The Eastern Conference is Washington’s to lose, but in the West, the race to play for the Stanley Cup is far more wide open. Who should be taken seriously or dismissed as a fake, let’s dive in and find out.
There are nine teams in the Western Conference fighting for eight spots and there is almost nothing settled in what order any of this will play out. So how in the world are we to make sense of the current NHL odds at 5Dimes.eu for what teams have legit chance to reach the Stanley Cup Finals? Great question.
Instead of trying to anticipate, we will go with what we know and make NHL picks for who has the best chances to win three series in the wild Western Conference.
Cannot blame oddsmakers for having Dallas as the top choice to win the West at +400, they have the most points, the NHL’s best offense and are tied for third in goal differential. What is not to like? Plenty if you believe in defense winning championships. The Stars rank 24th in goals allowed in the league at 2.85. Ahead and just behind them are Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg and rest assured, these teams have been out of postseason discussions for a long time. Of the teams presently in the playoffs, Boston has the next worst defense ranked 19th. Unless the West is like the Republican race for president, where everything is different than what it has been before and defense does not matter, impossible to think Dallas reaches the Finals unless Stars goalies do an about face.
Chicago and Los Angeles are right behind Dallas at +425 and Anaheim is next at +500, which tells you how tight this race actually is.
The Blackhawks have really been stumbling lately, especially on defense and are no longer a great bet playing at the United Center. Chicago has earned the right to still be considered a threat despite their recent slump and they still have time to get organized before the playoffs. The Hawks still have the core players which have helped them win three Cups in six years and knowing what it takes to be a champion deserves at least the benefit of the doubt. However, betting on them right now might be foolhardy until they turn it around.