With a new year upon us and 40 percent of the NHL season gone, it’s time to look ahead at the remaining 60 percent and what to expect in the 2019 chapter of this 2018-19 season! Here’s a list of favorites, second tier favorites, sleepers and longshots to win the Stanley Cup, with my picks of who to bet on for each category, as well as best value picks to win the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Calder and Jack Adams Award trophies.
Favorites To Win Stanley Cup
As 2019 begins, here are your top five favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to our friends at BetOnline:
Tampa Bay Lightning (+600)
Toronto Maple Leafs (+700)
Nashville Predators (+800)
Winnipeg Jets (+800)
Washington Capitals (+1200)
In terms of value, how can you not throw some action on the Capitals at +1200? They’re the defending Stanley Cup Champions and while they haven’t been parked atop the league and their conference standings like the Lightning, Predators and more recently the Jets, they’re starting to play their brand of hockey lately. That brand combines the skill of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas, Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, John Carlson and company with a heavy, physical game and it’s built for the stretch run of the season and the playoffs. Factor in Braden Holtby finding his game as of late and this team is ready for another run to the Stanley Cup.
Another thing helping the Capitals will be their potential path through the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. The Metro Division is the weakest in the NHL, and with Toronto or Tampa Bay likely having to play Buffalo or Boston (Leafs cannot beat the B’s in the playoffs!), they will likely be beaten up by the time they get to the Eastern Conference Final. Same can be said for the Preds and Jets, who could be headed for a second-round rematch in the West.
Second Tier Favorites For Stanley Cup
Here are six teams that have a solid chance to make a Cup run and which team you should consider a future on:
Buffalo Sabres (+1400)
Colorado Avalanche (+1600)
Calgary Flames (+1600)
San Jose Sharks (+1800)
Pittsburgh Penguins (+2000)
Vegas Golden Knights (+2000)
Five words for you here: Never count Sidney Crosby out! The debate on who the best player in the NHL is alive and well, and he until he retires, the Penguins captain will be in the conversation! To this point, no one is arguing that the Penguins have been a disappointment but as a result of that disappointment you can get some great value on them to win it all for the third time in the last four seasons! Pens GM Jim Rutherford has been itching to make a big trade and knowing him, it will come sooner rather than later. So if as expected that jump-starts his team, the odds won’t be this tasty for long! Another GM that may make an impact move is Sharks GM Doug Wilson. Like the Penguins, the Sharks have underperformed despite having a blue line and power play with Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. There’s still plenty of hockey left for San Jose to start playing up to expectations, and getting them at +1800 is worth the chance.
Boston Bruins (+2500)
Anaheim Ducks (+2500)
Minnesota Wild (+2500)
Columbus Blue Jackets (+2500)
If not for being without captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captain Patrice Bergeron for the last month, the Boston Bruins would likely have been in one of the previous two categories. Somehow, the Bruins did more than tread water with not only Bergeron and Chara out for extended periods of time, but also forward Jake DeBrusk and defenseman Kevan Miller for the last month. At one time earlier in the season, the Bruins were missing five of their top six defensemen, and yet they headed into the holiday break still within striking distance of the best team in the NHL, the Lightning. Bergeron is back, Chara’s return is on the horizon and the B’s have the best goaltending tandem in the East so far in Jaro Halak and Tuukka Rask. +2500 you say? Yes please! Have to think the Ducks are tempting too with John Gibson an early Vezina Trophy candidate, captain Ryan Getzlaf stepping up with Corey Perry out, and Perry due back in March serving the same potential effect of a huge trade deadline acquisition.
Edmonton Oilers (+3300)
Montreal Canadiens (+4000)
Dallas Stars (+4000)
Philadelphia Flyers (+6600)
This is a difficult one as I seriously can see all of these teams shocking the hockey betting world and going on a run! Any team with Connor McDavid on it always has a shot, and considering how much better the Oilers have played since Ken Hitchcock took over behind the bench, as well as GM Peter Chiarelli trying to make a trade to save his job, the Oilers will be a dangerous team in the second half. The Canadiens have exceeded expectations in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and with Carey Price finally starting to look like the Carey Price of old, the Habs could be one impact trade away from jumping into the fray for Cup contention. A Stars team that has a dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up front and the offensive-minded John Klingberg and rookie Miro Heiskanen on the blue line, is always worth keeping an eye on. All of that being said and you can say I’ve got (Carter) Hart fever, but give me the Flyers at +6600 for my longshot! The rookie phenom goalie Hart appears to be the real deal and the Flyers have too much veteran talent up front to stink this much. They actually could pull off one of the biggest in season turnarounds in NHL history!
Hart: Give me Auston Matthews as the MVP. The Leafs’ budding superstar is on pace for more than 60 goals and has been in beast mode since returning from an injury that kept him out for a month. Matthews is now part of that “best player in the game” debate.
Vezina: Andrei Vasilevskiy fell just short last season for the Vezina, but this season, and despite missing more than a month with a foot injury, he will get the nod as the best goalie in the NHL.
Norris: Heading into the season, all the talk was around Karlsson and Burns in San Jose, but two sleepers have emerged in Calgary’s Mark Giordano and Toronto’s Morgan Rielly. Give me the former as the 2019 Norris Trophy winner as best defenseman.
Calder: Canucks sensation Elias Pettersson is the clear front-runner right now to be picked as the best rookie, but don’t sleep on Hart if he can reverse the Flyers’ fortunes.
Jack Adams: There will be plenty of hype around Mike Babcock (Toronto), Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay), Phil Housley (Buffalo), Paul Maurice (Winnipeg) and even Peter Laviolette in Nashville. Two sleepers to keep an eye on, though, are Jared Bednar in Colorado and Bruce Cassidy in Boston. If the Bruins finish in the top two in their division, give me Cassidy, who was a finalist last season.