The New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks were the three teams favored to win the Stanley Cup entering the playoffs according to the NHL betting lines. We’ve now seen a week’s worth of action, so let’s review how the favorites have looked so far.
New York Rangers
Entered at: 6/1
The Rangers have been pushed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round but it doesn’t appear to be anything they can’t handle. The Pens are again having a tough time scoring goals as they’ve scored four in their lone win in the series and scored a combined two goals in the two losses.
The best news for them might be the fact that the Montreal Canadiens are likely to face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 2, which will be a challenging matchup. Meanwhile, the Rangers will get either the Washington Capitals or New York Islanders, both of whom appear to present a much easier matchup.
The Rangers look playoff-ready as they continue to grind out close, low-scoring games. They have been in stride for about two months now and with Henrik Lundqvist back in the lineup and looking strong, there is no reason to believe that they won’t be one of the final two teams left standing in the Eastern Conference.
Entered at: 8/1
The Blackhawks had a little bit of a hiccup with Corey Crawford as he entered the playoffs as the clear-cut starter but he’s since hit the bench in favor of Scott Darling. But other than that, the Blackhawks haven’t had too many worries in the postseason to date.
Their biggest hurdle to overcome was the potentially stellar goaltending of Pekka Rinne but he’s been off-key so far, posting a meager .898 save percentage so far through three games. The Blackhawks have had no problems scoring as they’ve totaled 10 goals through three contests. With a healthy Patrick Kane back in the lineup, Chicago looks very focused. They should be able to get by Nashville in the first round rather easily and move up the ladder in terms of Stanley Cup favorites. I would be surprised if they’re the Cup favorite on the NHL betting odds after Round 1.
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Entered at: 8/1
The Anaheim Ducks have looked strong to start the postseason and the most encouraging factor is the fact that their goaltending and defense haven’t been blown apart. As you might recall, the Ducks gave up 18 goals in the first round to the Dallas Stars last season (3.0 goals per game) and then allowed 19 in the second round to the Los Angeles Kings (2.71). And they also gave up 2.6 goals per game in the 2013 postseason when they were ousted in the first round by the Detroit Red Wings. That’s why it’s encouraging to see that the Ducks have allowed just three goals in two games to start the 2015 playoffs.
If Anaheim continues to get strong goaltending, the sky’s the limit for them. We all know that they have – and have had – the offense to get the job done. However, this year’s version appears to be strong defensively and strong between the pipes, and when you combine that with home-ice advantage, they must be taken seriously.