With the 2016-17 NHL season coming to a close, it’s time to take a serious look at the postseason and project which teams could possibly meet in the penultimate series or as it’s best known, the Stanley Cup finals.
Washington Capitals +250: Although it’s looking like they’ll have the much tougher of the two brackets, the Capitals are the best team in the East and right now, it’s not close. The Penguins are the nearest second but they’re far too banged up to make another run at the Cup this year and could be dealt an early blow by a Blue Jackets team they’ve struggled against of late.
Washington has not been to the Stanley Cup finals or even made it past the second round since 1998 and in that span is 0-4 in playoff series with the Penguins.
If Pittsburgh is taken out in the first round, the Caps’ odds to win the Eastern Conference will plummet. Take advantage while you still can.
Ottawa Senators +1000: This is not as much of a long shot as you might think. Ottawa matches up well against almost every team in the East but has a distinct advantage over the Capitals. The Sens lost the season series with the Caps two games to one but what they did positively was outscore them as well as outshoot the league leaders over the course of those contests.
That’s important because if the Sens and Caps meet in the Eastern Conference finals the team that’s scored more goals in the teams’ regular-season matchups has gone on to win the subsequent playoff series against that club 65 percent of the time.
Their 1-3-1 style, very similar to the one the New Jersey Devils used to run in the early 2000s, is quarterbacked by superstar blue-liner Erik Karlsson and all things considered, the Swede is one of the five best players in the Eastern Conference. He’s the modern-day Scott Niedermayer and that’s quite the compliment coming from a writer who has a poster of the four-time Stanley Cup winner hanging in his home office.
Washington will have to out-grind Ottawa if they meet in the East final and I’ll take the value on the Sens in a matchup I consider a virtual toss-up.
St. Louis Blues +1400: Vladimir Tarasenko and the Blues took the ’Hawks out of last year’s playoffs in seven games and battled them hard in all their matchups this season.
Allowing just 1.72 goals per game since the all-star break, the Blues have been the tightest club in the NHL the last 25 games and their goalie, Jake Allen, has turned his season around in a large way. He’s posted a 13-6-1 record along with a sparkling .942 save percentage and 1.70 goals-against average his last 20 starts after a brutal start and his team has won 10 of its last 12 games, getting a point in all but one of those games. NHL Championship lines are available at Heritagesports