The Western Conference is supposed to have the upper hand of the two conference but it hasn’t looked like that so far this season. The Chicago Blackhawks have been so-so, the Los Angeles Kings are fighting for their playoff lives and the Colorado Avalanche aren’t even in the playoff picture. So who are the best choices to win the West and cash in on the NHL betting lines.
The Favorite: Chicago Blackhawks 2/1
The Blackhawks are still the favorite on the NHL betting odds, but you’d have to be off your rocker to be placing this type of bet right now. This is a team that looks like they’ll be just fourth in the conference, is without Patrick Kane for another while and have been wildly inconsistent this season. What’s interesting is that the Blackhawks have been very strong against teams with a winning record while they’ve continuously disappointed against sub-.500 teams. The good news is that they’ll be facing only winning teams come playoff time.
There’s no question that this team is the most talented in the conference. And they have more playoff experience and success than everyone else. But they just haven’t looked like a strong, cohesive unit consistently enough to seriously bet.
The Sleeper: Minnesota Wild 9/2
The Wild have been unconscious since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, which makes them a very interesting bet. They were just 18-19-5 before they got him but are 24-6-2 since. That’s an astounding turnaround. The question is: do you trust the Wild enough? Is Dubnyk really a quality goaltender that can carry this team in the playoffs? Is this a team that’s ready for playoff success? They definitely don’t have a ton of pedigree. And a looming matchup with the Blackhawks in the first round doesn’t seem too ideal either, does it?
The Wild have a lot of questions to answer but if you’re looking for a team with a lot of momentum, they’re your best NHL pick. While the Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks and some other West teams have had some turbulence since the All-Star break, the Wild are definitely the team that’s heading into the second season with the biggest head of steam.
The Pick: St. Louis Blues 9/2
I’ve been burned by this pick before but I’m still a believer in the Blues. As long as they can avoid the Blackhawks, who seem to have their number, they are more than capable of handling everyone else in the conference. If Chicago is out of the way, that leaves the Ducks, who have goaltending issues, the Predators, who are not battle tested, the Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames to deal with. The Blues are more talented, more balanced and more experienced than all of those teams. Also, the Blues look like they are going to have home-ice advantage for at least the first round and possibly through the entire Western Conference playoffs.
At 9/2, it’s a reasonable bet to see if the Blues can avoid the Blackhawks. They should be able to outlast everyone else in the conference.