Well, it looks like it’s really going to happen: NHL teams are set to resume activity at training camps in mid-July and will proceed with the Stanley Cup playoffs. I am thankful and feel lucky. The weirdness of summer hockey is going to be pretty cool.
First, here are the quick nuts and bolts of the format in case you’re not familiar. The top 4 teams in each conference will play a best of 5 series to determine seeding. At the same time, in order to have as many teams as possible continue to play this season, the following 8 seeds per conference will play best-of-5 series’ that will serve as qualifying rounds to determine who goes on to the traditional 4-round tournament. Let’s take a look at my predictions for how some of the top teams will stack up and their chances of winning it all.
The most sensible odds I’ve seen for the Bruins to win the cup is 11-2.
I don’t say this because I want to, I say it because it’s my job: The Bruins just might win it all. I know a lot has changed and a lot can still happen but these guys are so damn strong. When the season ended they had the most points in the NHL. While the Bruins have one of the best first lines in the NHL, it’s Tuukka Rask who will be their biggest powerhouse. This man is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now (with a stellar .929 save percentage) and we all know how long his hot streaks can last (think 2011-2014).
With 17-2 odds, the Avalanche are a top 6 favorite.
This club is built for the playoffs. They are young and fast. Cale Makar is the poster boy for this. He is 21, takes no prisoners, and knows how to help get pucks to the net. They’re also 4th in the NHL in scored goals. Their weakness is their time spent in the box. That youthful energy has also translated to young and dumb. You cannot hoist a cup if you take too many stupid penalties. Not a chance. This tournament is too unforgiving. If these guys need to be patient, productive, and efficient if they have a chance. I’m curious to see if Nathan MacKinnon and his squad can pull it off.
Washington currently has 8-1 odds but that’s harsh.
If there’s one thing I’m thankful for in sports it’s that I’m not a Caps fan. Yeah, they had their moment a couple of years ago but that still doesn’t mean they’re a team that can compete at their best for the ENTIRE duration of the playoffs. Again I know they did that once but here’s what’s different. For starters, Braden Holtby is the streakiest goalie in the NHL. And even worse, he’s below .500 in game 7’s since 2012. Also, Ovi alone just isn’t enough to give his team a legitimate chance they otherwise wouldn’t have had. We know this because what pushed them over the edge in 2018 was that Kuznetsov was on fire. 7-1 odds are probably more accurate because Oshie, Backstrom and Carlson are all playing very well.
For this 4 lines and 2 goalies squad, they have enormous potential but they’re not the safest bet. At 12-1 odds, I’m just not all in for this team.
With Alain Vigneault at the helm of a hockey team, you always have to worry about defense.
But fans are psyched about the young goalie Carter Hart so maybe he can compensate. On the other hand, this team is also incredibly fast. Their offense is good. Really good. Sean Couturier is an underrated two-way forward and of course, Claude Giroux even at his age is very likely to step up. Likewise, this team has a helpful mixture of young and old. Voracek, van Riemsdyk,
and Niskanen all have tons of playoff experience which is always helpful for this seemingly never-ending postseason battle.
Just like the Caps, St. Louis has 8-1 odds but that’s a false equivalence for sure. I’m gonna say 6-1 is more fitting.
The defending champs. Balanced on offense and defense. The Blues are very likely to make the final. Youngster goalie, Jordan Binnington, has already proved himself in elimination games and as a squad, they are physical all the way to the depths of the 4th line. What’s more, right wing Vladimir Tarasenko would have rejoined the team from an injury the week after the regular season was forced to end. Now, you better believe he’s more than ready to go, and boy can he snipe.