NHL Stanley Cup Contenders: Teams Analyzed
The best NHL teams will battle for Stanley Cup glory when the season resumes with an expanded playoff format from August 1. These are the leading contenders to lift the famous trophy:
Boston had the best regular season record in the league before play was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic in March. The Bruins had the most wins, the most points and the best goal differential, while they looked equally strong at home and on the road. It is therefore easy to see why Boston is the narrow favorite to win the Stanley Cup at sports betting sites like Unikrn
, just ahead of Tampa Bay. The Bruins played a lot of hockey over the past year, losing to St. Louis in seven games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, so the three-month break could be really beneficial for its ageing roster. If the likes of Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chsra, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci can stay fit and strong, Boston could go all the way once again as it bids for a seventh Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The sportsbooks believe whoever wins the Eastern Conference will go on to win the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay is the second favorite with several books, and joint favorite with others, and we could see it lock horns with Boston in an almighty conference championship series. The Lightning lost and went 3-6-1 in their 10 games before the lockdown, so they could also benefit from a chance to regroup. They boast a deep roster, a bunch of battle-hardened stars and exciting newcomers like Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman. Mental strength will be key for the Lightning after last year’s first round meltdown, but the return of captain Steven Stamkos should give them a significant boost.
Colorado is the favorite to win the Western Conference after Joe Sakic assembled a very strong roster packed full of veteran depth. The Avalanche managed to win seven of its 10 games before the season was put on hold, despite being riddled with injuries. Stars like Colin Wilson and Nazem Kadri should now be back, and Colorado could be dangerous with a healthy line-up. It will enjoy a huge benefit from the new format, as it avoided a showdown with a Dallas team that went 4-0 against the Avalanche in the regular season. It has a much better chance in a round robin. The only concern is a lack of experience in the latter stages of the playoffs, but this is a seriously impressive team and one of the leading contenders for the Cup.
Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas took the bold decision to axe coach Gerard Gallant
in January, and the arrival of Peter DeBoer seemingly galvanized the team. It will welcome star winger Mark Stone back into the fold, along with Max Pacioretty, which is a huge boost. Vegas was on fire before the break, but it will really miss playing in its home city. The Knights have a mediocre record on the road, so it might be worth avoiding them when placing future bets on this year’s Cup.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues will bid to become the second team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the turn of the century when the season resumes. The Penguins of 2016-17 are the only team to pull it off since the Red Wings in 1998, as it is such a difficult feat. Players are generally exhausted from spending so long on the ice, and it is rare to see a team excel the following year. St. Louis could therefore be a major beneficiary of the lengthy lockdown. The Blues had the best record in the Western Conference before the break, and it could now welcome key player Vladimir Tasarenko back into the fold.
The Flyers were on fire before the break, with nine wins from 10 games, and they will be desperate to regain that impressive momentum. Philadelphia looks like a real dark horse in this year’s list of Stanley Cup contenders. It will be interesting to see if young goalie Carter Hart can thrive in his first postseason, and they will benefit from the return of James van Riemsdyk and Nate Thompson.
The Caps still have many of the players that beat Vegas in the 2018 Stanley Cup finals and they will be dangerous this time around. Alex Ovechkin should enjoy playing alongside Ilya Kovalchuk in the postseason, and Washington will be a serious contender if Braden Holtby rediscovers his best performance levels. However, the blue line still looks like a real weakness, and the best teams could exploit that as we go deep into the playoffs.
The Stars were abysmal before the break, going 3-5-2 in their last 10 games, so they will be grateful for the chance to press pause and plot a return to winning ways. The team’s key strength is the defense, and it will need to be rock solid if Dallas is to go deep into the playoffs. That is not a given in this frenzied new format, and there are huge question marks over the Stars’ offense. It ranked 26th in the league during the regular season, the second worst of any postseason team, and an injury to rookie Denis Gurianov could leave it reeling, so Dallas looks like another team to avoid.
The Penguins look like intriguing contenders to win the Stanley Cup. They are priced between 14/1 (+1400) and 18/1 (+1800) with the bookies, which looks like a massive price on a team with so much talent. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin et al have regularly flourished in long postseason runs, and their experience could be vital. The offense is healthy, Jason Zucker brings new depth, Jake Guentzel is back
and the Penguins look very strong. Coach Mike Sullivan has a big decision to make regarding which goalie to opt for, but Pittsburgh could go deep into this extended playoff.
The Bruins, Lightning, Penguins, Blues and Avalanche look like the leading contenders to win the Stanley Cup right now. However, there are some dark horses lurking further down the betting for anyone hunting value. The Toronto Maple Leafs make a popular pick at 30/1 (+3000), while the Edmonton Oilers look interesting at 25/1 (+2500). All of the remaining games will be played in Edmonton and Toronto, so those teams will enjoy a form of home advantage. They will not have screaming fans roaring them on, but at least they will benefit from familiar conditions. The young Canucks roster also looks capable of springing a few surprises, while you could take a look at the Arizona Coyotes if you are looking for a real long shot.