Despite losing in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Toronto Maple Leafs have leapfrogged the Tampa Bay Lightning as favorites to win the 2019 championship, according to Bovada. The Maple Leafs began as a 10/1 pick, but now are the top selection at 7/1.
The Lightning, which was the pick to win the Stanley Cup for most of last year, stayed at their opening odds of 9/1. The Boston Bruins are 19/2.
The two participants in last season’s Finals are down the betting board. The Vegas Golden Knights, who surprised the NHL as being the first expansion team to go to a championship in its first year, are 11/1, along with the Nashville Predators. The defending champion Washington Capitals opened at 14/1, but have improved to 12/1.
Why Toronto moved up is due to the organization winning the John Tavares sweepstakes. The New York Islander entered the free-agent market, and several teams were clamoring for the standout center. He narrowed it down to the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Toronto, and Tampa Bay, before ultimately choosing the Maple Leafs.
The 27-year-old joins a team that is ripe with offensive power, but is not nearly as strong on defense. Also there are questions about Maple Leafs goaltender, Frederik Andersen, whose 3.76 goals against average in the first round was one of the highest.
Tampa Bay’s defense should be better than last year. All of the players return and are getting more comfortable with coach Jon Cooper’s system. Defenseman Anton Stralman told reporters on Monday that he believes the blue liners will be better.
“I think you always can improve,” Stralman said. “There’s always small things. You look at the PK for one aspect of the game. I think we can do better there. It’s not all just the D obviously. It’s two forwards out there as well. If you look at all year, 5-on-5 play was pretty good. Our power play was excellent. Our PK was below average, and that’s something that will make a big difference for confidence and just kind of going through games without hiccups and kind of keep the momentum a little better.”
Golden Knights Threat?
The team with players no one wanted made history in its inaugural season, but now the rest of the league knows what the Vegas Golden Knights are capable of, and surprising squads will not be as likely.
That still hasn’t stopped bettors at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook from making them the second pick to win the Stanley Cup. While they are the fourth choice at most other sportsbooks, the team is listed at 10/1 behind Tampa Bay at the Westgate. At another Las Vegas sportsbook the team is listed at 5/1.
The team chose not to resign David Perron and James Neal, but did pick up Paul Stastny, who should be the team’s second line center.
One big acquisition the team apparently has not given up on is Ottawa defensemen Erik Karlsson. The disgruntled Senator wants to be traded, and the team is eager to rebuild and are hoping to get maximum value for him. Vancouver is the front runner, but Vegas has been mentioned as another possible site.