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NHL Conference Futures: Lightning and Blues at the top

We’re six weeks into the NHL season and we have some movement at the top for who may win their respective conferences. Teams like Tampa Bay and St. Louis have made their mark and have put the league on notice with their stellar play. I’ll be giving my updates on where teams stand and share my input on teams’ chances to make the Stanley Cup final.  

EASTERN CONFERENCE

It seems like I’ve been talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning for six weeks straight. The Bolts have been hands-down the best team in the league, with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lighting up the league as the top two point scorers. Opening at +750 at Bovada, the Lightning can be had for +333 and while a lot can go wrong from now until the Stanley Cup final, no one should hate on you for dropping some loot on Tampa.

Pittsburgh opened as the East favorite at +375 and although they’ve been up-and-down to start the season (currently fifth in the East), Sid the Kid and his crew know when to turn it on and could easily go on a run for their third straight Stanley Cup. The Penguins can be had for +550 and the only reason for bettors to pause has been their defense this season. Pittsburgh is allowing 3.6 goals per game and is the only potential playoff team with a negative goal differential at a whopping -17. Yikes!

If you’re looking for an adversary (with value) to dethrone Pittsburgh, look no further than the Big Apple. The Rangers opened the season at +2300 and bettors who got them at those odds must be salivating at their prospects of a payout. The Rangers have won six in a row (8-2 SU in the last 10) after an abysmal October and are currently valued at +1400.

The real shocker is New Jersey. Opening at +4500, the Devils have made the biggest jump – after being ranked dead last to win the East – to +1400. Devils rookies Nico Hischier, Jesper Bratt and Will Butcher have been outstanding to start the season and have pushed the Devils to second in the East. Martin Brodeur isn’t walking through the door but they could make some noise come playoff time.

2017-18 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of November 15 at Bovada

  • Tampa Bay Lightning +333
  • Toronto Maple Leafs +500
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +550
  • Columbus Blue Jackets +850
  • Washington Capitals +900
  • New York Rangers +1400
  • Ottawa Senators +1400
  • New Jersey Devils +1400
  • Boston Bruins +1800
  • Montreal Canadiens +1800
  • Philadelphia Flyers +1800
  • New York Islanders +1800
  • Carolina Hurricanes +3300
  • Detroit Red Wings +4000
  • Buffalo Sabres +5000
  • Florida Panthers +7500

WESTERN CONFERENCE

The St. Louis Blues haven’t made the Stanley Cup final since 1969. Will this be their year? The Blues are leading the Western Conference standings and are the favorites to represent the West at +450 at Bovada. St. Louis has usually been a bridesmaid in their venture to reach the summit but this could be the year they get to be the bride (aww). The Blues are rolling three lines deep and left-winger Jaden Schwartz is third in scoring behind the Lightning’s dynamic duo.

St. Louis has all the tools to make a deep playoff run but why am I hesitant to back them? Well, much like the Washington Capitals have learned, being a great regular-season team means jack in the postseason as the Blues have finished as a top-four team in the West for four years in a row but only made it to the conference final once (2015-16).

The team to make the biggest jump has been Los Angeles, from +1000 to +500, and bettors may want to take a look at the Kings. Last season was a poop-fest for the City of Angels and it all came down to the absence of Jonathan Quick. The netminder only played 17 games and the Kings missed the playoffs. Now, they’re second in the West standings and ready to go after their third Stanley Cup.

The West is such a tough conference to predict. Chicago, which opened at +500, has been awful this season and is now being offered at +800 (ripoff). Nashville, the reigning West champion, is available at +800 but I can’t see them making another run to the final unless they make a trade midseason for more talent.

2017-18 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of November 15 at Bovada

  • St. Louis Blues +333
  • Los Angeles Kings +500
  • Chicago Blackhawks +800
  • Dallas Stars +800
  • Nashville Predators +800
  • Anaheim Ducks +900
  • Edmonton Oilers +900
  • Minnesota Wild +1400
  • San Jose Sharks +1400
  • Calgary Flames +1400
  • Winnipeg Jets +1400
  • Vegas Golden Knights +2000
  • Vancouver Canucks +3300
  • Colorado Avalanche +10000
  • Arizona Coyotes +50000

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With two Game 7s on Wednesday night’s docket, your time to get betting value in Eastern and Western Conference futures is running out – quickly. Once the two remaining second-round series have wrapped, wagering on a team to win the conference is essentially a series price and with a lopsided matchup expected in the East, you’re unlikely going to get a price like you’re getting right now.

Here’s how I’ll be betting heading into the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs first Game 7s.

Eastern Conference

Opening Game 7 as the -175 moneyline favorites, bookmakers are expecting the Capitals to roll the Penguins and easily move on to the Eastern Conference final. Considering that Washington is 23-7 straight up in the last 30 games when pegged the -150 or bigger favorite, there’s a pretty good chance books are correct on this one.

That said, +120 for Washington to win the Eastern Conference is a steal. If the Caps do indeed finish off the Penguins, they’ll open as massive favorites over the Senators in the East final and your opportunity to get a good price on them will have come and passed.

2016-17 NHL Eastern Conference Champion

Odds as of May 10 at Bovada

  • Washington Capitals +120
  • Pittsburgh Penguins +230
  • Ottawa Senators +230

Western Conference

Much like in the East, you’re going to want to hop on this bet as soon as possible, unless you plan on betting the Predators. I anticipate either potential series to open near EVEN so if you like the Sabrecats, I’d wait until after the Western Conference final is set.

If you like one of the Ducks or Oilers to get to the Stanley Cup final, though, you should decide who you think will win Game 7 and bet them to win the West. Both teams will have home-ice advantage over the Preds and I gauge both matchups as fairly even – pick your poison.

2016-17 NHL Western Conference Champion

Odds as of May 10 at Bovada

  • Nashville Predators -130
  • Anaheim Ducks +275
  • Edmonton Oilers +325

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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

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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

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