The NHL All-Star break isn’t really the halfway point of the regular season as many teams have already played at least 50 of their 82 regular-season games. However, it’s as good time as any to check in on the updated NHL futures odds at Sports Interaction and give our picks.
The Washington Capitals lead the NHL with 72 points at the break but are only four points ahead of surprising Columbus in the Metropolitan Division. Obviously any team would love to win the Presidents’ Trophy and assure home-ice advantage throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs. That said, having the most regular-season points doesn’t lead to a Cup all that often. This decade it has only happened once: the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks. That season was shortened to 48 games due to the lockout. The last full season Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup winner was Detroit in 2007-08.
The Capitals led the league by a mile last season with 120 points, but they were eliminated in the conference semifinals by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Alex Ovechkin will go down as a Top-10 player of all time, but he still hasn’t played in a conference finals.
The Caps are the +125 favourites to win the Metropolitan, +333 for the Eastern Conference and +600 for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. The team doesn’t appear to have any glaring weaknesses, ranking first in goals-against (2.1 per game), fourth on the penalty kill (85.1 per cent) and fifth in scoring (3.2 goals per game). The city of Washington, D.C., is overdue for a title as it hasn’t had a champion in the four major professional U.S. sports leagues since the 1991 Washington Redskins in the NFL.
The second-favourite to win the East is Columbus at +450, and the Blue Jackets are +250 in the Metropolitan Division and +750 for the Stanley Cup. The team had a franchise-record 16-game winning streak from November 29-January 3 and it was snapped on January 5 at the Capitals. The Blue Jackets haven’t played all that well since. Good, solid team but probably overachieving.
The Canadiens are +450 to win the East along with Pittsburgh. Montreal is the biggest division favourite on the board at -556 in the Atlantic. The Habs have 65 points, seven ahead of second-place Ottawa. It’s crucial for Montreal to get home-ice advantage if possible as it is 17-5-3 at the Bell Centre and just 12-9-4 on the road. Of course no team from Canada has won a Stanley Cup since the Canadiens in 1992-93 and last none of Canada’s teams made the playoffs for just the second time ever. Montreal is +800 to win the Cup.
Since 2008-09, only four different franchises have won the Stanley Cup: the Penguins, Blackhawks, Kings and Bruins. Chicago has been the team of the decade with three Stanley Cups but hasn’t been able to repeat or even get back to the Finals after winning a Cup. The Hawks were ousted in the first round of last year’s playoffs by St. Louis.
The Blackhawks have the second-most points in the West and Central Division with 65, four behind Minnesota. The surprising Wild are -167 to take the division, +180 favourites for the West and +650 for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. Since Minnesota got an NHL team back in the 2000-01 season, the Wild have reached one conference finals and that was in 2003.
Minnesota leads the conference in goal differential at plus-51, and Devan Dubnyk is the Vezina Trophy leader as he’s No. 1 in GAA (.188), save per centage (.936) and tied for second in shutouts (five). The Wild are third in the NHL in scoring despite not having a star winger, but they do have eight guys with at least 25 points. The Wild are coached by Bruce Boudreau, whose teams tend to flop in the playoffs. He has led teams to a first-place finish in eight of his 10 seasons as a head coach entering this season but never won a Stanley Cup.
The Blackhawks are +340 to win the West and +900 for another Stanley Cup. Chicago is contending for home-ice advantage in the West even though its two superstars, reigning Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, have combined for only 24 goals. Chicago is desperate to find a top-line left wing to play along Toews but is tight up against the salary cap.
The resurgent Edmonton Oilers are tied for the Pacific Division lead with Anaheim on 64 points. Hart Trophy favourite Connor McDavid leads the league with 59 points. As long as he stays healthy, Edmonton should reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006. The Oilers are +190 for the Pacific, +900 in the West and +1800 for the Stanley Cup.
NHL Division Winner Predictions
Division winners: Montreal, Washington, Minnesota and Anaheim.
I believe seven teams could win the wide-open Western Conference, perhaps eight if the L.A. Kings ever get Jonathan Quick back from injury and make the playoffs, but that the East will come down to Montreal, Washington, Pittsburgh or the New York Rangers. The Capitals beat the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals.