The 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us. 16 teams enter the race and each of them will try to collect those elusive 16 wins before losing four times in any given series.
Boston Bruins (+410), St. Louis Blues (+700)
The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy, so it’s not a surprise that they are the Stanley Cup favorite. They headline the weaker of the two conferences but careful investing in them as the favorite. For starters, the team that wins the Presidents’ Trophy doesn’t usually win the Cup. Secondly, a potential second-round matchup with Montreal could be an upset waiting to happen. The Habs have been a thorn in the Bruins side for years as Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask has just three wins in 16 starts versus Montreal. Lastly, don’t forget that the Bruins went to the Cup finals last year. It’s a tough trek to play this much hockey and stay fresh, so they could run out of gas at any point.
As for the Blues, this is a bit of a surprise as they aren’t the top seed in the West. However, they have a very favorable draw. They’ll start with Chicago, who is a sub-.500 team in 2014. If they survive, they’ll likely face Colorado, who is the new kid on the block and doesn’t have the same type of playoff experience. And if they get past them, it’s either Anaheim, San Jose or Los Angeles. That matchup will be tough but since they’re on the bottom of the bracket, they won’t have to face all three of those teams or even two of them. The Blues have the best draw and that’s why their odds are at +700 even though they aren’t the top seed.
Canadiens (+2100), Los Angeles Kings (+1100)
The Habs are one of the hottest teams entering the playoffs as they have gone 11-3-1 in their last 15 games. A hot goaltender can take you a long way and Carey Price already proved his mettle in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, delivering a gold medal for Canada. He’s 8-3-0 in his last 11 outings with a .932 save percentage. The key for the Habs is they thrive against Boston, having won six of the last eight meetings. If they can get by Tampa Bay, there’s an excellent chance they’ll upend Boston in Round 2 and make a run to the East Finals – if not further.
In the West, the Kings are a team that has good potential. They’re definitely a long shot as they’ll probably have to beat three 100-point teams to win the West but they’re capable. We saw what they were capable of when they won 14 of 17 in and around the Olympic break. If they can play at that level, they’ll be tough to stop.
The Blues enter the playoffs on a six-game losing streak but a number of favorites come in on downward trends. The Blues are still my pick to get it done. They’ll be focused in a first-round series with the defending champs and if they can knock them off, they’ll have the confidence to make the journey. They’ve been building to this position for years and with what is arguably the best defense and goaltending in the NHL, they are built for this run. With a relatively easy draw, I’ll take them with my NHL picks to hoist the Stanley Cup.