NHL Teams Make Their Stanley Cup Playoff Push: Bruins (+375) And Avs (+650) A Cut Above The Rest

Updated: 3 Sport

Who will hoist the Cup in June?

NHL Teams Make Their Stanley Cup Playoff Push: Bruins (+375) And Avs (+650) A Cut Above The Rest

Christian Petersen // Getty Images

Noah Strang Hockey Editor

Noah Strang is OLBG's Hockey Expert. He has written about Hockey for some of the Worlds top publications and worked as an accredited NHL media correspondent.

We’ve reached the home stretch in the race for the NHL playoffs. Teams have between seven and nine games left in the regular season, meaning that any late pushes need to happen now if they’re going to come to fruition.

With so few games remaining, it also means that we have a better idea of how the playoff picture is going to shake out. Some teams have already punched their ticket to the postseason while others valiantly try to ensure that their names are included. 

In this piece, we’ll take an in-depth look at the top teams in the conversation for the Stanley Cup, divided into two sections — the real heavy hitters, followed by the dark horses — and then we’ll go through an in-depth betting preview.

Tier 1 Teams: The Cup Contenders

Eastern Conference: Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers

Western Conference: Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings

The Eastern Conference is looking more and more like a Murderers’ Row when it comes to Stanley Cup contenders. At the trade deadline, everyone went out and tooled up. The Bruins (+375 to win the Stanley Cup) added grit in winger Tyler Bertuzzi. The Hurricanes (+900) made depth moves in Jesse Puljujarvi and Shayne Gostisbehere. The Devils (+1100) got scoring center Timo Meier. The Rangers (+1200) added aging but talented wingers Patrick Kane and Vladimir Tarasenko.

In the Western Conference, there is a bit more disparity. Colorado (+650)  made depth moves in Jack Johnson (back from last year’s Cup run), Matt Nieto, and Lars Eller. The Stars (+1400) added goalscoring depth in Evgenii Dadonov. The Kings (+2000) shored up their goaltending by acquiring Joonas Korpisalo from the Blue Jackets.

Ultimately, both conferences have a few teams that we might consider favorites. In the east, the Bruins have been the best team in the league, bell-to-bell. They have set records for wins and points all year long and have only gotten deeper and tougher to play against. And, because of the current playoff format, the Devils and Rangers may cannibalize one another before ever seeing the Bruins.

In the West, it is hard to go against the Avalanche. Health is key and they have had injuries throughout the year to key players. While the eyes will be on them, the Kings may be the quiet team to watch. The Kings have great possession, a rock-solid defensive zone, and good faceoff stats. They are very tough to play against and have solidified their goaltending. Don’t be surprised to see playoff hockey happening in L.A. come June.

Tier 2 Teams: The In-Crowd

Eastern Conference: Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs

Western Conference: Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Vegas Golden Knights

In the east, there are two teams that could very well be on the contender list. The Lightning (+1400) are the two-time Stanley Cup champions, fresh off of a loss to Colorado in what was their third-consecutive trip to the Finals. They have a lot of playoff mileage on their odometer and while experience is a virtue, all that wear and tear can take its toll.

The Leafs (+900), meanwhile, have the roster to win it all. But until they can get out of the first round, the million-pound albatross will be hanging there. With the group in place, nevertheless, this should be a team making deep runs, not worrying about superstitions.

Finally, the Islanders (+5000) are something of an enigma. They have solid top-to-bottom defense and one of the best goalies in the East in Ilya Sorokin. But can they put together the offense needed to compete with the big boys when it matters most?

The west is equally as puzzling. The Golden Knights (+1200) picked up a veteran goalie in Jonathan Quick who knows how to win championships. Still, injuries and inconsistency have been problems for the Knights, and a cold streak in the playoffs can be a difficult thing to shake

The Wild (+2000) is equally as confusing — possibly in a good way. Top scorer Kirill Kaprizov went down to injury, but the Wild haven’t missed a beat. They hold a narrow lead in the Central Division and continue to win thanks to great goaltending. But will the aging Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson be able to carry their success into a deep postseason run?

For the Oilers (+1100), it is the same thing in a different year. Connor McDavid is maybe the most dominant player hockey has seen for some time, and Leon Draisaitl is right there with him — though with a quarter of the recognition. Goaltending and defense, however, are inconsistent at best. McDavid will have even more pressure on him when the playoffs begin.

Looking Ahead: Early Bets

Now that we know what we are working with in both conferences, where does that leave us from a betting standpoint? The favorites are there for a reason but any seasoned bettor will tell you that it’s never as simple as betting on the favorite for an easy payday.

In the East, Boston is as clear a favorite as we are going to get. They are +200 to win the conference, well ahead of the Leafs (+500), Hurricanes (+550), Devils (+600), and Rangers (+650) to represent the Eastern Conference.

A major detriment to the other contenders is that they will have to face each other in round one. The Rangers and Devils may well go toe-to-toe, plus we’re looking like we’ll see a rematch between the Lightning and Leafs, which provided an entertaining seven-game series last year. That only makes the path all the easier for Boston.

In the West, things are much less clear. Sure, the Avalanche are the head and shoulders favorite to win the conference at +275. After that, it is a matter of choosing which flawed team you like the most. Can you trust the Knights (+500) and their injuries? Can the Oilers (+450) win if McDavid isn’t dominating?

It is tough to overlook the way the Stars (+600) and Wild (+900) have been playing. That said, the postseason is far tougher than the regular season. Until they can prove that a deep run is possible, it is hard to get behind either.

The team to watch right now is the Kings (+800). As covered in the section above, they have the tools for playoff hockey. They are good on the draw, play tough in their own end, and have enough experience to be dangerous. It might seem like a long shot, but we recommend keeping one eye on the clear favorites, and another on teams like the Kings.

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