Of all the four major sports in America, no postseason is more grueling than the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. 16 wins must be attained over a three-month span in order to claim the league’s ultimate prize. Here’s a check of the odds before the hockey playoffs begin, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Eastern Conference Favorites
Tampa Bay Lightning (+195)
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the heaviest Cup favorite in quite some time. It makes sense because this team did win 62 games this season, tied for the most all-time. They have the league’s highest scorer, Nikita Kucherov, and two more players in the top-twelve in that category. Tampa has arguably the deepest defensive unit and best goaltender in the league as well. So, what could go wrong in the playoffs? Well, we’ve seen this same team fail to live up to lofty expectations before. Plus, they aren’t facing the typical eight-seed, just thankful to get a whiff of the playoffs. Tampa faces the Columbus Blue Jackets, a squad that was extremely aggressive at the trade deadline, acquiring Matt Duchene. This could be John Tortorella’s last chance behind the Columbus bench, so this team has more than enough motivation to produce an upset.
Boston Bruins (+950)
Considering the difference in odds, there appears to be a large gap from top team in the east to second-best team. Unquestionably, that next-best team is the Boston Bruins. The B’s finished with 107 points on the year, tied with the Calgary Flames for second-most in the league. Many expected this veteran group to fall back in 2019, but instead the group got even better. The goaltending duo of Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask was stellar. Their commitment to defense will be the way they get through the Eastern Conference this postseason. They won’t be able to match neither the Toronto Maple Leafs nor Lightning in an offensive shootout, so the onus will be on Rask and the defense to make a Cup run.
Other favorites: Washington Capitals (+1400), Pittsburgh Penguins (+1700)
Western Conference Favorites
Calgary Flames (+850)
The Calgary Flames have been incredibly efficient at both ends of the rink. They scored the most goals in the Western Conference, and their goal differential (plus-62) is by far the best. In fact, the next-closest team in that department is the San Jose Sharks, at plus-28. Johnny Gaudreau has quickly developed into one of the best players in the league, and should get serious consideration for the Hart Trophy. The only knock against this group is inexperience. The Flames have not won a playoff game since 2014-15. Their last trip, two seasons ago, resulted in a first-round sweep courtesy of the Anaheim Ducks. Calgary should be able to defeat the Colorado Avalanche in six or fewer games, as this squad is clearly not as good as they were a year ago.
San Jose Sharks (+1200)
A healthy Erik Karlsson is the biggest reason why the Sharks have gone from a contender to a favorite heading into postseason play. If the veteran can even come close to the impact he made during Ottawa’s deep run a few years ago, then the Sharks will have added the biggest piece since the trade deadline. San Jose has more scoring depth than any team out west. Nine players recorded at least 45 points this season. Karlsson had 45 points in just 53 games, by the way. Five players scored at least 27 goals as well. The only question remains between the pipes. Can Martin Jones regain the form that propelled San Jose all the way to the Final in 2015-16?
Other favorites: Nashville Predators (+1500), Vegas Golden Knights (+1600)