The NHL is on break right now, which means it’s the perfect time to have a look at the odds to win the Stanley Cup. The way I see it, there’s really only a handful of teams to compete and as of right now, I like two of the favorites in each conference as I don’t see any longshots stepping up. The nice Cinderella story of two years ago where a No. 8 seed won the Stanley Cup just isn’t happening this year.
Let’s start off with the West: who can you really see upsetting the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues? Those are the three favorites and right now, I can’t see anyone but those three teams winning the West.
Sure, the NHL odds are enticing on a team like the Colorado Avalanche or the Los Angeles Kings but neither have proven that they have what it takes recently. Both teams started the season well but have been fading ever since. As for the San Jose Sharks, they are annual playoff choke artists and they are very vulnerable on the road. Considering they won’t have home-ice advantage against any of the big three, we can cross them off the list.
That leaves a team like Minnesota, which also won’t have home-ice advantage and may or may not have No. 1 goaltender Josh Harding in the playoffs. They aren’t even that good with him. As for teams like Vancouver, Phoenix or Dallas, they are all writeoffs.
So that leaves the big three. The Blackhawks have been so-so in 2014 while the Ducks have lost four of six. The Blues are the best team right now and that’s why they’re my choice for my NHL picks right now.
NHL Pick: St. Louis Blues +650
In the East, the story is quite similar. In my books, there’s the Pittsburgh Penguins, Boston Bruins and everyone else. I give the Tampa Lightning a 10% shot to come out of the East if absolutely everything goes their way. However, they’re a young team that doesn’t have the experience of Pittsburgh and Boston, so I don’t’ see them as being a serious threat.
Other than Tampa Bay, who is there? There’s the Montreal Canadiens, who don’t have much scoring and are very Jekyll-Hyde. One week they’re on a hot streak and goaltender Carey Price is an All-Star, the next week they’re slumping and booing him. There’s the Toronto Maple Leafs, who get outshot by a wide margin on a nightly basis. That’ll catch up with them in the playoffs. There’s the New York Rangers, who are very inconsistent and are just 14-14-3 at home this season. There’s the shoddy Philadelphia Flyers and battered Detroit Red Wings. Detroit is a team that has a shot because they have the talent but they have looked nothing like a contender to this point of the season.
So that leaves Pittsburgh and Boston for your hockey picks. I’ll lean slightly to Pittsburgh because Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask simply hasn’t played this much hockey in a single season in his career. Recently, he has looked fatigued as from October to January, his goals-against average has gotten progressively worse each month. Maybe the Olympic break helps him but for now, that’s one of the chief reasons why I’m sticking with Pittsburgh.
NHL Pick: Pittsburgh Penguins +500