We’re fast approaching the halfway point of the NHL season, and already we’re seeing a handful of teams separate themselves from the pack in updated NHL Stanley Cup odds. Listed below are the six leaders in this futures market. We have plenty of time to discuss the league as a whole as we barrel through the Olympics and the end of the year. For now let’s just discuss the best of the best shall we?
1. Chicago Blackhawks (+550) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+650)
No surprise here with the updated NHL Stanley Cup odds. The Penguins and Blackhawks opened as the two favorites to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season and they’re still right there. Chicago is a no-brainer because they have some of the best young players in the game and as defending Stanley Cup Champions the oddsmakers are tipping their hat to them as the early season favorites.
It’s hard not to love the Penguins in the Eastern Conference as well. Worries about Sidney Crosby’s horrifying injuries (broken jaw, awful concussion) have been diminished as he skates away with the early MVP lead. Crosby leads the league with 65 points, while Chicago’s Jonathan Kane trails in second with 54. There’s a lot to be concerned about overall with the Penguins and Marc Andre-Fleury in the post season after what’s happened over the last two seasons but right now they’re the strongest team in the whole damn league. At worst, they’re a great regular season play. That’s not too shabby.
2. St. Louis Blues (+650)
This might surprise you casual hockey fans, but the Blues are one of the best defensive teams in the league and have patiently built a contender. They opened as 12-to-1 favorites alongside the major clubs. What I love about St. Louis is their efficiency. They rank just 19th in total shots per game (29.5) but are first with 3.6 goals scored. They’re also one of the best power play teams in the league and are ranked in the top three in terms of overall defense.
This is a cleverly constructed batch of underachievers that simply work well together and what doomed them last season (i.e. toughness) is being taken care of this season. The Blues have the second most penalty minutes of any team in the league with 594. That’s still well behind the undisciplined bunch in Philadelphia, but the Blues are sending a stark message that they are ready for a deep playoff run. The oddsmakers were optimistic about the Blues heading in to the season, but the updated NHL Stanley Cup odds have pushed them to the forefront of everyone’s attention.
3. San Jose Sharks (+750)
It’s the same old story with the San Jose Sharks. They’re a great regular season team that’s in the hunt for the number one seed. San Jose usually has a strong push in the post season, but they’ve never come close to winning three games in the Western Conference Finals. Why would you expect anything different in 2014?
4. Boston Bruins (+800)
The Bruins lead the pack behind the Penguins in the Eastern Conference but are being pressed by plenty of very strong teams, including Tampa Bay, Montreal, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto and the suddenly smoking New York Rangers. We all know what to expect from Boston in the post season – resilient, no nonsense violence with plenty of gritty scoring.
Boston’s odds haven’t really moved anywhere from where they started at the season, so the updated NHL Stanley Cup odds don’t really reflect any improvement because we know that Boston can will their way in to the postseason. But will they survive them? This team picks too many fights to last the 16 game gauntlet of the NHL playoffs for my liking and you can find a lot more value on the board than these 8-to-1 odds.
5. Anaheim Ducks (+1000)
If you believed in these mighty Ducks at the onset of the season, and caught their 25-to-1 odds, you’re probably laughing right now. The Ducks have the best record in the league overall with 69 points and have made their backers a freight train of cash with just 12 total losses this entire season. The loss of Bobby Ryan to Ottawa was supposed to diminish the Ducks, but Getzlaf and Perry have done an incredible job and are defining this team’s character.
Everything about the Ducks is attractive because they’re built to dominate the regular season and win the brutal brawls in the playoffs. Their updated NHL Stanley Cup odds have them as 10-to-1 favorites right now right behind the four best, overall teams in the league. If you like these guys as much as I do, get in on this gravy train now. Their long term price points and regular season record will be worth riding throughout the year. The next time we see updated NHL Stanley Cup odds the Ducks will be closer to the front of the line than they are right now.