While many of you are gearing up for the World Cup, the NBA Finals and the dog day of Major League Baseball, the best series in all sport gets underway this evening. The Stanley Cup Finals are actually the culmination of the best playoffs in professional sports and they open tonight in Los Angeles as the Kings host the New York Rangers.
Not since 1981 when the LA Dodgers and NY Yankees hooked up in the World Series have teams from the two cities squared off in a professional championship. My how times have changed since then…
As the series gets going, I’ll offer my views on tonight’s games as well as my pick for the Stanley Cup Champions.
New York Rangers +1.5 (-220)
Los Angeles Kings -1.5 (+180)
We know the story about the Los Angeles Kings going seven games in their first three series. This means the Kings have played the maximum amount of games they could have to this point. What cannot forget however is that the New York Rangers have played 20 of a possible 21 games with their first two series going the distance against Philadelphia and then Pittsburgh.
The reason I point this out is that a lot of folks are suggesting that LA will have tired legs. Yes, they played more recently than did the Rangers but these clubs have essentially played the same amount of games in the 2014 playoffs.
As I pointed out in my blog yesterday, if LA was traveling to New York for games one and two I could see giving the Rangers the edge but returning home will provide an energetic boost for the Kings.
Both of these teams have excellent goalies and I expect that both will be instrumental in terms of whose team comes out on top. Through 20 games, the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist has a save percentage of .928 while the Kings’ Jonathan Quick is at .906. Both net minders have a shutout in this year’s playoffs.
Offensively, the Kings boast four of the top five scorers in the playoffs with Anze Kopitar leading the way with 24 points. In order to find the Rangers’ top point getter so far you’d need to go to number 16 where Martin St. Louis resides with 13 points. Where the Rangers make this up is with defense. New York has allowed 45 goals through 20 games while the Kings have surrendered 60 goals in 21 games.
When the teams are at equal strength, the Rangers have given up 30 goals while the Kings have coughed up 42.
One of the reasons the Rangers have struggled offensively is that they have been pretty bad on the power play. New York is scoring PP goals just 13.6% of the time while the Kings are at a much more respectable number of 25.4% on their power play. The Rangers hold the edge in in terms of penalty killing 85.9% to 81.2% but in order to win this series the Rangers have to be better when they have the man advantage.
In most cases you have to like defense and that favors the Rangers. You also have to like goaltending and that favors the Rangers too. I had the Kings in the Stanley Cup Finals from the start and I’m not wavering. I like their offensive firepower just too darn much. Take them to win tonight and take the OVER which is at five.
Keep an eye on… NY Rangers are 7-2 straight up in their last 9 games… The total has gone UNDER in four of Los Angeles’s last five games when playing at home against the NY Rangers… NY Rangers are 4-1 straight up in their last five games on the road… Los Angeles is 4-2 straight up in its last 6 games.
The NHL Stanley Cup Finals begin on Wednesday from southern California when the Los Angeles Kings host the New York Rangers.
Los Angeles will be attempting to win the Stanley Cup for the second time in the past three seasons. The Kings won the Cup back in 2012.
The last time the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup final was the same time they last won it. In 1995, New York with Mark Messier took the Cup in seven games versus the Vancouver Canucks. That Cup win in 1994, was the first for the team since 1940.
With the home-ice advantage, Los Angeles has been made the favorite to win the best of seven games series and is currently priced on Bovada and sportsbook.com at -165. The Rangers are currently priced at +145 on betonline and topbet.
Odds makers will have Los Angeles as high as -155 for Game 1. If both teams were equal, the King would be going off at home at about -130, but bookmakers believe that the Kings are the better team.
The Western Conference’s strength has had a lot to do with bookmakers giving the Kings the advantage. The top teams out west all were given shorter odds all season.
In the West there were the San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks, Colorado, St. Louis and oh yeah did I mention the Los Angeles Kings.
In the East, the only teams that were given much respect by bookmakers were Pittsburgh and Boston.
