Featured in this article:
  • Defending Champion Lightning Slight Fave to Win Eastern Conference
  • Panthers, Maple Leafs and Hurricanes Top Competition in the East
  • Avalanche Favored Over Golden Knights in Western Conference

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Florida bettors have few options for wagering whether the Lightning can three-peat. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack, File)

You have to go all the way back to 1985 to find the last time an NHL team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in three consecutive years, and that is exactly what the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to do in 2022. The Lightning are listed as slight +425 favorites (bet $100 to win $425) to take home the Eastern Conference title for the third time in a row at online sportsbook BetOnline.

Tampa Bay has some very stiff competition this year though, especially in their own division from the Florida Panthers (+450 to win the East) and Toronto Maple Leafs (+500). The Atlantic Division is expected to send the Lightning, Panthers, Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins (+950) to the playoffs while the Metropolitan Division’s top four teams are the Carolina Hurricanes (+600), New York Rangers (+900), Washington Capitals (+1000) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+800).

With those eight teams all but set to make the postseason in the East despite only being January, it would be surprising to see anyone else rise to the occasion and knock one of them out of the playoff picture. That is why the New York Islanders are next up on the betting board with long odds of +2800 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Panthers, Maple Leafs, Hurricanes Pose Biggest Threat

Tampa Bay looks as good as ever this season, but it is still a marathon and not a sprint when it comes down to the Stanley Cup playoffs. Not playing in the Olympics should help all of the top contenders to win the Cup, giving them extra rest and allowing them to focus even more on hoisting the best trophy in sports.

That said, Florida, Toronto and Carolina appear to be the most hungry right now in the East besides the defending champs. The Montreal Canadiens became the first Canadian team to make it to the Stanley Cup Final in a decade last season when they faced the Lightning, so maybe that will give the Maple Leafs some confidence that they can finally get over the hump this year.

The Panthers and Hurricanes will also be tough outs for anyone facing them in the postseason with the largest positive goal differentials in the league, making them arguably the biggest threats. However, Florida would have to get past Tampa Bay in the early rounds just to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals because they play in the same division.

Will it be the Avalanche or Golden Knights in the West?

While the race to win the Eastern Conference is wide open at this point, the Western Conference is expected to come down to two teams – the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights. The Avalanche met the Golden Knights in the second round of last year’s playoffs, falling in six games after entering the series as favorites.

But Colorado might be playing better than anyone in the NHL right now, which is why the team is listed as a strong +200 favorite to win the West. Meanwhile, Vegas is the +400 second choice in its fifth year of existence after getting to the next-to-last round of the postseason three times previously.

The Golden Knights simply ran out of steam each of the last two years in losing to the Canadiens and Dallas Stars prior to the Stanley Cup Final, so maybe the third time in a row will be the charm this season?Β  They have less competition in the Pacific Division than the Avalanche do in the Central, as the Minnesota Wild (+900 to win the West) and St. Louis Blues (+1000) are worthy challengers who could be spoilers.

Matty Simo

"Vegas Matty" Simo is a Las Vegas-based writer who has covered the sports betting scene since 1996. His strong passion for sports, betting, writing, and everything Vegas-related has made him a go-to source for gamblers over the past two decades. Odds are you will find him either at a sportsbook, cheering on the Golden Knights, or behind his computer writing articles for GO and Odds Shark, where he has served as a contributor since 2014.

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