rookie season, and he did seem to find his game against Boston in the playoffs, so perhaps that’s a glimpse into how much talent the young Russian still offers.
Samsonov serves as a great bounce-back candidate coming in to the season healthy and well motivated playing on a one year “show-me” contract signed this offseason. My prediction is that Samsonov will settle in to the starting role performing at a level that will surprise many, with Vanecek serving as a respectable secondary option looking to build on what was a quality rookie season.
Washington’s top-six should once again be among the best units in the NHL, even if Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom take a step back due to their age. Those two along with T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson, Anthony Mantha, and Evgeny Kuznetsov are all effective offensive players in one way or another and should provide enough scoring for this defense.
Washington’s bottom-six won’t wow anybody but Nic Dowd, Garnet Hathaway and Carl Hagelin were among the best fourth lines in the league, while Lars Eller, Conor Sheary and Daniel Sprong are quality role players.
The key pieces up front for Washington have been quite durable and very consistent throughout their careers, which has been a big reason why the Capitals have frequently put together dominant regular seasons with this core.
It certainly wouldn’t surprise me either to see Kuznetsov recapture his form after a season muddled with several off-ice issues and two stints on the Covid protocol list. Kuznetsov has a lot to prove, but the enigmatic Russian clearly does still hold an all-world skill level, albeit with a very inconsistent work rate.
Altogether I think it’s likely the Caps can manage their perceived issues and put together another successful regular season, enough to cover the 95.5 mark needed here, which would likely qualify them for the postseason.
While I do think Washington is a good over bet, I still do not view this group as a true contender come the spring and do not see value on an outright bet in a crowded Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh Penguins Under 97.5 Points (DraftKings)
The Pittsburgh Penguins will begin the season with both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the IR. That means the Pens will need to tread water right out of the gate in the deep Metropolitan Division. It will be a big ask for the Penguins to play at a 98-point pace without Crosby and Malkin, so there’s a good chance Pittsburgh is playing catch up against this bet all season.
And even if the Penguins stay healthy for the majority of the season, I still think getting to 98 points is somewhat high for this roster. The Eastern Conference is brutally tough, the Metro Division features seven teams with playoff aspirations and several key players left on this core have deep injury histories. Couple that with a lack of depth and some suspect goaltending and you start to see a clear path to the under here.
Most of Pittsburgh’s defense corps from last season will return and that is a positive based on what we’ve seen from this group over the past few seasons. The only significant loss is Cody Ceci, who signed with the Oilers, but players like Pierre-Olivier Joseph appear ready for a bigger role. I do not see much drop-off coming on the back end, especially if Kris Letang is able to stay mainly healthy.
Jared McCann will be a quietly meaningful loss up front after having an excellent season for the Pens in 2021. Brandon Tanev will also be missed after being selected by Seattle in the expansion draft.
The goaltending situation is also a cause for concern. I don’t think the tandem of Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith has much upside and with Crosby and Malkin out, whoever is in goal will have a thinner margin for error.
Take one look around the Metropolitan Division and the picture gets even less rosy for the Penguins. I already spelled out why I think the Capitals will be competitive, but there are strong teams everywhere you turn in this division.
Carolina’s roster is still excellent even without Dougie Hamilton (I actually see value with Carolina’s over at 95.5 as well). The Islanders have a realistic shot at the Stanley Cup. The Devils certainly appear ready to take a step forward with their additions of the aforementioned Hamilton and Ryan Graves and Dougie Hamilton. And while the Rangers may have had a questionable summer in some regards, all their best players from last season are still in place.
Minnesota Wild Under 97.5 Points (DraftKings)
This may seem like an interesting selection after Minnesota’s surprising season and with the club’s top prospects Marco Rossi, Matthew Boldy and Calen Addison about to enter the picture, but I think the Wild’s roster is worse from 2021 and they will now have to play in a much tougher division compared to last year.
After buying out a still useful, albeit overpaid defenseman in Ryan Suter, general manager Bill Guerin would go on to sign veteran defensemen Alex Goligoski and Dmitry Kulikov to contracts for a combined cap hit of $7.25 million. It was a sequence of moves that did not make a ton of sense to me.
Zach Parise was also bought out, Carson Soucy was lost via expansion draft to Seattle, while Nick Bonino, Marcus Johansson, Ian Cole and Brad Hunt all exited via free agency. Guerin replaced that group with Frederick Gaudreau, Jordie Benn and Jon Merrill, which doesn’t represent an upgrade.
The most important part of this wager, though, is that the Central Division features a group of teams that should provide much stiffer competition for Minnesota compared to what it saw in 2021. Winnipeg, Chicago, Dallas, and St. Louis all offer upside entering this season compared to last, alongside Colorado who are very understandably priced as the Stanley Cup favorite.