The Bruins were thought by bookmakers to have the easiest route to the Stanley Cup Finals. However, Boston did not match up well versus the Montreal Canadians and were eliminated early.
New York was able to overcome Pittsburgh, and then bypassed Boston to face Montreal. The Canadians top goalie Carey Price went down in the first game, and New York eventually won in 6.
The Rangers at one time were as high as 30-1 to win the Cup, but with Henrik Lundqvist in net, the team has reached the finals.
Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles goaltender has not been as good as in the past. Against the Blackhawks, Quick’s save percentage was just .889.
However, odds makers do not seem concerned as they consider Quick one of the top five net minders in the league.
Game 1 is Wednesday and the Kings opened at -155 but are now -150, while the Rangers opened at +135 and are sitting on +140.
During the regular season, the teams played twice head-to-head. New York won 3-1 on the road last October, while Los Angeles won 1-0 in November on the road.
Kings -165, Rangers +145
Game 1 Line and Total
Kings -150, Rangers +140
Total: 5 with the UNDER -120, OVER +100
I have not been a very good friend to a sport I really do love quite a bit and played as a child but my focus is solely on it today.
With the National Basketball Association taking a couple of days off, I’m turning my attention to pucks. The National Hockey League is already in the Conference Finals’ phase with Los Angeles and Chicago dueling out West.
In the Eastern Conference, we have the Montreal Canadiens and the New York Rangers. Montreal is trying to break a dubious mark that haunts Mother Canada on a yearly basis.
An NHL team from Canada has not hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup since the Canadiens last did it in 1993. In fact, only four Canadian-based clubs have even reached the NHL Finals since that time with Vancouver being the most recent in 2011. With the way things are currently going, this drought is likely to continue. Read on and find out if I think they can come back or not.
Montreal (+1.5/-190) at NY Rangers (-1.5/+165), Rangers Lead 2-0 – The New York Rangers (and LA Kings) find themselves in very interesting positions. According to ESPN, since the best of seven format went to all playoff rounds in the NHL, teams that won their first two series in seven games went on to lose their next series.
At this point it would take a colossal failure on the part of the Rangers. They have a 2-0 lead and they are back at home for the next two games. Oh, and the Canadiens are without their goalie Carey Price for the rest of the series. While there is no such thing as a sure thing this is pretty darn close.
With all that said, the only thing that really kept Motreal from winning in game two was Rangers’ Goalie Henrik Lundqvist who stopped 40 of the 41 shots the Canadiens shot at him. Montreal also had more power play chances (4-3) and won in the face-off department by a count of 32-21.
In other words, this isn’t the most dominant 2-0 lead we’ve ever seen in the NHL Playoffs.
At the other end of the ice, 24-year old Dustin Tokarski was the surprise selection to replace Price. Usual back-up Peter Budaj was thought to get the nod but the coaching staff chose Tokarski because of the titles he had won at younger levels.
Despite giving up three goals, Tokarski played very well. Two of three goals scored by the Rangers were in no way on Tokarski. I expect him to get the game three start between the pipes this evening and Montreal should feel good about his play. They just have to solve Lundqvist and take advantage of a Rangers’ defense that gives up too many shots.
Speaking of the Rangers, the power play that was three for seven in game one went one for three in game two. That was a good part of the reason why the Rangers were able to overcome the discrepancy in shots and lost face-offs. Rick Nash finally put the biscuit in the basket in game one to end a long drought. He then added another goal in game two and fans are expecting that he continue this trend.
Momentum in sports is a strange animal. They say in baseball it’s as good as tomorrow’s starting pitcher and in hockey it can simply fall on the shoulders of a hot goaltender. I expect Lundqvist to continue to play well but the Canadiens are desperate and have the backs to the wall. I like Montreal tonight to win a close game in the Garden.
With (a noticeably quiet so far) NBA deadline day due to close in little more than three hours, Casino Review turns its head the other way and eyeballs tonight’s action-packed NHL schedule. That might sound crazy but there’s a trio of games that are proving particularly intriguing, starting north of the border.
