An absorbing NHL season is now well underway and a few teams have established themselves as front runners to win their divisions and go on to compete for the Stanley Cup. It is still early days and there are around 70 regular season games still to be played, but already Sun Bets and other bookmakers have seen enough to shorten the odds on a few top teams winning the Stanley Cup in June 2017.
Last season’s Stanley Cup winners, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are favorites to win the Eastern Conference and outright favorites to win the Stanley Cup. But history is not in their favor; no team has successfully defended the Stanley Cup since the Red Wings in 1998. Their roster hardly changed in the off season, so the same team that won the big prize have made a strong start, with seven wins from 11. They are behind the Rangers, but should recover to win the Metropolitan Division and are +187.5 to do so.
The Rangers have started well, but it is arguably the Washington Capitals (+200) that will run Pittsburgh the closest, as they also have the same roster that won last season’s Presidents’ Trophy for gaining the most regular season points. The Atlantic Division looks like turning into a battle between the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were many experts’ picks for the Stanley Cup before the season began, and they were also preseason bookmakers’ favorites, but they have started slowly, with six wins from 11 compared to the Canadiens’ nine from 11.
The Canadiens have the best record of any NHL team so far this season, but their winning run came to an end when they lost 10-0 to the Blue Jackets. That should set alarm bells ringing and Tampa Bay could overhaul them by the end of the regular season. The bookmakers have the Canadiens odds-on to win the division, so now could be the time to back the Lightning at odds of +450. They are +650 to win the Eastern Conference, which looks good, as does the +500 on the Caps.
A four game winning streak has established the Chicago Blackhawks as the leading side in the Central Division, but many bookmakers have the St Louis Blues as favorites for it. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2015, but were stunned by a first round defeat to St Louis last season, so they will be desperate for revenge and look a good bet to win their division at +350.
The Kings have endured a miserable start to the season, and it looks like the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Ducks will give last season’s beaten Stanley Cup finalists, the San Jose Sharks, the closest run for their money in the Pacific Division. That being said, the Sharks’ experience can see them through the season, and they look good at +210 to win the division. The Blackhawks are +550 to win the Western Conference and that looks a great bet right now.
The Blackhawks are currently looking good for the Western Conference, but the Stanley Cup winner seems more likely to come from the Eastern Conference, where the Lightning, Canadiens, Penguins and Capitals are all looking excellent. It’s hard to choose one from that bunch, but given the way the odds on the Lightning have drifted out from to +700 to +1400 in recent weeks it makes them a very tempting option.