January 21, 2014 at 2:45 PM #53088
Qbin Missile CrisisKeymaster
We are just over the half way point of the NHL season and just like many predicted, the cream has started rising to the top of the standings. There are however a couple of surprise teams – ones that have a perfect formula for success for a long playoff run – St. Louis and Anaheim have big, strong, talented, defensively adept teams that could give the usual suspects fits as we head down the stretch of the NHL season.
Here is a look at the frontrunners in the eyes of the oddsmakers and a case as to why they should be on your betting radar.
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 11/2
Odds to Win Western Conference: 11/4
Is there a better all-around team in the NHL? The Hawks are stacked up and down the lineup and Corey Crawford, back from injury and looks to be rounding into form. With enviable depth up front, an incredible defense and quality goaltending, the Hawks are a deserved favorite in the eyes of Vegas.
Chicago currently sits in second in the NHL overall standings as we get closer to the Olympic break. The Hawks will have more players on Olympic rosters than any team in the NHL – exhaustion and the highs/lows of an Olympic run will could slow this team.
Chicago is scary once again – no surprise to anyone. To me the Hawks are the best team in the NHL – bar none.
St. Louis Blues
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 6/1
Odds to Win Western Conference: 15/4
The Blues are second choice among bettors – their makeup is perfect for a long Stanley Cup run. They are big, they are fast, they have two stellar goaltenders and they have they have the coaching to make things interesting in the West.
St. Louis can win at home as well as on the road and currently lead the league in goal differential – an impressive +62 (20 more than the next highest Anaheim).
Unfortunately the Blues aren’t sneaking up on anybody – they are on the radar for a long run this year and rightfully so.
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 13/2
Odds to Win Western Conference: 5/2
The Penguins just completed a perfect Western Road swing – not easy to do and now sit third in the NHL overall standings. This team somehow got through the first half of the season on top despite a rash of injuries.
Now back at full strength and with Marc-Andre Fleury playing at a high level again there is no reason to think this team doesn’t challenge once again. Fleury scares the heck out of me however – his lack of success in the playoffs is something to be mindful of.
San Jose Sharks
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 15/2
Odds to Win Western Conference: 4/1
The Sharks have had a little bit of a rough patch as we have hit the mid-way point but they still sit fifth in the overall standings. This team, like the Pens however has been defined by their penchant to choking in the postseason.
I love the Sharks to remain strong during the regular season but until they prove themselves in the postseason I have to stay away!
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 8/1
Odds to Win Western Conference: 11/4
Boston has the playoff experience and the roster to be right at the top of the list when it comes to contenders despite sitting seventh in the overall standings half way through the season. They are the best defensive club on the planet; they have one of the best keepers in the league and a potent and deep offense.
One glaring weakness – their play on the road – just 11-10-0 away from home. Boston is a team built for playoff hockey and is my team to meet Chicago in the Final this year.
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 9/1
Odds to Win Western Conference: 5/1
How about the Ducks – they are the best value on the board right now. They have yet to lose in regulation on home ice this year (just two OT losses on the season) and they currently lead the NHL overall standings by five points while playing in the toughest division in hockey.
If you love Anaheim, jump on them now – they aren’t going to get any cheaper than they are at this moment.
Los Angeles Kings
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 14/1
Odds to Win Western Conference: 15/2
The Kings have shown some vulnerability lately – scoring as always has become their nemesis. But with a winning formula, experience winning a Cup and with Jonathan Quick between the pipes, there is no way LA isn’t a contender.
That said I can’t see them getting by the Hawks, the Ducks and the Sharks to even reach the Final.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Odds to Win Stanley Cup: 22/1
Odds to Win Western Conference: 11/1
Ahh the Lightning – my sleeper pick this year. The team has just kept winning despite the loss of Steve Stamkos in early December and with stellar goaltender Ben Bishop in the shelf as well. They are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games overall and with their two Studs due back sooner than later, the Lightning have a chance to make some noise.
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