NHL Stanley Cup Odds: What are the biggest questions facing the NHL’s top contenders?

Jordan Ramsay | Updated Apr 12, 2024

NHL: Dallas Stars at Colorado Avalanche

Will goaltending cost the Avalanche in the playoffs? Does winning the Central Division actually give Dallas a harder first-round playoff matchup? Is Florida even better than last year?

With puck drop for the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs set for April 20, let’s take a look at one big question facing the top Stanley Cup contenders.

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Carolina Hurricanes

Can Jake Guentzel be an X-factor?

The Hurricanes scored big when they landed winger Jake Guentzel ahead of the trade deadline. Guentzel is a playoff performer, with 58 point in 58 postseason games. He’s also a proven winner, recording 21 points, including a playoff-high 13 goals, in 25 games during Pittsburgh’s 2017 Stanley Cup run.

Since coming to Carolina, Guentzel has 22 points in 15 games playing alongside Sebastian Aho and Seth Jarvis. The Canes are outscoring opponents 27-5 when Guentzel is on the ice, including 13-3 at five-on-five. Carolina looks like they’re clicking at the right time and Guentzel is at the forefront of that success.

Colorado Avalanche

Will goaltending cost the Avs a second Stanley Cup in three years?

There’s no question the Colorado Avalanche ice one of the most talented rosters in the NHL, but there’s some serious question marks surrounding the goaltending tandem of Alexandar Georgiev and Justus Annunen. Georgiev has a 38-17-4 record this season with a 2.95 goals-against average and .899 save percentage, while Annunen is 7-4-1 with a 2.24 GAA and .931 SV.

League average save percentage in the NHL this season is .904. It’s tough to envision Colorado going on a serious Stanley Cup run if Georgiev can’t get his numbers closer to league average. Annunen has much better numbers, but he’s a rookie with 14 career NHL starts. Goaltending is a serious flaw for the Avs right now, they just hope it’s not a fatal one.

Florida Panthers

Can the Panthers be even better than last year?

Florida limped into the playoffs with the final wild card spot last year and went on a miracle run to the Stanley Cup Final. There’s reason to believe this is a much better Florida team than last year. The Panthers have been near the top of the NHL standings most of the season and they rank within or near the top 10 in offence, defence, power play percentage, penalty kill percentage and most other major statistical categories.

The emergence of Sam Reinhart has been a big boost to Florida’s offence as he’s scored 21 goals more than his previous career-high. And defensively, Sergei Bobrovsky has returned to world class form, ranking third in the NHL in GAA (2.38), ninth in SV (.914), first in shutouts (six) and tied for second in wins (35). The Panthers are a scary matchup for any team in the NHL.

Edmonton Oilers

Are the Oilers being truthful about Connor McDavid‘s injury?

Edmonton’s Connor McDavid is clearly the best hockey player in the world, so it has to be terrifying for fans to see him out of the lineup. McDavid is third in NHL scoring with 130 points and he is one assist shy of becoming just the third player in NHL history to record 100 assists in a single season.

The Oilers’ captain is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury suffered in Edmonton’s 4-2 win in Calgary on April 6. He missed the team’s 5-1 home win against Vegas on Wednesday and he didn’t practice on Thursday. With McDavid held out of the lineup despite the Oilers still having a chance to win the Pacific Division, it’s fair to wonder if the injury could be a bigger deal than the team is letting on.

Dallas Stars

Will winning the Central Division give the Stars a tougher first-round matchup?

The Central Division has been a back-and-forth battle between Dallas, Colorado and Winnipeg all season, but the Stars have all but locked up the division at this point. If the playoffs started today, the Stars would face the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, while the Avalanche and Jets would face each other.

Vegas isn’t a great matchup for the Stars as they’ve lost all three regular season games against the Golden Knights this season. Conversely, they’ve won three of four games against Winnipeg and they have a win, an overtime loss and two regulation losses against Colorado. Not that a team would ever lose games on purpose, but Dallas actually might have been better off letting Colorado pass them in the standings so they could draw a first-round matchup against a Winnipeg team they know how to beat.

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