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Winner of Pens-Caps Can be Penciled into the Stanley Cup Finals

The second round is set in the Stanley Cup playoffs and although there were some surprises along the way, the matchups at hand are all excellent for different reasons. Almost all of them are virtual toss-ups and it will take some sharp predicting to get the conference finals matchups right.

Bovada has updated the conference futures odds heading into Wednesday night’s icebreakers and with the Capitals set to once again face the Penguins in the second round, the two teams who most think have the best chance at hoisting the Cup have unsurprisingly been deemed faves in the East.

Eastern Conference

We’ll once again be treated to an electric playoff series between the Penguins and Capitals. The only problem? It’s not in the Eastern Conference finals. The two meet in the second round for the second straight year and the Caps will be looking to end a losing streak of six playoff series against the Pens that dates back to 1995. Bovada opened the Caps as the +175 faves to represent the conference in the Cup finals with the Pens trailing close behind at +190.

I tend to lean toward Washington in this matchup as this is the most vulnerable the Penguins have ever been since the inception of the Ovechkin-Crosby rivalry. Pittsburgh is down two star players and if Matt Murray can’t suit up for Round 2, the Pens are in a heap of trouble.

Marc-Andre Fleury was capable in the opening round with a .933 save percentage but he gave up a lot of bad goals. All said, he had the second-worst goals-against average of any netminder of a club that moved on. If the Leafs hadn’t had Freddy Andersen in the first round, the Caps would have frigging rolled them.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of April 24 at Bovada

  • Washington Capitals +175
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +190
  • New York Rangers +350
  • Ottawa Senators +500

Western Conference

What a wild first round in the West (pun intended). Underdogs were hugely successful, going 11-2 on the moneyline, and two teams (the Blues and Predators) both overcame serious underdog odds in the best-of-seven prices to dominate their respective matchups.

Going forward, I like both of those teams I just mentioned. They’ll square off in the next round and they’re offering the best value in futures (+300 apiece). This may be the best series of the playoffs and it could very easily be the first one to go to seven games. Pekka Rinne (NSH) and Jake Allen (STL) were the two best goalies in the first round with save percentages of .976 and .956 respectively and if one of those guys can keep his balance and continue the headstand, either club could make a Stanley Cup run.

St. Louis and Nashville opened the playoffs with +1400 and +1200 odds respectively to win the West so your time to get value out of them has passed. That said, I like whichever team that gets out of this series to go on to the Cup finals – pick your poison.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of April 24 at Bovada

  • Anaheim Ducks +240
  • Edmonton Oilers +240
  • Nashville Predators +300
  • St. Louis Blues +300

Archived Articles

We’re not even out of the first round and we’ve had a slew of wild results in the NHL playoffs already. The No. 1-seeded Blackhawks were swept in four games by the Nashville Predators and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals are being given all they can handle by the run-and-gun Buds.

Here are the updated Eastern and Western Conference odds from Bovada following results from the April 20th contests.

Eastern Conference

Dispatching their first-round opponents in just five games, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the new favorite to win the East with the prior favorites struggling to get by the Maple Leafs. Bovada has pegged the Pens with less than 2/1 odds to represent the East in the Stanley Cup finals and if the Leafs are able to knock the Caps off their prestigious perch, Pittsburgh’s path to glory will once again be paved by the crushed hopes of Capitals’ fans everywhere.

I’m not writing Washington off by any means, though. I think they finish off the Leafs after pushing them around in Game 4 and meet the Pens for their annual playoff battle in the second round. Whether or not this is the year that they manage to finally break down the wall that’s been the Penguins, however, is a different question altogether.

If we’re comparing rosters, Washington is the better team. As we all know, that hasn’t seemed to matter in years gone by and the Caps’ lack of success against their black and yellow division rivals may now be a mental roadblock. That said, if Matt Murray is still banged up and unable to go, I’ll be firmly in Camp Fade Marc-Andre Fleury.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of April 21 at Bovada

  • Pittsburgh Penguins +175
  • Washington Capitals +225
  • New York Rangers +550
  • Ottawa Senators +750
  • Montreal Canadiens +900
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +1200
  • Boston Bruins +1600

Western Conference

In the West, everything is up in the air after the Blackhawks’ ugly exit and it’s the Ducks who soared up the futures board. After eliminating the Flames in four games, the Quackers are the odds-on favorites to represent the West in the Stanley Cup finals with Bovada assigning them a line of +250.

