The Tampa Bay Lightning are not only at the top of the standings coming out of the NHL All-Star Break, but they’re also the odds-on choice to win the 2018 Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay is listed as an 11/2 favorite to walk aw at William Hill, where oddsmakers have the Lightning far ahead of the other top contenders in the league. The Lightning have compiled a 34-12-3 record, giving them 71 points and a clear lead in the Eastern Conference.
The team’s success showed at the All-Star Game, where four Tampa Bay players were on Atlantic Division’s team: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning also played host for the All-Star festivities, but Stamkos attributed the large contingent from his team at the game to the squad’s success, not favoritism.
“We could have probably had more,” Stamkos told the New York Times. “It’s been that fun and successful of a season so far.”
The Lightning are looking to win their first Stanley Cup since 2004. They last reached the final in 2015, when they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
Golden Knights Surprise
While Tampa Bay may be the favorites, they’re far from a lock to win a title this year. Surprisingly, one of their biggest obstacles might come from a team nobody expected to be competitive at the start of the season.
The Vegas Golden Knights have shocked everyone in the hockey world. The expansion squad started the season as a longshot, fetching 200/1 or more at hometown sportsbooks. But a 32-12-4 record has put them in first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, and brought their odds crashing down to just 8/1 to win a miraculous first season Stanley Cup championship.
If there’s a secret to their success, it may lie in their home performance. The Golden Knights are 19-2-2 at T-Mobile Arena, the best home record in the league. It’s a great story for everyone but the sportsbooks in Las Vegas, who have been getting hammered by fans and tourists who bet heavily on the team’s home games.
The Lightning and the Golden Knights aren’t the only teams garnering some serious attention as Stanley Cup favorites, however. The Boston Bruins are currently listed at 9/1 odds, and are considered the biggest challenger to Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference. With a 29-10-8 record, they trail the Lightning by just five points in the Atlantic Division, and rode a five-game winning streak into the all-star break.
The unpredictable nature of the NHL playoffs means that many teams are still considered to have a reasonable shot at making a run at the title, especially if they look highly likely to get into the 16-team postseason. Other top contenders heading into the back half of the season include the Washington Capitals (12/1), Nashville Predators (12/1), Winnipeg Jets (14/1), Toronto Maple Leafs (16/1), and the St. Louis Blues (18/1).