New York Rangers @ Ottawa Senators
7:30 PM ET
New York (8-6-1, 2-3-0 road) continue to tick over as fans and bettors alike wait for them to reach the potential that saw the side named preseason favorites. So far, we’ve seen nothing of the sort.
The Rangers have lost two of the last three all told, including a 3-1 defeat to Montreal at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Ottawa (9-6-2, 6-1-2 home) pulled off a 3-1 win over the Rangers’ city mates the Islanders on Tuesday, making it two straight wins and three from five. The side has also won two straight and five from seven at home, and enter this game with the joint (with New Jersey) second best home record in the entire NHL. Only Montreal has fared better at home.
The Senators’ solid home record should strike fear into the Rangers, who have the fifth worst road record in the league. That being said, the Manhattan side has won two of the last three away from the garden.
This Season: Thursday night’s game is the first of three between the sides this season.
Last Season: Ottawa took a four-game regular season head-to-head series 3-1, winning both games played at Scotiabank Place. The Rangers retaliated by winning a seven-game series in the opening round of the playoffs, winning two of three in Ottawa.
Moneyline: NY Rangers (-121), Ottawa (+110) Total: 5
Take: OTTAWA – That home record is impressive and the Rangers have yet to really sell us on their road abilities. This is also an opportunity to back the underdog, something we like around these parts. Only four of Ottawa’s 17 games have seen the total go over, so take the under in this one.
Boston Bruins @ Tampa Bay Lightning
7:30 PM ET
Boston (9-2-2, 5-1-1 road) travels to the Gulf Coast – where the weather is nicer than in New England two weeks ago – to face Tampa Bay (8-6-1, 6-2-1 home) on Thursday night.
The Lightning have been solid at home – posting the fourth best record in the league – while the Bruins have been exceptional on the road – with the sixth best road record in the league. Something has to give in this one.
The Bruins snapped a two game losing streak with a 3-2 win in Winnipeg last Sunday. The side – winners of five of six on the road – will be well refreshed coming into this game.
The Lightning has won two straight since dropping six in a row, with the team’s latest success coming on Tuesday against Toronto. That 4-2 win also snapped a three-game losing streak at home. Even with that three-game skid, the Lightning still have an impressive home record.
This Season: After a Feb. 9 meeting was postponed, this will be the first of three games between the sides this season.
Last Season: Both teams one a pair of home games, splitting last year’s head-to-head series 2-2.
Moneyline: Boston (-116), Tampa Bay (+105) Total: 5½
Take: BOSTON – There’s been very few chinks in the Bruins’ armor so far this season, and while the Lightning may have returned to winning ways, those three home losses leave a big question mark next to the team’s name. 10 of 14 Lightning games have seen the total exceed the bookies’ marker, so take the over.
Vancouver Canucks @ Dallas Stars
8:3 PM ET
With the play of Chicago and Anaheim this season, Vancouver (8-3-4, 3-1-2 road) may have to wave goodbye to a third straight Presidents’ Trophy, but with three straight losses – the last two both by shootout – the Canucks would trade such awards for a win anyway.
Prior to this three-game skid, the Canucks had taken six straight and eight of 10. The side will be looking to return to winning ways and gain some retribution having fallen to the Stars less than a week ago.
Dallas (8-7-1, 3-2-1 home) has been teetering around the bottom of the Western Conference playoff berths recently. Entering this game the side has edged Detroit for the No. 8 spot. A 4-3 loss to Calgary last Sunday marred a five from six winning streak, but a well-rested Stars team will be looking to make a splash here.
This Season: Dallas handed the Canucks a 4-3 defeat last Friday (Feb. 15) in Vancouver. This will be the second of three meetings this season.
Last Season: The two sides split a four-game head-to-head series last season, with each team winning once at home and once on the road.
Moneyline: Vancouver (-146), Dallas (+133) Total: 5½
Take: VANCOUVER – There’s certainly a temptation to go with the underdog Stars here, especially with the Canucks having dropped three straight, but ultimately the Canadian side looks good to breakout of this mini-slump, while an inconsistent Dallas team looks set to wrestle with those lower berths until April. Neither team trends towards the over, so take the total to go under here.