Nashville, the team that was apparently scary enough to make the Blackhawks crap their pants, is right up there with the Ducks, which is kind of disconcerting – I didn’t know cats could fly. The Preds will be one of the more popular bets after they made the ’Hawks look like an AHL team but I suggest slowing your roll. I still have a lot of trust in the St. Louis Blues and think that the potential series in the next round between the Blues and Preds will be buzzsaw electric. I lean toward the value in that situation and that’s on the Notes. Bet them now before they end the Wild and have their odds slashed.

As far as a long shot, I’m not so convinced. The Oilers at +375 is the biggest line I’d consider here as it looks like the Sharks and Wild are both breathing their last breaths.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of April 21 at Bovada

  • Anaheim Ducks +250
  • Nashville Predators +250
  • St. Louis Blues +325
  • Edmonton Oilers +375
  • San Jose Sharks +900
  • Minnesota Wild +2000

Archived Articles

We have a bracket to announce. I think you’re going to want to hear this. You guys like my Gary Bettman impression? But seriously, the playoff bracket is set and sportsbooks have opened their lines for betting.

The best thing the NHL’s wild-card format has given us is the ability to project our brackets in their entirety and has eliminated the foolishness of reseeding. This has made futures betting a little easier as it’s drastically reduced the number of potential matchups a team can have.

So, which teams from each conference have the easiest paths to the Stanley Cup finals? Great question, so glad you asked.

Eastern Conference

Washington Capitals +225: At the risk of sounding like a broken record – I like the Capitals this year. Of any team, they have the easiest path to the Stanley Cup and I don’t see a close comparison. The Blackhawks have a tough row to hoe in a stacked Central Division bracket and I can easily see them going out to any three of the teams they have the potential of facing before the Western Conference finals.

Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals, however, are in a great spot. I’m rarely this bullish on a heavy favorite but this is just a no-brainer. Washington finished as the only team in the NHL with a goal differential of one per game and the next closest was the Blue Jackets at 0.66 – wow. Every aspect of their club is sharpened to a deadly point and there’s a real chance they run through the East without much difficulty.

If you can find a prop for the Caps to make it to the Stanley Cup finals without losing a game, you might want to consider it.

Montreal Canadiens +650: The Habs have been fortunate all season to play in the worst division in hockey and that will continue in the playoffs – for at least two rounds. Although the Rangers match up well against them on paper, the Canadiens swept the Blueshirts in their season series, outscoring them 12-7.

Given how badly the Rangers have played at Madison Square Garden of late (2-8 straight up in their last 10) and how well the Canadiens (and Carey Price) play at home, I see the Habs’ first-round series being a cakewalk if Carey stays on his game.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of April 10 at Bovada

  • Washington Capitals +225
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +350
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +500
  • Montreal Canadiens +650
  • New York Rangers +750
  • Ottawa Senators +1100
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +1100
  • Boston Bruins +1100

Western Conference

St. Louis Blues +1400: I can’t get over the prices the Blues are getting in futures markets. This team is as good as any in the offensive zone and their defensive efficiency/five-on-five play has been second to none since the trade deadline. If the Blackhawks and Blues were to match up right now, I’d call it a toss-up and when you consider the difference in their Western Conference futures odds (+1220), the value becomes obvious.

Don’t bet on the Blackhawks because of their pedigree, please. If you seriously think they’ll get out of that bracket, then go for it, but speaking strictly in terms of value, their price sucks and should be avoided if at all possible.

The Blues have allowed fewer goals than any other team since they got rid of Ken Hitchcock and their goalies have been the best in the NHL. St. Louis being pegged by Bovada as the worst team in the postseason is absolutely ludicrous.

Edmonton Oilers +800: Connor McDavid was touted as hockey’s savior and he’s made me a believer by skating (quickly) on frozen water and turning buckets of pucks into spectacular highlight-reel goals. The Oilers are capable of anything with this kid in charge and with the path in front of them, I believe he can carry them to the promised land.

If you haven’t had a chance to see McJesus in action, now’s your chance. That’s the best thing about the NHL postseason: regional blackouts in fact do not apply.  

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of April 10 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +180
  • Minnesota Wild +400
  • San Jose Sharks +700
  • Anaheim Ducks +700
  • Edmonton Oilers +800
  • Calgary Flames +1000
  • Nashville Predators +1200
  • St. Louis Blues +1400

Archived Articles

With the 2016-17 NHL season coming to a close, it’s time to take a serious look at the postseason and project which teams could possibly meet in the penultimate series – a.k.a. the Stanley Cup finals – by way of a conference championship.

I’ve analyzed the projected playoff matchups as of Tuesday, March 28, and chosen a team from each of the four brackets to make it to their respective conference final.

Eastern Conference Finalists

Washington Capitals +250: Although it’s looking like they’ll have the much tougher of the two brackets, the Capitals are the best team in the East and right now, it’s not close. The Penguins are the nearest second but they’re far too banged up to make another run at the Cup this year and could be dealt an early blow by a Blue Jackets team they’ve struggled against of late.

The Caps are deep, talented and well-coached. They look well on their way to a second consecutive Presidents’ Trophy and with the aforementioned Penguins taking on water, the Capitals could have their path to the Cup cleared for them. Washington has not been to the Stanley Cup finals or even made it past the second round since 1998 and in that span is 0-4 in playoff series with the Penguins.

If Pittsburgh is taken out in the first round, the Caps’ odds to win the Eastern Conference will plummet. Take advantage while you still can.

Ottawa Senators +1000: This is not as much of a long shot as you might think. Ottawa matches up well against almost every team in the East but has a distinct advantage over the Capitals. The Sens lost the season series with the Caps two games to one but what they did positively was outscore them as well as outshoot the league leaders over the course of those contests.

That’s important because if the Sens and Caps meet in the Eastern Conference finals – which I’m projecting they do – the team that’s scored more goals in the teams’ regular-season matchups (since 2007-08) has gone on to win the subsequent playoff series against that club 65 percent of the time.

Their 1-3-1 style, very similar to the one the New Jersey Devils used to run in the early 2000s, is quarterbacked by superstar blue-liner Erik Karlsson and all things considered, the Swede is one of the five best players in the Eastern Conference. He’s the modern-day Scott Niedermayer and that’s quite the compliment coming from a writer who has a poster of the four-time Stanley Cup winner hanging in his home office.

Washington will have to out-grind Ottawa if they meet in the East final and I’ll take the value on the Sens in a matchup I consider a virtual toss-up.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of Match 28 at Bovada

  • Washington Capitals +250
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +325
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +650
  • Montreal Canadiens +750
  • New York Rangers +750
  • Ottawa Senators +1000
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +1200
  • Boston Bruins +1600
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +1600
  • New York Islanders +4000

Western Conference Finalists

St. Louis Blues +1400: I’m fading the chalk in the West. St. Louis is currently lined up with Chicago in the first round and that’s a matchup the Blues will feel supremely confident they can win. Vladimir Tarasenko and the Blues took the ’Hawks out of last year’s playoffs in seven games and battled them hard in all their matchups this season.

Allowing just 1.72 goals per game since the all-star break, the Blues have been the tightest club in the NHL the last 25 games and their goalie, Jake Allen, has turned his season around in a large way. He’s posted a 13-6-1 record along with a sparkling .942 save percentage and 1.70 goals-against average his last 20 starts after a brutal start and his team has won 10 of its last 12 games, getting a point in all but one of those games.

People are sleeping on the Blues but I’m too awake for that. +1400 is an excellent price for a good hockey team.

Anaheim Ducks +900: When I first found this line, I thought it was fake news. Anaheim has recently taken over first place in the Pacific Division and with a matchup with the Calgary Flames starting to look more and more likely, the Ducks could easily get to the second round and I like their chances from there.

The Ducks have beaten the Flames in Anaheim 26 straight times and have been as hot as any team in the league, winning eight of their last 10 games. Backup goalie Jonathan Bernier has stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park in the absence of John Gibson for Anaheim, posting a .943 save percentage and a 9-1-1 record in his 11 March starts.

With Gibson set to make his return any day now, the Ducks could have one of the best goaltender tandems in the NHL and all they need is for one of them to get hot in the playoffs. San Jose, Anaheim’s main competition right now, has looked awful of late and if the Sharks don’t button things up in the next week or so, they’ll be exiting the postseason very early. Sad.

