A Murky Playoff Picture Makes Pinpointing the NHL’s Best Bets Difficult

The NHL's muddled playoff picture is making it tough to decipher the NHL’s best bet with confidence.

It has been nearly two weeks since the NHL trade deadline, and the playoff races in the Eastern and Western Conference have not given fans much clarity. Within the next week every team will have fewer than 10 games remaining on their schedules, and there are at least 10 teams in each conference vying for a postseason bid.

A lot can happen in the next seven to 10 days that could rearrange the playoff picture and skew opinions on which team(s) should be considered the best bet to win the Stanley Cup.

For now, though, we will take a look at our 10 most likely teams to win the Stanley Cup alongside Bovada’s 10 most likely champions based on their future betting odds. Remember, both lists can change at any time as our algorithms update or odds at Bovada shift.

TeamnumberFire Cup OddsTeamBovada Cup Odds
Red Wings4.52%Predators12/1

numberFire’s percentages have not changed while Bovada continues to set their odds on recent trends. The biggest jump in Bovada’s hockey futures comes from the Minnesota Wild.

An afterthought one month ago, the Wild are the top wild card in the West and are riding a 7-3-0 record in their last 10. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk is experiencing a career renaissance. Through March 16, Dubnyk was second in the NHL in goals against average (2.08) and save percentage (.929), trailing Vezina Trophy candidate and favorite Carey Price. Dubnyk’s career goals against average and save percentage are 2.72 and .913, respectively.

Will Minnesota ride their goalie to a Stanley Cup? Bovada’s 10-to-1 odds show that bettors hopped on the bandwagon and are hoping to ride their hot streak. There is no guarantee that Dubnyk can face the rigors of a playoff push, especially since Dubnyk has never played in the postseason. Our algorithms do not consider the Wild a threat for the Cup and give them just the 14th best odds to do so.

No surprise that the Los Angeles Kings moved into a five-way tie at 10-to-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. The Kings hold the second of two wild card positions and have a Corsi For percentage at 55.0%. It is tough to lose when you control the puck over half of the game on average. The Kings are primed to make noise in the playoffs and could very well face the top team in the Central Division if they stay in the second wild card position and one of St. Louis, Nashville, or Chicago finish with the most points in the Western Conference. No team wants that dubious distinction. L.A. could also face Anaheim, and we all know how that ended.

The New York Rangers have allowed the Tampa Bay Lightning to enter in to the conversation as best team in the East. Despite holding a two percent advantage over the Lightning in Cup odds, the Rangers are considered their equal. This season continues to be the East’s best chance to win the Stanley Cup since Boston did in 2011. Tampa and New York are top-three in the NHL in goals scored per 60 minutes and top-four in shot percentage. The Bolts are tops in both. Tampa is also fourth in the league in Corsi For percentage and takes 33.5% of their faceoffs in the offensive zone. Both are good bets but should not be considered “best bets” as co-leaders of the Eastern Conference.

The Washington Capitals are in a holding pattern. numberFire and Bovada agreed that no movement is good movement. The Caps have settled in as a positive Corsi team and, as the top wild card in the East, would face the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are a sub-50% Corsi For team that starts 34.3% of their faceoffs in the defensive zone. The aforementioned Carey Price is keeping the Habs afloat in a tie for first place in the Atlantic Division but needs a lot of help from the players in front of him.

Montreal attempts 48.7% of the shots taken in their games and is a league average scoring team, meaning a heavy diet of shots on Price. If the season were to end today, Washington would have to be considered no worse than an even bet to beat Montreal in a seven game series. The Capitals as a quarterfinal favorite continue to make them one of the best bets in hockey. Washington can strengthen their case with wins in their next few games against Minnesota, Winnipeg, Nashville, and the New York Rangers.

The Chicago Blackhawks are Bovada’s favorite to win the Stanley Cup and the third most efficient team in the NHL, according to our nERD metric. Chicago is 7-1-1 without Patrick Kane, and Corey Crawford is the hottest goalie not named Devan Dubnyk. The Isles were no match for Chicago Tuesday night. Much like the Kings, the Hawks are the easiest bet you can make but offer little in return.

numberFire held steady with their projections as the NHL playoff picture continued to become foggier. Check back as the regular season winds down to see if our projections change, or if emotions continue to sway popular opinion.