Finally, the action returns to the ice after what was a very entertaining All-Star break. The hometown favourites, Team Matthews, took home the victory in Toronto, with Captain Auston Matthews walking away with the MVP award.
For this week's slate, seven teams have a light, two game schedule, and eight teams are playing just one or fewer games. So, while it's not the gruesome six-game slate from last week, it is still a relatively lighter week compared to most.
A little precaution to be aware of this first week returning from a lengthy break -- the majority of the league will take this time to go on a holiday to relax and recharge the batteries for the final stretch before the playoffs. While this break is needed, it's important to remember it takes time to get back into their regular routine, and some teams may start slower than usual -- especially in their first game back.
Make sure to do your research and planning, but consider betting the first-period unders where it is both teams' first games back throughout the week.
Now, let's look ahead into some targets for this week in the NHL.
The Vancouver Canucks are one of only three teams that have four scheduled games this week. Here is the Canucks schedule, along with the team's record and where they sit in the league standings.
Tuesday: Carolina Hurricanes - (28-15-5, ninth in league standings)
Thursday: Boston Bruins - (31-9-9, tied for first in league standings)
Saturday: Detroit Red Wings - (26-18-6, 13th in league standings)
Sunday: Washington Capitals - (22-18-7, 22nd in league standings)
The schedule bodes tough for Vancouver as three of their four games will be against top-15 teams in the league standings. However, the Canucks are no pushover as they've registered a point in 11 straight games, holding a 9-0-2 record. The hockey world should be looking forward to Thursday night as the two teams tied for first overall in the league standings, Boston and Vancouver, face off in a 2011 Stanley Cup Final rematch for the first time this season.
The Canucks started the All-Star weekend off with a bang as they traded for Calgary Flames All-Star Elias Lindholm -- a much-needed top-six piece to boost their chances at a lengthy playoff run. Lindholm is projected to make his Canucks debut Tuesday night, slotted on a line with fellow All-Star Elias Pettersson. Funny enough, his debut will be against the team that drafted him, the Carolina Hurricanes. Lindholm has played four games in PNC Arena since the trade out of Carolina, registering a point in three of those four games. Consider his point prop in his debut with Vancouver.
The Tampa Bay Lightning caught fire heading into the break -- winners of eight of their last nine games, propelling them to third overall in the division standings. This week, they have two intriguing match-ups for any shots on goal for Lightning players.
Wednesday: New York Rangers (30-16-3, eighth in league standings)
Thursday: New York Islanders (20-17-12, 18th in league standings)
Saturday: Columbus Blue Jackets (16-24-10, 29th in league standings)
Wednesday's match-up against the Rangers isn't as favourable for the Lightning as their other two. The Rangers have allowed the sixth-fewest amount of shots on goal (28.4) in the league. However, the Islanders allow the second most shots on goal (34.9) and the Blue Jackets allow the fourth most shots on goal (33.3).
Heading into the break, Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov registered five, six, and five shots on goal over his last three games. Kucherov attended All-Star weekend, and due to his performance there, one can assume he's fresh and ready to pick up where he left off against these two favourable match-ups.
The All-Star break could not have come at a worse time for the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers have won 16 games straight, one away from tying the NHL record of 17 consecutive wins set by the 1992-1993 Pittsburgh Penguins team. With such a lengthy break, all the momentum they built up over that stretch has surely diminished a little bit.
Their first test to continue the streak is Tuesday night against Pacific division rival, the Vegas Golden Knights. While still without star forward Jack Eichel, their most reliable two-way centre William Karlsson is set to rejoin the team. The Golden Knights hold the league's third-best home record (18-5-2) this season, while the Oilers have just the 11th-best road record (13-9) this season.
I never want to cheer against records being broken, but with the pressure of the streak, losing momentum over the lengthy break and against a division rival who, oh yeah, just won the Stanley Cup, might be too tall of a task for the Edmonton Oilers.
If the Oilers can tie the record against the Golden Knights, their game to set the record should have much less of a struggle against the league's 30th-ranked team, the Anaheim Ducks.