Spring has arrived, 82 regular season games are in the books, and the National Hockey League (NHL) is set to host the most grueling playoff in all of sports.
To earn the honor of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup, one champion will emerge from a 16-team field by winning four best-of-seven series. But while every team to make the tournament has earned an opportunity to play for the title, not all Cup contenders are created equally.
According to the most recent 2018 Stanley Cup odds posted by online sportsbook Bovada ahead of this week’s opening-round action, the Nashville Predators (+375) are a clear favorite.
Sitting atop the leaderboard is a familiar position for this Preds team, which notched a 53-18-11 record for 117 points to earn the first Presidents’ Trophy in franchise history. Backed by standout goaltender Pekka Rinne, the Predators roster remains largely intact from last summer’s runner-up run to the Stanley Cup final.
That squad was the second Wild Card entrant, however, and after absorbing a Cup loss to the more seasoned Pittsburgh Penguins, the Predators returned to the ice with a vengeance this season.
They’ll take on the Colorado Avalanche (43-30-9; 95 points), a team that finished last in the entire NHL last season. In fact, the paltry 48-point performance was one of the worst in league history, but Colorado rebounded to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Their reward will be a Nashville team that won all four meetings this season, which helps explain Colorado’s cellar-dwelling (+3300) odds to win it all.
Trailing the Predators on Bovada’s betting board are the Boston Bruins (50-20-12; 112 points), a team which finished one point away from leading the Eastern Conference. Boston (+575) was bounced in the first round last year, but the Bruins were playing for a Cup as recently as 2012-13, and they’ve won six overall.
That pedigree has most rivals outpaced, but not Boston’s playoff opponents, as the Toronto Maple Leafs (49-26-7; 105 points) have clinched the Cup on 13 occasions. They’re only (+1100) to make it #14 though, despite a 3-1-0 regular season record against Boston.
The Tampa Bay Lightning (54-23-5; 113 points) led the Stanley Cup odds for much of the season, thanks in large part to goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy leading the league with 44 wins. They limped to the finish line with a 5-4-1 record to close the year, but the Lightning (+600) still earned the East’s top seed one year after missing the postseason party.
Tampa Bay gets the New Jersey Devils (44-29-9; 97 points), a lottery team from last year that has made a resurgence thanks to Hart Trophy candidate Taylor Hall. The Devils went 3-0-0 against the Lightning, but Bovada has them tied for the worst Cup odds at (+3300).
This season’s top storyline – and a Cinderella tale for the ages – are the Vegas Golden Knights (51-24-7; 109 points), an expansion team turned Pacific Division champions. The Knights’ merry band of castoffs, led by sniper William Karlsson (43 goals) and veteran netminder Marc-Andre Fleury, struck gold this year.
But the regular season is one thing, and the Knights (+750) must confront royalty of their own in the Los Angeles Kings (45-29-8; 99 points). The Kings won the Cup in 2012 and 2014, and while roster tweaks led to a below par Wild Card run, they’re still a dangerous dark horse at (+2200).
Other first-round matchups are as follows, with odds reflecting chance to win the Cup, not the series:
Winnipeg Jets (52-20-10; 114 points) at (+800) vs. Minnesota Wild (45-26-11; 101 points) at (+3000).
Pittsburgh Penguins (47-29-6; 100 points) at (+1000) vs. Philadelphia Flyers (42-26-14; 98 points) at (+2500).
Washington Capitals (49-26-7; 105 points) at (+1100) vs. Columbus Blue Jackets (45-30-7; 97 points at (+2800).
Anaheim Ducks (44-25-13; 101 points) at (+2000) vs. San Jose Sharks (45-27-10; 100 points) at (+2500).
Check the table below for a full rundown of odds on the 16-team Stanley Cup Playoff field, as currently found on Bovada:
2018 NHL Stanley Cup Odds on Bovada
|Team||Stanley Cup Odds on 4/9|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+600|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+750|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1100|
|Los Angeles Kings||+2200|
|San Jose Sharks||+2500|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+2800|
|New Jersey Devils||+3300|