Whilst the NHL may be the most difficult of the four major sports to pick winners, this season is proving to be even harder than most. In many ways, the league is turning into a bit of a crap shoot. With games coming thick and fast, don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Still, Casino Review has taken a stab at picking out three winners from Thursday night’s 12-game bonanza. Read on to see who we like on the ice tonight.
New York Islanders @ New York Rangers
7:00 PM ET
Highly-touted ahead of the season, the New York Rangers will look to turnaround a choppy start to the year on Thursday night with the arrival of long-term city rivals, the Islanders.
The Rangers (4-5-0, 8pts) fell to the Devils 3-1 in New Jersey on Tuesday, marking a second loss in three games. John Tortorella’s side is 3-2-0 at Madison Square Garden, with both those losses coming against Pittsburgh.
The Islanders (4-4-1, 9pts) may have dropped two straight games, but the team has won its last two road games, and has gone 3-0-1 away from Nassau Coliseum so far this season. Jack Capuano’s side will be well aware of its recent shortcomings in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Islanders have dropped seven straight on Broadway.
The Rangers enter the game with the NHL’s worst power play rating. The side has scored just three goals in 35 attempts (8.6 percent). The Islanders penalty killing unit meanwhile has prevented 90.3 percent of chances. It may be time for the Islanders to score a rare win in the Garden.
Last Season: The Rangers won four times against the Islanders last season, including a shootout win. The Islanders won twice, including an overtime win. The Rangers won all three games at Madison Square Garden.
This Season: This will be the first of four games between the two New York teams.
Moneyline: NY Islanders (+153), NY Rangers (-168) Total: 5½
Take: NY RANGERS – Take the Rangers to fend-off the Islanders in this one. With neither team particularly strong on defense, take the total to go over.
Tampa Bay Lightning @ New Jersey Devils
7:00 PM ET
Tampa Bay (6-3-0, 12pts) currently sits atop the Southeast Division, which may just be the weakest division in hockey (although the Northwest will give it a run for its money). The Lightning won’t care about how weak the division is.
New Jersey (5-1-3, 13pts) is nestled one-point behind Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Division, the toughest division in hockey. The Devils won’t care how strong the division is.
The two sides meet at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on Thursday night in a game that means a lot already, even this early in the season. The Lightning will look to make the most of its status as the NHL’s top-scoring side (4.4 GPG) and number one power play team. The side has scored 13 times in 40 attempts (32.5 percent).
The Devils meanwhile will look to continue to build around solid goaltending . The pairing of Martin Brodeau (.907 SV%, 2.51GAA) and Johan Hedberg (.980 SV%, 0.48GAA) have combined for a team save percentage of .922 and a pair of shutouts.
Last Season: New Jersey took three of four games from the Lightning last season. The two sides split a pair at the Prudential Center.
This Season: This game will be the first of three between the two sides this season.
Moneyline: Tampa Bay (+115), New Jersey (-125) Total: 5½
Take: NEW JERSEY – The Devils are tough to score against and the Lightning has struggled scoring over the last two games. Add to that the fact that New Jersey has won eight of the last 10 against Tampa Bay when playing in Newark and you have the recipe for a Devils win. Take the total to go under, thanks to New Jersey’s defense.
Chicago Blackhawks @ Phoenix Coyotes
9:00 PM ET
Still unbeaten in regulation this season, Chicago (8-0-2, 18pts) takes on a Phoenix (4-4-2, 10pts) side that is just looking to remain in the playoff picture.
As it stands, the Coyotes are one-point shy of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Just making the playoffs would be a middle finger salute to bookmakers who believe the Coyotes don’t stand a chance. Of course, there’s a long way to go.
Chicago’s league-best 18 points has been built up on excellent offense and even better defense. The Blackhawks rank sixth in goals scored (3.2 GPG) and fourth in goals allowed (2.1 GPG). Add to that a team that has the best penalty killing record in the league (94.9 percent) and you have a team that’s hard to beat.