Anaheim is the best team in its bracket at this point and is the only one with Stanley Cup experience in this millennium.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of March 28 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +190
  • Minnesota Wild +250
  • San Jose Sharks +700
  • Anaheim Ducks +900
  • Edmonton Oilers +900
  • Calgary Flames +900
  • Nashville Predators +1200
  • St. Louis Blues +1400

Archived Articles

As expected, trade deadline day in the NHL was pretty quiet. There were, however, two moves made in the lead-up to the most overhyped day in hockey that bolstered the chances of the teams that completed them and I now like the Capitals and Wild to meet in the Stanley Cup final more than I did already. Below is my analysis of the deals done by Washington and Minnesota and what they mean for conference futures bettors.

Beam me up Ovi

In a relatively unexpected move, the Capitals made the biggest splash in the trade market by acquiring offensive defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk two days before the deadline. The longtime Blues blue-liner is on pace for a career year in terms of points and is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Giving up a 2017 first-rounder and a prospect for him was a bargain considering the way the market had been going and the Caps are now poised to finally get back to the Stanley Cup final.

The addition of Shatty adds a little more girth to an already potent Capitals power play that’s operating at a 22.1 percent rate this year and it gives them another puck-moving defenseman who can stretch the ice and find the sticks of Alex Ovechkin and company up front. Once Brooks Orpik returns to the lineup, the Caps will have the tightest D-pairings in the league and when you match that with the dominance of Braden Holtby and the smothering defensive tactics of Barry Trotz, the chances of scoring on this already stout team become even slimmer.

Washington has the best goal differential in hockey right now by a wide margin. Bovada bumped the Caps up to +225 favorites in the Eastern Conference and, if the Penguins can’t get healthy, the East is theirs to lose.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of March 2 at Bovada

  • Washington Capitals +225
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +450
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +650
  • New York Rangers +750
  • Montreal Canadiens +750
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +1400
  • Ottawa Senators +1600
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +1600
  • Florida Panthers +1600
  • Boston Bruins +1800
  • New York Islanders +2200
  • Philadelphia Flyers +4000
  • Buffalo Sabres +6600
  • New Jersey Devils +15000
  • Carolina Hurricanes +15000
  • Detroit Red Wings +15000

All Hanz on Deck

Over in the West, the Wild continue to impress with their unorthodox roster but with Minny sitting three points clear of the Blackhawks in the Central (with two games in hand at that), it’s tough to argue Bruce Boudreau’s game plan. Much of the framework for their success has been built around controlling the puck in the defensive zone and adding one of the best faceoff men in the league in Martin Hanzal should only improve the effectiveness of that strategy.

The price for Hanzal – a first, a second and another conditional pick – was steep, but considering the 30-year-old pending free agent had won over 56 percent of the faceoffs he’d taken with the Coyotes while also leading the team in goals and power-play points, the cost makes sense. Hanzal has slotted in as the second-line center for the Wild and he's already contributed two assists in the two games he’s played with the Western Conference leaders.

Minnesota may be unconventional and devoid of any real superstars but is getting the job done this year with the perfect mix of defensive efficiency, solid goaltending and blistering speed up front, so Bovada has pegged the Wild as the +220 favorites to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup final.

A factor to keep in mind if you’re thinking about backing the Wild here is that they’ve never made it past the second round of the playoffs and that a Bruce Boudreau-coached team has made it to the conference finals just once and made it out of the first round four times in eight appearances.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of March 2 at Bovada

  • Minnesota Wild +220
  • Chicago Blackhawks +275
  • San Jose Sharks +450
  • Nashville Predators +900
  • Edmonton Oilers +1000
  • Anaheim Ducks +1100
  • St. Louis Blues +1600
  • Los Angeles Kings +1600
  • Calgary Flames +1800
  • Winnipeg Jets +5000
  • Dallas Stars +7500
  • Vancouver Canucks +10000

Archived Articles

With the first half of the 2016-17 NHL season in the books for most teams, we can start looking ahead to the playoffs and analyzing the teams currently in position to make a postseason run. The season so far has been dominated by long winning streaks from several teams and that’s being reflected in the current conference futures odds. Below I’ve broken down the two teams – the Wild and Blue Jackets – who had the longest of such streaks and what that means for their chances to meet in the Stanley Cup final.       

Can the Blue Jackets Really Sustain This?

Winning 16 straight games will get a lot of people talking but it will especially do that when you’re the Columbus Blue Jackets. These are the same Columbus Blue Jackets that have won two playoff games in their history and that have never finished higher than seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Virtually the exact same team that finished 15th in the conference LAST YEAR. What CBJ is doing right now is unprecedented and if I’m speaking candidly I have no idea how they’ve kept it up.

