With the NHL season a bit past the one-third point, we decided this would be the time to see what kind of value one might find for making NHL picks to win the Eastern Conference. The NHL odds listed below are from Intertops.
Odds to Win Eastern Conference:
Tampa Bay Lightning +200
Toronto Maple Leafs +225
Washington Capitals +900
Boston Bruins +1000
Buffalo Sabres +1000
Columbus Blue Jackets +1200
Pittsburgh Penguins +1400
Montreal Canadiens +1600
Coming into the season, Tampa Bay and Toronto were the favorites. There are many in the NHL that figure this should and needs to be the Lightning’s year, because despite all the success they have enjoyed in the last four years, they have played for the Stanley Cup only once and failed to win (in 2015 to Chicago). To this point of the season, Tampa Bay has clearly been the most complete team, highly ranked in all statistical areas. And now with goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy back from a broken foot, Tampa Bay’s defense should be even more stout.
Toronto was actually the preseason favorite to win the Cup at virtually all sportsbooks. The great work they did in building through the draft and this past offseason in adding John Tavares, that made the offense even more potent. The Maple Leafs have similar numbers to Tampa Bay, other than in killing penalties. But the reason they trail the Lightning by as much as they do in the Atlantic Division is they have the worst home record of any team with at least 40 points.
Having consumed what sure looked to be massive amounts of adult beverages after winning the Stanley Cup in June (literally, look up almost any player’s name in social media), Washington played like they were dehydrated to start the season. Now, having regulated their fluids, the Capitals have moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division and are playing like a champion. If you like the Caps to return to the Cup Finals, buying them now in your NHL picks is a good idea as chances are their odds will sink.
Buffalo is vastly improved but not to the point anyone considers them East contenders, particularly with their goal differential just a few ticks past positive. Boston still has injured defensemen and they are too dependent on their top line for scoring. Columbus is not going anywhere with a defense that is in the mid-20s for goals allowed. After a good start, Montreal’s stats reflect a team that is average at best and below average in many areas.
Pittsburgh is a conundrum, and to gauge them in December is asking for trouble. The top-line talent is in place. But teams that win conferences need the third and fourth lines to contribute and the third pairing of blue-liners to make a difference. That is not happening for the Penguins and goalie Matt Murray is 50th out of 51 netminders in save percentage. Let’s see if he and half his teammates can pick up their game as the season progresses.
Tasty Rink Betting Tidbits
- VEGAS is 15-4 in December since joining the NHL last season.
- PITTSBURGH is 1-7 against starting goalies saving 93% or more of shots attempts against the last two seasons.
- BOSTON is 10-2 UNDER in road games vs. teams that permit opponents 29.5+ or more shots on goal this season.
- ST LOUIS is 18-6 UNDER in home games when playing with two days rest the last two seasons.
- PHILADELPHIA is 2-10 after scoring four goals or more in their previous game this season.
- CALGARY is 11-4 playing against a team with a winning record this season.
- MINNESOTA is 7-0 OVER in home games when the total is 6 or higher this season.
- LOS ANGELES is 11-3 UNDER in road games this season.
What Lies Ahead : The Schedule
Sunday: Tampa Bay opens a four-game road trip through Central and Western Canada at Winnipeg. Tampa Bay has played super on the road, but the Jets are tough on home ice.
Monday: Vegas is at Columbus and this will be their fourth road game in six days. The Blue Jackets were off Sunday and are playing their fifth consecutive home game.
Wednesday: The always entertaining Penguins vs. Capitals confrontation, with this one in Washington and on NBCSN.
Thursday: Anaheim has ascended in the Pacific Division, finally playing to their level of ability, and they will face a rugged challenge at Boston, which has been hard to beat on home ice.
Saturday: Hockey Night in Canada
New York Islanders at Toronto, 6:30 p.m. ET
Washington at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m. ET
Montreal at Tampa Bay, 6:30 p.m. ET
Vancouver at Calgary, 10 p.m. ET
This is probably the worst lineup of games this season for “HNiC.” The question is, do any of the underdogs have any juice to beat the money line or the puck line?