Our NHL betting odds expert provides us with his early assessment on the state of the Eastern Conference, sharing his top picks, his sleepers and his teams to fade, which he terms 'the ugly.'
Eastern Conference Early Contenders
Boston Bruins: Don’t be fooled by the Bruins slow start. This is an experienced and deep team with a world class goaltender in Tukka Rask. They won the Stanley Cup in 2011, lost in the 2013 Finals to Chicago, and finished first overall in the Eastern Conference a season ago.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Barring a season ending injury to Sidney Crosby, the Penguins will once again be one of the top teams in the East. The big question mark is the same as it’s been in recent years. Will their goaltending be good enough at playoff time? Marc Andre Fleury has a history of being rock solid during the regular season, and crumbling in the playoffs. It may be time for the Penguins to explore other options.
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning were derailed a season ago when #1 goaltender Ben Bishop was injured late in the regular season, and was unable to participate in their season ending quarterfinal series loss to the Montreal Canadiens. My guess is, they once again will fly under the radar, and could be a potentially dangerous team to face in the spring of 2015, and worth a wager in the NHL futures odds markets.
Montreal Canadiens: If Carey Price can stay healthy, the Canadiens will be very capable of making another deep playoff run, and may even exceed what they accomplished a season ago when they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals. They have a budding superstar in defensemen P.K. Subban.
New York Rangers: After getting off to an extremely shaky start to this season, The Rangers have looked more like the team that reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their past 2-games. Goaltender Henrik Lundquist is their ace in the hole at playoff time.
Columbus Bluejackets: I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jackets replicate what the Rangers did this past spring, and make an unexpected run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The roster is full of undervalued talent, they possess a top notch goaltender, and they’ve all bought into the system implemented by an underrated coaching staff.
New Jersey Devils: This is a franchise that’s rich in tradition, and is a team on the rise in the Eastern Conference. Strangely enough, if they’re going to surprise in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’ll be without long time future Hall of Fame goaltender Martin Brodeur who’s illustrious Devils career came to an end last spring.
Detroit Red Wings: Keep your attention tuned to this team for NHL picks. Detroit has a good mixture of experience and youth. Jimmy Howard is a very good goaltender that’s more than capable of coming up big at playoff time. Mike Babcock remains as one of the best head coaches in the NHL.
Possible but Improbable
Washington Capitals +2255 by Pinnacle Sports
New York Islanders +3030
Philadelphia Flyers +1583
Toronto Maple Leafs +2421
Ottawa Senators +3378
Carolina Hurricanes +11611
Florida Panthers +6000
Buffalo Sabres +7500