At the time of our last update, the Blue Jackets were +1600 on Bovada to win the East and actually started the season at +3300 – the worst odds of any team in the conference. Fast-forward to today and you’ll find the Jackets at the top of the NHL standings and tied with the Penguins with +400 odds at the pinnacle of the Eastern Conference futures table.

So, is Columbus legit? Are the Jackets that have an average finishing position of 11.56 really the best team in the NHL? My opinion is a resounding I don’t think so. The similarities between this Blue Jackets team and last year’s Florida Panthers are staggering. Florida was a mediocre, four-line team that rode a hot goaltender and a 12-game winning streak into an Atlantic Division title and a first-round playoff elimination. With 60 points through 39 games, it would be almost impossible – barring an incredible disaster – for Columbus to miss the playoffs. Once they get to the postseason, though, and teams begin ramping up their superstars’ minutes, the importance of the Jackets’ depth will be diminished and Columbus could be making a swift exit from Lord Stanley’s playoffs if Sergei Bobrovsky doesn’t do a whole lot of head standing.

The Penguins are still your best bet here with the Capitals and Canadiens coming back as close seconds.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of January 9 at Bovada

  • Columbus Blue Jackets +400
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +400
  • New York Rangers +500
  • Washington Capitals +550
  • Montreal Canadiens +600
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +1400
  • Ottawa Senators +1400
  • Boston Bruins +1600
  • Philadelphia Flyers +1600
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +2200
  • Florida Panthers +3300
  • Detroit Red Wings +5000
  • New Jersey Devils +6600
  • Carolina Hurricanes +6600
  • Buffalo Sabres +10000
  • New York Islanders +10000

The Wild, Wild West

Much like Columbus, the Minnesota Wild have gotten to where they are on the back of a ridiculous winning streak. The difference between the two teams is that I actually believe the Wild could make a serious run at things come playoff time.

Minnesota is a structured team that plays relentless defense and has excellent goaltending. This is the kind of squad that’s built for bruising its way through the playoffs but that also has the speed and skill to drop the hammer and fill up the net at the other end. At +425 on Bovada, a bet on the Wild to win the Western Conference is quite palatable as it’s looking like there might only be three or four teams that have a chance to advance out of the West.

The only other bet that pops out to me is the +700 price on the San Jose Sharks. As the defending Western Conference champs, the Sharks are quite familiar with what is expected of a long playoff run and have quietly taken over the lead in the Pacific Division. If you’ve read much of my NHL writing, you’ll know that I have a bit of a love affair with this San Jose team and firmly believe it has the most complete lineup in the conference.

As the Sharks break away from the rest of the competition in the West, their price will go in one direction and it’s not one that makes you more money. The time to bet on them to successfully defend their Western Conference title is right now.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of January 9 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +275
  • Minnesota Wild +425
  • San Jose Sharks +700
  • St. Louis Blues +700
  • Edmonton Oilers +750
  • Anaheim Ducks +750
  • Los Angeles Kings +1400
  • Calgary Flames +1400
  • Nashville Predators +1400
  • Dallas Stars +1800
  • Winnipeg Jets +2800
  • Vancouver Canucks +4000

Archived Articles

When we last checked in, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks were significant favorites to win their respective conferences. Although that’s remained mostly true for the ’Hawks, things have changed radically in the Eastern Conference with the surge the Canadiens have made to start the season.

Are the Canadiens for real?

Before the season began, the Canadiens were +1200 to represent the East in the Stanley Cup but with their 13-2-2 start have drawn level with the Penguins and Capitals at the top of the Eastern Conference oddsboard at +525 on Bovada. If you’re thinking about laying down some of your hard-earned money on this futures bet, keep some of the following things in mind.

The Canadiens have not made it to the Stanley Cup finals since they won the league trophy back in 1993 and have lost in the conference finals the last two times they got that far. Montreal has relied on Carey Price far too heavily the past three seasons and that same trend might prove true this year. Montreal has looked just OK without Price between the pipes and I have about as much faith in Michel Therrien to make the correct decisions as I do in the Wisconsin judicial system.

Pittsburgh is a problem for every team in the league. They have two above-average goalies, one of the most dynamic and deep rosters in the conference and they are extremely well coached. Montreal’s hot start has opened up a ton of value for the Penguins and I think it would be wise to take advantage of that. If Pittsburgh keeps winning but something happens to Price, the Pens’ price shoots way up.