Phoenix – very much a middle of the road sort of team – will find it difficult on Thursday night, although with two shutouts to its name – something the Blackhawks have not achieved – the side can turn on the defense at times.
Last Season: Phoenix took three of four games from Chicago last season, including a shootout win. The two sides split a pair played in Glendale, Ariz.
This Season: Chicago defeated the Coyotes 6-4 in Phoenix on Jan. 20. The two sides will face off once more after tonight’s game.
Moneyline: Chicago (-105), Phoenix (-105) Total: 5
Take: CHICAGO – Phoenix’s two-game winning streak is about to come to an abrupt ending. Before that, the Coyotes were a middle-of-the-road 2-2-2 and that sort of record could get a lot worse shortly. Take the total to go over in this one.
With the NHL season just a mere 10 days old, it’s far too early to accurately forecast how the season is set to play out. With each team having played between four and six games, the sample size simply isn’t big enough.
However, there’s an urgency to this season that comes with it having been reduced to 48 games. Consider this; we’re already one-eighth of the way through the season, so for those 30 teams taking to the ice, winning now is vitally important. There simply isn’t any margin for error this season.
It’s worth then taking a quick look at some of the early trends and surprises that could pay off when it comes to putting the green down.
Better Than Advertised?
It’s almost the law that any NHL early season review should start with a look at the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0, 12pts).
The Blackhawks opened the season third amongst Eastern Conference sides with 13/2 odds to win the conference. It’s no surprise that Joel Quenneville’s side is pacing the conference. What is surprising is that the Blackhawks are still unbeaten. Few expected that, and with games against Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Detroit, Chicago’s schedule has hardly been soft.
If Chicago is a surprise, then San Jose (5-0-0, 10pts) is a jaw-dropper. Considered 11/1 to lift the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl ahead of the season, the Sharks also unbeaten remain unbeaten, and high above their predicted eighth spot finish.
In the Eastern Conference, Boston (4-0-1, 9pts) was predicted to finish fourth in the conference, but is currently setting the pace, while Tampa Bay (4-1-0, 8pts) and New Jersey (3-0-1, 7pts) are hot on the Bruins’ skates. Tampa was expected to finish eighth in the East, while the Devils were predicted to finish outside the playoff positions.
Whilst it is early, as bettors you should be questioning whether these sides are better than advertised, or given a week or two, will they find themselves slipping down the table?
Early Woes or Something Worse?
At the other end of the spectrum, a number of high-profile sides gave struggled to start the season.
The most apparent of these is the New York Rangers (2-3-0, 4pts), a team that opened the season as the joint favorite to lift the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. The Manhattan side opened the season with back-to-back losses to Boston and Pittsburgh, before scoring a victory over the Bruins at home. News continues to circulate that the side is looking to bolster its lineup – any bolstering will not include Jason Arnott, who failed a medical this past week – which suggests that the Rangers may not be as good as advertised. It also means the side might be about to get even better.
Pittsburgh (3-2-0, 6pts) isn’t faring much better than the Rangers, which leave some wondering if those 4/1 odds to win the East might have been a little too short. But then again, the Penguins have played four out of five on the road to start the season. Even a short home-stand could quickly see the side make grounds.
Rounding out a trio of Atlantic Division slow-starters, Philadelphia (2-4, 4pts) has struggled in spite of being third favorite in the conference. The Flyers opened the season with 7/1 odds to lift the Prince of Wales Trophy, but currently find themselves in 13th place in the conference.
If there’s one thing that might be apparent already, it’s that the Atlantic Division could well turn into a dogfight.
Shakeup in the East?
Philadelphia isn’t the only early season pick to be struggling out East. Following Monday’s games, no fewer than five Eastern Conference sides originally picked by bookmakers to finish in a playoff spot are on the outside looking in.
Philadelphia and the Rangers are joined by Carolina (2-3, 4pts), Washington (1-3-1, 3pts), and Buffalo (2-3-0, 4pts) on the list of Eastern Conference sides currently failing to meet expectations.
