With the NHL at the All-Star break, it’s time to reflect on the Stanley Cup futures. Let’s review who looks like a good bet going forward and who is better to avoid.
Good Value: Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers
The Blackhawks are just at +550, which is pretty short on the NHL betting odds, but it’s still worth taking. That’s because when this team is on its game, there is no one that is going to beat them. The Blackhawks have had a bit of a midseason slump, going just 5-5 in their last 10, but when you look at everyone else in the Western Conference, there is no one that is going to beat this team when they’re at their best. The Anaheim Ducks have struggled in recent postseasons, the St. Louis Blues don’t match up well with Chicago and nobody like the San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators or Vancouver Canucks are going to scare them. These NHL odds probably won’t get much better than now, so take advantage.
Another team that might be worth a flier is the Rangers, who are playing like a team possessed. They weren’t great in the early part of the year but over the last month, no team has been better. While they started 11-10-4, they have won 16 of their last 19 games. The East appears to be wide open but the Rangers have more experience than a lot of the teams in the mix. The Lightning and Islanders will be learning on the job come playoff time, while the Red Wings and Penguins appear flawed between the pipes. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, this team looks like good value at 15/1.
Bad Value: Los Angeles Kings, Boston Bruins
It’s quite surprising to see that both the Kings (+800) and Bruins (+900) are inside of 10/1 on the Stanley Cup futures. If the playoffs started today, the Kings wouldn’t even be in the playoffs while the Bruins would be the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. That goes to show just how far these teams have fallen. While a lot can change between now and the end of the season, it’s pretty clear that these teams aren’t the same contenders they were a season ago.
For the Kings, defense has been a major weakness, which is quite surprising when you consider this team led the NHL in goals allowed per game a year ago (2.05). In the month of January, the Kings have coughed up 3.33 goals per game. Goaltender Jonathan Quick currently has a 2.47 GAA, which is his worst average in six seasons. He’s been downright awful on the road with an .899 save percentage and just three wins in 15 away games. While the Kings have struggled in previous regular seasons in the Darryl Sutter era, their defense was never the problem. It was always scoring. With the Kings goaltending and defense being such a problem, there’s simply no way you can invest in them at just 8/1.
As for the Bruins, this team has had major defensive problems too. They are giving up 2.42 goals per game, which is the 23rd worst number in the NHL. Last season, they were second-best only to the Kings with their 2.09 per game. Goaltender Tuukka Rask has been very inconstant as he has a GAA of 1.90 in November and 1.63 in January, and 2.82 in October and 2.98 in December. With the team’s offense also ranking lowly (22nd in the NHL), this is not a team you want to trust.