The Stanley Cup playoffs are set, and as we learn every year, anything can happen from this point forward as the speculation and bracketology now begins.
Playoff hockey is one of the greatest and most underrated sports spectacles in North American sports. The intensity and passion with which teams play can exhilarate even the most composed hockey lifers and you can amplify that feeling for yourself by getting some skin in the game by picking a team to take it in the futures market.
Let’s get a few things straight first, “Any team can win the Cup.” This is a myth. Only four different teams have hoisted the trophy in the last eight seasons and one team specifically is in a good position to have its name inscribed on the Cup for the fourth time in eight years. It’s true that upsets are more frequent in Lord Stanley’s playoffs than they are in the NBA or NFL but when you consider the trend that’s seen zero No. 1 seeds dip out in the first round since the NHL changed to the wild-card format, it puts things into perspective a little bit.
With that in mind, who should you back in Stanley Cup futures? While we can’t tell you who to put your money on, we can tell you which teams are coming in hot, who has the easiest path to the finals and which teams are candidates for early elimination.
The Washington Capitals and Dallas Stars had the best records in their respective conferences last season, but neither was able to make it past the second round. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final a year after the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning. None of those teams finished first in their divisions.
Washington Capitals +450: The narrative of the Caps choking in the playoffs is about to change. Alex Ovechkin and his band of lovable imports are as hot as you can ask for coming into the playoffs and have been handed a gift in the first round by drawing the Maple Leafs. Winning eight of their final 10 games, the Caps have the same record going into the postseason as the Penguins did in their last 10 contests in 2016.
St. Louis Blues +3300: This is a team that almost no one is talking about and I can’t figure out why. The Blues have been insanely good since shipping out Kevin Shattenkirk, ranking in the top five in most five-on-five metrics without the offensive defenseman compromising their top six. Their goaltending has been top-notch and the addition of Vladimir Sobotka has bolstered an already more than credible attack. St. Louis took out the Blackhawks in the first round of last year’s playoffs and they have a shot to take them out this year if the two meet in the next round. Place your bets on the Stanley Cup Futures at Heritagesports