Their replacements currently come in the form of the Devils, Ottawa (3-1-1, 7pts), Winnipeg (3-1-1, 7pts), Montreal (3-1-0, 6pts), and the New York Islanders (2-2-1, 5pts). That’s right; the Islanders are currently faring better than the Rangers.
The Not So Wild West
The Western Conference meanwhile has a completely different feel about it.
Seven of eight teams picked by odds makers to make the postseason ahead of the season currently reside in the top eight. Only Detroit (2-2-1, 5pts) has failed to do so – losing out to an Anaheim (3-1-0, 6pts) side that looks fairly good – and the Red Wings are only short on tiebreakers.
The bookies’ prediction that Phoenix (2-4-0, 4pts), Colorado (2-3-0, 4pts), Calgary (1-2-1, 3pts), and Columbus (2-3-1, 5pts) would finish bottom is currently holding water, although the Blue Jackets are currently avoiding that 15th-place finish most expect. Calgary lounges there at this moment in time.
Of course, all of the above is likely to change. In fact, it may well change tonight. But at this point, it’s worth considering that at least one of these unlikely stories will follow on for the rest of the season – that’s how the NHL works – so it might just be worth taking some time out to consider which team is likely to continue its winning – or losing – ways.
After four months in oblivion, the National Hockey League will resume play this Saturday, following the ratification of a proposed agreement between the league office and the Players’ Association.
Saturday’s schedule will include 13 games, featuring 26 of the league’s 30 teams.
The schedule’s marquee matchup sees Pittsburgh and Philadelphia continue their long-time rivalry. The game (3:00 PM ET) will see the Penguins looking for retribution after being dumped out of the playoffs at the first round by the Flyers last season.
As news broke that an agreement had been reached between the NHL and NHLPA, Pittsburgh was considered favorites to lift Lord Stanley’s goliath cup. In the week that has followed, Pittsburgh finds itself join favorites with the New York Rangers, with both teams being given 8/1 odds of winning it all.
The Rangers will start their season with a tough game in Boston on Saturday (7:00 PM ET), before hosting the Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Sunday evening (7:00 PM ET).
Other notable games on Saturday’s schedule include the Los Angeles Kings beginning the defense of an unexpected Stanley Cup with the visit of the Chicago Blackhawks, a side expected to take a very competitive Central Division this season.
Vancouver – expected by odds makers to win the Western Conference this season – will host the Anaheim Ducks (10:00 PM ET), while Toronto and Montreal meet in a battle of Original Six sides (7:00 PM ET).
For those sides taking to the ice, Saturday’s games will mark the first of shortened 48-game season, a result of the lengthy lockout period. Each team will play only against those sides in their conference, meaning the only time we’ll see an Eastern Conference side meet a Western Conference team will come during the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Stanley Cup playoffs will retain its 16-team format, and will commence following the last day of the regular season, which falls on Apr. 27. Postseason schedules are yet to be put into place.
With such a short period to get ready for hockey betting, Casino Review has compiled all of the information you need to get ready for Saturday and the season ahead.We’ve gathered Stanley Cup, conference, and division odds together, alongside points totals and playoff odds, meaning you can check out your favorite side’s chances, or take an advantage to pick out this season’s Stanley Cup competitors.
Read on for all you need ahead of the NHL Regular Season…
(NOTE: Last season, teams had the opportunity to earn 164 points. This season, there is a total of 96 points up for grabs for each side. To give you a better idea of what a team needs to do to (pro-rata) match last season’s tally, we’ve added the number of points needed this season.)
With a hockey season finally on the horizon, the Pittsburgh Penguins have topped bookmakers’ lists as favorites to lift the Stanley Cup this summer.
The ranking comes as no surprise as the Penguins were topping such lists before and during the lockout, which came to an unofficial end this past Sunday with the announcement that the league front office and the Players’ Association has struck a deal, ending more than four months of uncertainty.