2017 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of November 16 at Bovada

  • Montreal Canadiens +525
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +525
  • Washington Capitals +525
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +550
  • New York Rangers +550
  • Florida Panthers +1600
  • New Jersey Devils +1600
  • Boston Bruins +1600
  • Ottawa Senators +1600
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +1600
  • Detroit Red Wings +2200
  • Philadelphia Flyers +2500
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +2500
  • New York Islanders +4000
  • Buffalo Sabres +5000
  • Carolina Hurricanes +5000

Blackhawks are the top team in a bad conference

The Western Conference is a mess right now and, honestly, there’s basically no betting value in West futures favorites right now. Chicago is clearly the best team in the conference and division right now but at +275 you’re going to have a tough time convincing me to spend my money.

Chicago’s futures odds are always a little batty but this is absolute insanity. You’re telling me that with less than 20 games played the ’Hawks are less than 3/1 favorites to win the West? How is that even possible. This is essentially the same team – but a little worse – that lost in the first round of the playoffs last year.

With the prices currently being offered, the only way to go here is long shot and the play I’ll be making is on the Winnipeg Jets. This may sound crazy and it absolutely might be but hear me out. The Jets have been lethal on offense, proving they can outscore the likes of the Stars, the Blackhawks and the Kings. I am very high on 23-year-old Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg’s net and with Jacob Trouba back in the lineup, the Jets are starting to look like a legitimate NHL hockey team for the first time since they were reintroduced to the league.

+1600 is a steal for the Jets right now. They get little attention because of the market they play in but make no mistake, this team could definitely advance out of the West.

2017 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of November 16 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +275
  • Edmonton Oilers +550
  • St. Louis Blues +650
  • San Jose Sharks +800
  • Minnesota Wild +900
  • Anaheim Ducks +900
  • Dallas Stars +1000
  • Los Angeles Kings +1400
  • Nashville Predators +1400
  • Winnipeg Jets +1600
  • Calgary Flames +2800
  • Colorado Avalanche +2800
  • Vancouver Canucks +4000
  • Arizona Coyotes +6600

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October is the best time of year for pro sports fans and bettors: the NFL is in full swing, MLB playoffs start and for hockey nerds like me, the NHL comes back. Although the World Cup took away a lot of the anticipation and was by most accounts a massive failure, I am still counting the minutes to October 12 when the puck drops on the NHL season.

 

In the lead-up to the season, we at OddsShark will be dropping team previews and futures articles for all the divisions and for the Stanley Cup. Below are my thoughts on the Eastern and Western Conference futures odds and what teams I think should have a chance to shock the hockey world.

Eastern Conference

It is more than reasonable for the defending Stanley Cup champions to open the season as favorites to win the conference. The Penguins are essentially the same team that hoisted the cup just months ago, having lost no major pieces, but be warned – Matt Murray just broke his hand at the World Cup and Marc-Andre Fleury is now 31 years old.

Conference champions have done a decent job at getting back to the finals in the last 50 years as 25 of 98 teams have repeated as conference champs. Before earning the Prince of Wales trophy last season, the Penguins had won conference championships in ’91,’92, ’08 and ’09. If they fail to be crowned champs of the East this season, it will be the first time in their franchise history the Penguins have not defended a conference championship at least once.

Online sportsbook Bovada has the Capitals and Lightning trailing the Pens closely in Eastern conference futures at respective +500 and +550 lines. Washington was the best team in the regular season last year but they faded in the playoffs. They still have arguably the most well-rounded roster in the league and the playoff luck has to change for this team sometime, right? The Caps have won their conference just once in their 42-year history, so math isn’t on their side.

If I have money on any long shots in the East, it’s going to be on the Florida Panthers at +850. The Cats had a terrific season that saw them steal the Atlantic division crown with the help of a 12-game winning streak. Florida has done a terrific job turning draft picks into legitimate franchise players and has put a system in place that closely resembles that of the Detroit Red Wings. Roberto Luongo and Jaromir Jagr still have some gas in the tank and the Panthers’ core of young forwards are set up to have breakout years – this is the team to keep your eyes on in the East.

