The Pittsburgh Penguins will defend the Stanley Cup again this season hoping to make it three straight. Yet, they are not even the favorites to win their conference, let alone the championship. Let’s check out the teams to watch in the postseason, which begins Wednesday.
The Favorite – Tampa Bay Lightning
If you click on over to SBR odds https://www.sportsbookreview.com/betting-odds/nhl-hockey/ you will see for yourself that Tampa Bay is not so surprisingly favored to win the East at odds of +230. This is a team that failed to make the playoffs last season but has rebounded with a spectacular 2017-2018 campaign led by Russian product Nikita Kucherov, who tallied the first 100-point season of his NHL career. The Lightning are the top scoring team in the league but have a middling defense and a penalty-killing unit that lacks a killer instinct, ranked 27th in the league. I’m not sure lightning is ready to strike Lord Stanley’s Cup, but these Bolts should have little trouble dispatching the New Jersey Devils in the first round.
The Challenger – Boston Bruins
First-year head coach Bruce Cassidy has pulled all the right strings to transform this Bruins club from a cautious, defensive-minded team to a fast-paced, yet risk averse confluence of veterans and youngsters alike that hits high marks in all the major categories. Consider for a moment that the B’s rank 6th in scoring, 4th in goals against, 4th on the power play, and 3rd in penalty killing. It doesn’t get more balanced than that, and in the good things happen to good teams department, the B’s will see midseason acquisition Rick Nash returning from injury just in time for the playoffs. In addition, more of the walking wounded have mended for the postseason as Patrice Bergeron has returned from a month-long absence and young defenseman Charlie McAvoy is back in uniform. Despite trailing Tampa Bay by just one point for the best record in the conference, Boston is the third choice at most of the best online sportsbooks https://www.sportsbookreview.com/ to win the East at +440.
The Dark Horse – Washington Capitals
Pittsburgh fans reading this are wondering where the hell is their team in this playoff preview? If they’re not included in the Eastern Conference section, then the dummy writing this must think they reside in the West because there is no way, no how, the defending champs from the Steel City would be excluded, right? Well, get ready to feel disrespected because the dark horse in this race is the three-time Metropolitan Division winners, the Washington Capitals. The Caps normally vanquish every team in their midst during the regular season and inexplicably get bounced early in the playoffs. Reminds many of MLB’s Washington Nationals. But this season, the Capitals are flying a bit under the radar. Sure, they won the Metropolitan Division again but without the gaudy numbers. The Caps also have another option in case starting goaltender Brandon Holtby gets cold, as he did in February, with the emergence of Philipp Grubauer, who has a dazzling .937 save percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average over his last 27 starts. The odds on the Caps to win the East are +570 and that looks like value to me.
The Favorite – Nashville Predators
Nashville is indeed the apex predator in this year’s Stanley Cup race and the rest of the clubs have to be considered, to varying degrees, their prey. By virtue of their No. 1 seed in the West and the best overall record in the league, the Predators will get home-ice advantage throughout. Nashville will begin by battering Colorado from pillar to post in the opening round as they did during the regular season when they swept the Avs 4-0 in the season series. But the Avalanche are not alone in terms of teams that were caught between the jaws of the talented Predators. Those who read SBR Picks https://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks/nhl/ would have seen the Predators written up quite a bit this season and many of the sharp handicappers over at Sportsbookreview (SBR) predicted it would be a banner year for the boys from the Music City. The prevailing odds on Nashville to win the West are +215 and +430 to win the Cup.
The Challenger – Winnipeg Jets
I wouldn’t mind being a bit contrarian and including another Western entry in this spot, but that would be nothing more than manufactured drivel. The Jets have far exceeded expectations this season and are a legitimate threat, and not just another Cinderella story whose midnight is fast approaching. The Jets built their team on a youth movement that has paid off in spades. These teenagers and 20-somethings took their lumps over the previous two years with more ice time than they deserved in order to mature quickly for a breakout campaign – just like the one this year. Nineteen-year-old Patrick Laine is a bona fide sniper and Connor Hellebuyck is a 6’4” stone wall who has given the Jets life between the pipes. Winnipeg is +350 to win the West and an enticing +820 to claim the Cup.
The Dark Horse – Las Vegas Golden Knights
The ironic thing about the Golden Knights’ meteoric rise as one of the top teams in the league is that the very casinos that gave birth to a hot weather team in a cold weather sport will be bludgeoned if their progeny does the unthinkable and wins the Stanley Cup. Plenty of action was sent in on the Knights before the season started primarily because they were a novelty team with big odds. It’s almost as though every tourist and drifter wanted a ticket on the expansion team to win it all just so they could save it as a souvenir when the Golden Knights ultimately bowed out.
But that piece of paper may be more of a golden ticket than a souvenir when the day is done. Vegas is now the most bogus underdog story in sports and people can’t get enough of it. As of this writing the Golden Knights are +370 to win the Western Conference, but the third choice (due to the influx of popular money I spoke about) to win the Stanley Cup at +700. The average Joe is far more likely to toss a few bucks on a team to win the championship, rather than the conference, which is why the odds on the Knights are so relatively low to win it all this season. Could it be that an expansion team scales the mountain in its first season? It could happen so get over to Sportsbookreview to get all the details in their NHL SBR Picks https://www.sportsbookreview.com/picks/nhl/ page.