Reports currently indicate that the NHL is targeting Jan. 19 as the start date for a shortened season that will last 48 games. No concrete schedule can be put into place until the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and NHLPA is completely ratified.
Regardless, news that there will be a hockey season is an added bonus for bettors in a growing market. According to Bovada, betting on the NFL grew by 100 percent last season, a year that saw the Los Angeles Kings score a surprise Stanley Cup victory.
Here then is a breakdown of the Top 5 teams on the current NHL Futures list.
Pittsburgh Penguins (8/1)
Last Season: 51-25-6 (Lost 4-2 to Philadelphia in Conference Quarter-Finals)
With club captain Sidney Crosby healthy for the start of the season – and by all accounts hungry to play – the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team loaded with talent, will be favorites to take the Stanley Cup.
One of the biggest reasons for this is Evegini Malkin – last season’s Hart trophy winner – who will return to the U.S. having tallied 65 points (23G, 42A) for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in Russia’s KHL. An in-form Malkin spells danger for the Atlantic Division and the rest of the league.
Of course, the Penguins – who last won the Stanley Cup in 2009 – have had issues staying healthy, a well-known fact that could see bettors stay away.
New York Rangers (17/2)
Last Season: 51-24-7 (Lost 4-2 to New Jersey in Conference Finals)
After falling to rivals New Jersey in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, the Rangers will look to go (at least) one better this year and head to the Stanley Cup Finals. They’ll have Rick Nash – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft – onboard after a deal was struck back in July, adding to a lineup that has talent and experience.
Vancouver Canucks (9/1)
Last Season: 51-22-9 (Lost 4-1 to Los Angeles in Conference Quarter-Finals)
Beaten finalists in 2011 and unceremoniously dumped out in the first round last year by a Los Angeles Kings team on its way to the Stanley Cup, Vancouver will look to once again lead the league in points (as it did last season with 111) and attempt to win its first ever Stanley Cup.
Los Angeles Kings (12/1)
Last Season: 40-27-15 (Beat New Jersey 4-2 in Stanley Cup Finals)
Had the NHL season fallen through, the biggest casualty would have been the fans in Los Angeles. After a shocking playoff run that saw the Kings eliminate the No. 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the West, Los Angeles lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. That one run has the most people in Los Angeles watching hockey since a certain No. 99 arrived on a plain from Edmonton.
Fans will again get to cheer as the Kings attempt to defend their title. Another run like last year’s is highly unlikely. Every other team will offer their A-game against the L.A. side. That’s tough enough. But then history is against the Kings. You have to go back to the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings to find a team that successfully defended the Stanley Cup.
Philadelphia Flyers (12/1)
Last Season: 47-26-9 (Lost 4-1 to New Jersey in Conference Semi-Finals)
At 12/1, Philadelphia is the third Atlantic Division side in the top five of the NHL Futures, a clear indication of how tough the division is going to be. Not that that’s anything new. The Flyers scored an upset victory over the Penguins in the opening round of the playoffs last year, before being ousted by New Jersey.
Captain Chris Pronger’s return is in doubt after he sat out 69 games last season with post-concussion syndrome and is not anywhere near close to being cleared. Many believe his career is done. Still, Philadelphia has some firepower and will likely advance to the playoffs.
At 18/1, Minnesota is the highest-ranked (10th) side that did not make last season’s playoffs. The Wild has not made the postseason since the 2007-08 season.
Despite a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, New Jersey is only considered 30/1 to lift the giant trophy this season, ranking the side joint 18th in the league.
Although the franchise was named the richest in hockey, Toronto is one of those sides level with New Jersey at 30/1. Come April, a city that loves hockey more than any other may be more interested in its fully-loaded baseball club.
Columbus has the unenviable label of biggest underdogs this season. The Jackets – who have only made the playoffs once in franchise history (2008-09) – are 100/1 to lift the Stanley Cup.
Florida, Ottawa, and Phoenix– all teams that made last year’s playoffs – are all considered 40/1 to win the Stanley Cup (joint 21st).