Bruins are good bet to take control of NHL’s East Division

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The Boston Bruins sit fourth in the NHL’s East Division with 32 points. Entering Sunday, they were eight points behind the first-place New York Islanders, who were taking on the New Jersey Devils in Newark.

The Islanders were playing their 29th game, while the Bruins have played just 25. But that’s not the only reason why I’m backing the Bruins at 3/1 odds at DraftKings (5/2 at BetMGM) to not only pass the Penguins and Capitals but also edge past the Islanders and win the East.

Boston still has eight games remaining against the lowly Buffalo Sabres. The Islanders, Capitals and Flyers have played Buffalo five times apiece. The Sabres have won just six of 26 games (6-16-4) and figure to be without star center Jack Eichel for a while.

Scoring has been an issue for the Bruins, but this is still a very good hockey team with good goaltending that’s capable of going on a run. Bettors could opt to wait to see how the Bruins fare against the Penguins, whom they will face in back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday in Pittsburgh, but that’s a gamble in and of itself.

Five of Boston’s following seven games come against the Sabres and the Devils, with two key matchups against the Islanders sandwiched in there. This will likely be a make-or-break stretch for the Bruins, who are 0-3-1 against the Islanders this season. The buy-low opportunity is looming and this might be the only time the Bruins’ odds of winning the division drift to 3/1 or better.

In the West Division, I’m looking at the Colorado Avalanche at +235 at DraftKings (2/1 at BetMGM). On the surface, the Avalanche have struggled to live up to expectations this season with a .640 points percentage entering Sunday compared to the .729 mark that the Vegas Golden Knights have posted. A mysterious upper-body injury to young star defenseman Cale Makar is concerning, but the Avalanche’s remaining schedule is favorable. The team will match up against non-playoff teams more than half the time.

According to Evolving Hockey, the Avalanche have underperformed their expected goals, at least during five-on-five play. On a per-60-minute basis, the Avalanche have generated 2.45 expected goals while keeping their opponents to 1.85. In reality, though, the team has outscored the opposition by only 2.3 to 2.15 and that’s a big drop-off from what we’ve come to expect. Last season, the Avalanche outscored teams by a full goal on a 60-minute basis at five-on-five. This team can roll over weaker competition, so expect the Avs to put teams away on a more consistent basis in the second half.

Bettors might be drawn to the St. Louis Blues odds which currently sit at 10/1 at DraftKings (9/1 at BetMGM). Winning the division is not likely, but the Blues are still contenders, with 18 of the team’s final 28 games coming against the Wild, Avalanche and Golden Knights. Do consider the Blues as a Stanley Cup futures pick at 30/1 at BetMGM, though, as several important injured players should be returning to action in time to ensure the team makes the playoffs.

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