How about another rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals? The St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins are the favorites to secure the #1 seed in the NHL playoffs to represent their respective conferences. The Bruins, the top team in the Eastern Conference, were the only team in the NHL to notch 100 points before the league suspended the season due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Westgate SuperBook listed the defending champion Blues at +225 or 9/4 odds to win the #1 seed in the Western Conference. The Bruins are +175 or 7/4 odds to win top seed in the Eastern Conference.
The top four teams in each conference will play a round robin against their conference mates to determine playoff seeding.
Only 24 teams qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The #5 seed through #12 seed teams will face each other in an opening round of the postseason. The winners of each series will advance to play the top four teams, #1 seed through #4 seed, that were awarded the bye.
East Race: Bruins or Lightning?
The Bruins (44-26-12) played 70 games and racked up 100 points. They had the second-best power player in the NHL with a 25.2% success rate. David Pastrnak co-led the league in goals with 48. He’s third overall in scoring with 95 points. The Bruins also have a total stone wall in goalie. Tuukka Rask leads the NHL with a 2.12 goals against average. Rask ranked #2 in the league with a 92.9% save percentage.
At this point, the only thing that could stop the Bruins from another trip to the Stanley Cup Finals will be the layoff. The Bruins were gearing up with a dozen games to go when they lost momentum.
EASTERN CONFERENCE #1 SEED ODDS
Boston Bruins +175
Tampa Bay Lightning +225
Washington Capitals +400
Philadelphia Flyers +450
The Tampa Bay Lightning had the best regular season record last season, but choked in the first round of the 2019 playoffs when they were upset by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
This season, the Lightning (43-27-6) posted the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. RW Nikita Kucherov leads the team with 33 goals and 52 assists for 85 points. Tampa also boasts a Top 5 power play. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy led the NHL with 35 wins in net.
If the Bruins were not so dominating all season, the Lightning might be the team to beat for the #1 seed.
Alex Ovechkin celebrated his 700th goal this season and shared the league lead with 48 goals. He led the Washington Capitals (41-28-8) to 90 points and first place in the Metropolitan Division. Does Ovi have enough gas in the tank to lead the team to a second Stanley Cup in the last three seasons?
The Philadelphia Flyers posted the best home record this season (25-10-4) on their own ice.
West Race: Avs or Blues?
The defending-champion Blues have the veteran edge versus the young blood on the Colorado Avalanche.This season, the Blues (42-29-10) led the West with 94 points (for second-most points in the NHL). They also had the best home ice in the West with a 23-12-5 record in St. Louis.
The Blues are +225 odds to win the #1 NHL playoffs seed in the West, but the Avalanche are right behind at +250.
The Avs posted the second-best record out West with 92 points and a 42-28-8 record. With a +46 scoring differential, the Avs outgunned everyone in the West. Only the Bruins and Lightning were better at dominating their opponents.
The Avs top skater, Nathan MacKinnon (35 goals, 58 assists), went into the shutdown with 93 points or the fifth-best points leader in the NHL. Goalie Pavel Francouz has come into his own with a 21-7-4 record, 2.41 goals against average, and a 92.3% save percentage.
WESTERN CONFERENCE #1 SEED ODDS
St. Louis Blues +225
Colorado Avalanche +250
Vegas Golden Knights +260
Dallas Stars +450
Vegas Golden Knights (39-32-8) top the Pacific with 86 points. They had the second-best record in the West, because NHL players tend to imbibe whenever they reach Sin City.
The Dallas Stars are in contention thanks to Russian goalie, Anton Khudobin. My Russian is bad, but I think “Khudobin” means brick wall, right? Khudobin leads the NHL with a 93% save percentage. He’s also ranked #3 overall with a 2.22 goals against average. In order to go deep in the playoffs and secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals, a team needs a hot goalie. If Khudobin gets hot, the stubborn Stars will be a tough match up.