2017 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of September 28 at Bovada

  • Pittsburgh Penguins +400
  • Washington Capitals +500
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +550
  • Florida Panthers +850
  • Boston Bruins +1200
  • Detroit Red Wings +1200
  • New York Islanders +1200
  • New York Rangers +1200
  • Montreal Canadiens +1200
  • Philadelphia Flyers +1800
  • New Jersey Devils +2500
  • Ottawa Senators +2500
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +2500
  • Buffalo Sabres +2800
  • Carolina Hurricanes +3300
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +3300

Western Conference

I am baffled by the price currently being offered for the Blackhawks. +375 for a team that didn’t win a division last year and that by all accounts got worse? No thank you. Chicago has too much money tied up in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith and Corey Crawford to put a team on the ice that is well-rounded enough to win three consecutive seven-game series. There are teams I like just as well as the Hawks that are offering way more value – don’t waste the money.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Stars’ value to take the West. +650 is an incredible price for a team that finished with the second-best record in the show, has two of the top 10 players and still has $4.5 million of cap space. If the Stars are in contention come deadline time, they will be in great position to acquire assets – like a goalie – and are my favorite play of any in conference futures.

San Jose is also offering insane value at +750. They have the most recent experience winning the Western conference so that makes them the most qualified candidate to win it again – I’m pretty sure that’s how that works. The Sharks are a great team that gets little respect because of the market they play in and should once again get back to Lord Stanley’s playoffs and contend for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

2017 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of September 28 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +375
  • Dallas Stars +650
  • Anaheim Ducks +650
  • Los Angeles Kings +750
  • Nashville Predators +750
  • San Jose Sharks +750
  • St. Louis Blues +750
  • Minnesota Wild +1000
  • Calgary Flames +2500
  • Colorado Avalanche +2500
  • Edmonton Oilers +2500
  • Winnipeg Jets +2500
  • Vancouver Canucks +2800
  • Arizona Coyotes +3300

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It’s the calm before the eventual poop storm that is to be the World Cup of Hockey and conference futures have been released by online sportsbooks. These lines are sure to change after a superstar like Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos goes down with an injury in the World Cup that puts their season in jeopardy.

The defending Cup champs lead the Eastern Conference at +400 on Bovada right now but are closely followed by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals at +500 and the Tampa Bay Lightning at +650.

Many are picking the Lightning to win the conference after they managed to resign the majority of their core. They do offer some value with the third-best odds on the list but be wary, the stars in Tampa (Stamkos and Bishop) have had a tough time staying healthy the past couple of years.

The Bruins at +1200 is a little too rich for my blood. They have done little to improve a mediocre 2015-16 roster and have no chance, in my opinion, to get past the first round of the playoffs.

In the Western Conference, the consummate favorite Blackhawks once again lead the preseason futures odds at +450 with many teams all logjammed behind them. The Stars, Kings, Ducks, Predators, Sharks and Blues have been slotted between +600 and +750 and, in my opinion, should all be competitive with the Hawks.

My favorite out of that group is Nashville. They offer great value at +750 after having objectively the best offseason in the NHL. GM David Poile has been a wizard so far, signing Filip Forsberg to an extremely team-friendly contract, trading for P.K. Subban and acquiring Ryan Johansen before the trade deadline.

It doesn’t appear any teams past +750 will have a chance to compete for the Campbell trophy but the Colorado Avalanche could make some noise if they make the playoffs. Their talented group of forwards has been constantly developing and this year could be a coming of age type year for them. I like them about as much as you can like a +2500 team.

2017 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of July 18 at Bovada

  • Pittsburgh Penguins +400
  • Washington Capitals +500
  • Tampa Bay Lightning +650
  • Florida Panthers +850
  • Boston Bruins +1200
  • Detroit Red Wings +1200
  • New York Islanders +1200
  • New York Rangers  +1200
  • Montreal Canadiens +1600
  • Philadelphia Flyers +1600
  • New Jersey Devils +1800
  • Ottawa Senators +2500
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +2500
  • Buffalo Sabres +2800
  • Carolina Hurricanes +3300
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +3300
2017 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of July 18 at Bovada

  • Chicago Blackhawks +450
  • Dallas Stars +600
  • Los Angeles Kings +650
  • Anaheim Ducks +650
  • Nashville Predators +750
  • San Jose Sharks +750
  • St. Louis Blues +750
  • Minnesota Wild +1000
  • Calgary Flames +2500
  • Colorado Avalanche +2500
  • Edmonton Oilers +2500
  • Winnipeg Jets +2500
  • Vancouver Canucks +2800
  • Arizona Coyotes +3300

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