Washington has the East Conf on lock, but in the West, the race to play for the Stanley Cup is far more wide open. Who should be taken seriously or dismissed as a fake? Get my NHL picks inside.
There are nine teams in the Western Conference fighting for eight spots and there is almost nothing settled in what order any of this will play out. So how in the world are we to make sense of the current NHL odds boards at 5Dimes for what teams have legit chance to reach the Stanley Cup Finals? Great question.
Dallas the Favorite, but are they really?
Cannot blame oddsmakers for having Dallas as the top choice to win the West at +400, they have the most points, the NHL's best offense and are tied for third in goal differential. What is not to like? Plenty if you believe in defense winning championships. The Stars rank 24th in goals allowed in the league at 2.85. Ahead and just behind them are Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg and rest assured, these teams have been out of postseason discussions for a long time. Of the teams presently in the playoffs, Boston has the next worst defense ranked 19th. Unless the West is like the Republican race for president, where everything is different than what it has been before and defense does not matter, impossible to think Dallas reaches the Finals unless Stars goalies do an about face.
Real Contenders in the West
Chicago and Los Angeles are right behind Dallas at +425 and Anaheim is next at +450 at BetOnline, which tells you how tight this race actually is.
The Blackhawks have really been stumbling lately, especially on defense and are no longer a great bet playing at the United Center. Chicago has earned the right to still be considered a threat despite their recent slump and they still have time to get organized before the playoffs. The Hawks still have the core players which have helped them win three Cups in six years and knowing what it takes to be a champion deserves at least the benefit of the doubt. However, betting on them right now might be foolhardy until they turn it around.
Other than Chicago, two of the past four titles have been won by Los Angeles and they lost to the Blackhawks in the West Finals last year, otherwise, we might be talking about them as the sports dynasty team. Los Angeles style is built for playoffs, great defense and strong down the middle of the ice. The Kings have been more consistent than Chicago all season, they have the best defense in the league and are second only to Washington in goal differential. L.A. has to work harder to score compared to Dallas or Chicago, not having individual players who can necessarily take over games, but the Kings have everything else.
Anaheim is legit threat, but offense can go ice cold without notice, which could be there undoing.
Others In West Have to Prove They Belong
St. Louis (+600) and San Jose (+800) have been excellent in the second half of the season and should be in any conversation as contenders. However, they have been in these places before and have never been able to put it all together. The best way to explain each team with their styles of play, they are better suited for the long run of the regular season as opposed to best of seven's, where their weaknesses are exposed.
Nashville (+1250) fits in the same boat, not having three dependable lines to count on in a series or those players from a fourth line that can spark an unexpected victory. Despite his talents, goalie Pekka Rinne has never shined when needed most in the playoffs.
Either Colorado or Minnesota will secure No.8 slot and they are +1800 to win the West. If either team continues to play well through the end of the season, they could stun Dallas in first round, but that is as far as it goes.