Three Stanley Cup contenders bettors should be keeping an eye on
The NHL has moved beyond the midway point of its shortened season, and the jockeying for position in the standings is heating up.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have the lowest odds to win the Stanley Cup, at +500, followed by the Colorado Avalanche, at +700. The Toronto Maple Leafs round out the top three teams, though their odds have tumbled from +550 last week to +800 today, because of some recent struggles.
But there are other teams on hot streaks, climbing the standings and presenting intriguing value in the Stanley Cup market.
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Tampa Bay Lightning
Toronto Maple Leafs
Vegas Golden Knights
New York Islanders
Washington Capitals (+1600)
The Capitals showed little interest in playing bubble hockey last summer, but they are heading in the right direction this season.
The Capitals boast a 19-6-4 record. Their 42 points are tied for first in the East Division, with the New York Islanders. Washington has won six games in a row and its star, Alex Ovechkin, has scored in four straight, shrugging off a slow start to the season by his previous standards.
The Capitals, who won the Stanley Cup in 2018, rank third in the NHL in goals per game, with one of the best power plays.
Alex Ovechkin scores his 717th career goal, tying Phil Esposito for sixth on the NHL’s all-time list #Hockey365 #ALLCAPS pic.twitter.com/GfEyW4m3y2— Mike Commito (@mikecommito) March 16, 2021
The biggest question for Washington is in net. Rookie goalie Vitek Vanecek had a strong start to his NHL career, with a .908 save percentage, but he is unproven when it matters the most, as is Ilya Samsonov, who is only in his second NHL season.
If the Capitals keep winning, however, their odds to win the Stanley Cup will move up the board. The best time to consider a futures wager on Washington to win it all may be right now.
Florida Panthers (+2000)
Could the Stanley Cup remain in Florida, albeit with a team not named the Tampa Bay Lightning?
The Panthers have to be the biggest surprise of the 2021 season. They are tied with the Lightning for the top spot in the Central Division, with 42 points. Both teams have played 28 games.
But the Lightning have outright odds of +550 to win it all, and the Panthers have odds of +2000. They also have odds of +350 to win the Central Division, compared to the Lightning at -125.
Florida ranks second in the NHL in goals per game, right behind the Lightning. The Panthers also have a top 10 power play. Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov are among the most productive players in the league.
But one of the key reasons for the Panthers' turnaround has been in net.
Sergei Bobrovsky was underwhelming last year, his first season with Florida, especially given the massive contract he signed as a free agent. And 2021 didn't get off to a great start, either. But he has been better this year, with a .905 save percentage (still below his career average of .917) and a 2.95 goals-against average.
Sergei Bobrovsky joined the Panthers on the ice Wednesday after being listed as “unfit to play” for most of training camp.https://t.co/U7KbFc31eC— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) January 13, 2021
Chris Driedger has also been good in net for Florida, with a .920 save percentage through 12 games (29 goals allowed on 363 shots).
The Panthers don’t garner the attention the defending champs receive, but they should not be overlooked.
Vegas Golden Knights (+900)
What Marc-Andre Fleury is doing in net would be impressive in any year, but let’s consider that he is 36 years old.
At some point, there is going to be some drop off in the play of the goalie who was taken first overall in the 2003 NHL Draft.
Fleury has started in 21 games for Vegas this season. He has a 16-5 record, a 1.87 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, well above his career save percentage of .913 and well past the .905 number he posted last season, in 49 games.
1) Marc. Andre. Fleury.— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) March 11, 2021
2) Turnovers behind the net are the play of the day.#VegasBorn #mnwild pic.twitter.com/jtDkeIJado
The Golden Knights are once again one of the most dangerous teams in the league offensively, and they’ve allowed the second fewest goals per game. They dominate the game in five-on-five play, holding the majority of shot attempts, expected goals, and scoring chances at even strength, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Now they’re getting terrific goaltending from a veteran netminder who has won the Stanley Cup.
If his play keeps up into the postseason, look out once again for the Vegas Golden Knights.