The Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Wednesday and the team that was supposed to challenge for the Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning, are once again favorites to win it all. The Lightning finished with the most points in the regular season, and are the 5/2 favorite, according to William Hill.
Tampa Bay is 9/5 at BetOnline, and 2/1 at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.
Who follows them depends on the sportsbook. William Hill has the San Jose Sharks at 15/2. The Vegas Golden Knights are 8/1. BetOnline has more of a an East coast slant. The Boston Bruins and defending champion Washington Capitals are 10/1, as is Pacific Division champion Calgary.
The Lightning are hoping to avoid a repeat of what happened last year. The team led the Eastern Conference in points, and were the midseason favorite to win the cup at 5/1. But the team lost the Eastern Conference finals to the Washington Capitals.
The team gets Columbus in the first round, and defeated them three straight during the regular season. Not surprisingly, the Lightning are -330 to win the best of seven series, while the Blue Jackets are at +260 to pull off the upset. It is the largest margin of any of the eight opening series.
Clear Favorites in Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay is not the only team that is expected to cruise in its opening round. Boston is a -150 pick over Toronto, who is at +130. The Maple Leafs were supposed to make a push for the Stanley Cup after getting coveted free agent John Tavares in the offseason. Toronto, though, finished third in the Atlantic Division behind Boston and Tampa.
The defending champion Capitals begin their playoffs as a -145 pick to down the Carolina Hurricanes, who are at +125. Washington is not expected to go far this season. They are a 10/1 pick to repeat. The last team that repeated was Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said the team is ready to face anyone, and Carolina will be a test.
“The most important thing is we win, and it doesn’t matter who we’re going to play,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “They battle hard, so it’s going to be a challenge.”
The last series in the east is Pittsburgh against the New York Islanders. Despite the Penguins finishing below the Islanders in the Metropolitan Division, they are the -135 favorite. New York is at +115.
West Offer Tighter Match Ups
The odds for the four series in the Western Conference are much tighter, with the exception of the Dallas against Nashville, and Calgary against Colorado.
The Predators are a -200 favorite to down the Stars, who are at +170. Nashville was the top team in the Central Division.
The Flames were tops in the Pacific Division and face the Avalanche, who were the last team to get into the playoffs. Calgary is -200, and Colorado is +170.
The tightest series in the playoffs is Vegas against San Jose. Both teams are at -110. Despite the team losing seven of its last eight games, the Golden Knights get goalie Marc Andre-Fleury back from an injury and Mark Stone believes they will be ready for the playoffs.
“We know what we can and can’t do,” Stone said. “We need to be playing our style of hockey at the right time, which is whenever the playoffs start. We’ve had spurts of great hockey, but as far as putting a 60-minute game together, we haven’t quite done that yet.”
Winnipeg, which had the second-best record in the Central, will face St. Louis, who finished tied with them in points. The Jets are even, while the Blues are at -120.