One thing we know about the Stanley Cup is that it tends to produce plenty of one-year wonders. As the old saying goes, it’s not always the best team that wins the Cup but the team that’s playing the best at that time of the year.
Certainly at this time last year, the smart money would not have been on the Pittsburgh Penguins to be enjoying a silver lifting experience at season’s end. The Penguins were struggling, and as late as Feb. 15, were still listed at +2500 to win the Stanley Cup, meaning a $100 bet on the Pens would garnered you a $2500 return – a hell of a bet, had you made it.
Betting on the Penguins this season won’t prove nearly as lucrative. At +900, Bovada has Pittsburgh currently listed as one of four co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup but to do so they would be required to buck a lot of recent history. Not since the Detroit Red Wings defended their 1996-97 Cup triumph has any NHL team won back-to-back titles. Just to give you a historical perspective, Bill Clinton was still in the White House.
Then again, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, and look who’s going to be living in the White House when this spring’s Stanley Cup tournament gets underway, so perhaps this season is going to prove to be an anomaly.
If you want to wager on that kind of pattern emerging, go right ahead. We’ll stick to Joe Friday wagering – just the facts, please. And the fact of the matter is there is one element of the game that trumps (did I really just use that word?) all others.
That would be goaltending, and one team that is living proof of the value of goaltending is the Montreal Canadiens.
In 2014-15, with a healthy Carey Price winning both the Hart and Vezina Trophies, Montreal was a Stanley Cup contender. Early last season Price injured his knee, and though he tried, never returned in top form. The Canadiens shut him down for the year in November. Montreal went into a downward spiral and missed the playoffs.
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This season, Price is healthy and not surprisingly, Montreal is off to an incredible start. It’s tough to beat a healthy Price combined with Norris Trophy contender and Rock of Gibraltar Shea Weber on the Canadiens defense. Up front, Andrew Shaw has brought grit and Stanley Cup winning experience over from Chicago.
Montreal doesn’t score a lot but captain Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk should help them light more than enough red lamps. They won’t need many goals if Price continues his world class form between the pipes. At +900 they aren’t going to bring a fantastic price. The smart money was on the Habs before the season, when Bovada was offering +1600.
Then again, no Canadian team has won the Stanley Cup since Montreal did in 1993, so perhaps you don’t want to go there and back a team from the Great White North? If that’s indeed the case, think south – deep south.
Do you believe in the process? Hockey coaches certainly do. It’s all they talk about – process and structure. And if you are all about process and structure, you should be all over the Tampa Bay Lightning at +900.
The only team to reach the Stanley Cup final two years in a row, the Lightning have lost to the eventual Cup champion each of the past two springs. Their time could be now. GM Steve Yzerman secured three key parts of his core to long-term deals – captain Steven Stamkos, slick forward Nikita Kucherov and rock-solid defenseman Victor Hedman. The Lightning are built to win.
Somebody has to come out of the West. That’s just the way the Stanley Cup playoffs works. And we believe that someone will be the Chicago Blackhawks, also at +900. Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wins, rebuilds to conform to the salary cap, and wins again with different personnel.