The NHL regular season is winding down and the playoffs are right around the corner. That means now is a great time to examine some NHL futures and make some picks to win the Stanley Cup.
New York Rangers
Stanley Cup Odds: 6/1
There’s just so much to like about the Rangers right now: they are 40-11-3 over their last 54 games. They are the league’s best road team at 26-11-2. They have a stellar blue line with great goaltending. They have experience after making it to the Stanley Cup final last season. They have that passion and hunger because they fell short a season ago. And their offense has been great, averaging the third-most tallies per game this season.
Beyond that, they are the top team in the NHL right now and might have home-ice advantage throughout the entire playoffs. It’s hard to argue against the Rangers right now.
Stanley Cup Odds: 15/2
The Blackhawks are fourth in the Western Conference but this is a team that must be taken seriously. When they’re on their game, nobody is better than them. They are deeper, stronger, more talented and more experienced than almost anyone. The only challenge is that many times this season, the Blackhawks haven’t put it together. They have some very ugly losses on the resume.
The good news is that they’ve been great against teams above .500 and have struggled against sub-.500 teams. In the playoffs, they’ll only be facing winning teams. NHL odds makers know that if Coach Joel Quenneville can get them focused, nobody in the West will get in their way.
St. Louis Blues
Stanley Cup Odds: 10/1
The challenge is that the Blackhawks haven’t been focused and while their defense and goaltending have been solid this season, they haven’t exactly been lighting the lamp at the pace that we’d expect. This team has some issues.
So if they falter, the Blues are the best bet in the conference. Their offense has been fluid all season long, their blue line is as good – or better – than anyone. They’ve scored the fourth-most goals in the NHL and allowed the sixth-fewest. Add in the league’s second-best road record and they are going to be a problem.
The challenge is that that Blues don’t play well against the Blackhawks. As long as they can avoid them, they should be in good shape for our NHL picks.
Stanley Cup Odds: 10/1
The Canadiens have slumped a little bit in the month of March but this is still the second-most dangerous team in the East.
The bottom line in the East is this:
-Boston/Detroit/Ottawa are fighting for scraps
-Pittsburgh has played .500 hockey since winning 22 of their first 32 games
-The Islanders have flaws all over the place
-I have little faith in Washington and their blue line
-Tampa Bay is great at home but is weak on the road, which will be a problem in the playoffs
By the process of elimination, I have the East coming down to the Rangers and Canadiens.
There’s a lot to like about Montreal: they are excellent on the road, have been strong at home (25-15), Carey Price has played like a Hart Trophy candidate and this is an experienced team. They are right there neck-in-neck with the Rangers, in my opinion, and deserve to be the second option on your list for East teams.