The NHL has recently postponed all games until December 27th, putting the league on hold until after the Christmas break. With no games, the past week has been a great time to reflect on the NHL season thus far, with each team playing around 30 games, and look ahead at some of the best bets moving forward. Some teams have emerged as favorites to win the Stanley Cup and with this holiday edition of NHL Best Bets, we will look at some of the favorites to win the Cup and if they are a great bet or not.
Colorado Avalanche (+550 odds)
|Avalanche stat line||17 wins in 27 games||4.22 goals per game||3.37 goals against per game|
The Avalanche entered the season as the favorites to win the Stanley Cup and understandably so. Finishing with the best record in the NHL last season and returning star players like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar, the Avalanche are the team to beat in the NHL this year.
While the Avalanche look poised to compete for the Stanley Cup there are a few reasons to avoid placing a future bet on them. For starters, they are the odds on favorite and don’t have great betting odds. Moreover, the Avalanche in recent seasons have looked promising but have failed to advance past the second round in each of the last three Stanley Cup playoffs. This season, however, the Avalanche have a glaring weakness in their defense and goaltending, both units have struggled immensely and have been covered up by their outstanding offense and against other playoff teams, will likely be their downfall.
Florida Panthers (+850)
|Panthers stat line||18 wins in 29 games||3.55 goals per game||2.93 goals against per game|
The Panthers are having a remarkable start to the season with one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. The Panthers are led by a potent, deep-scoring offense and also have a talented defense with Aaron Ebklad impacting both ends of the ice. The problem with the team ultimately is their goaltending, which initially was a strength with 20-year-old Spencer Knight but as the season progressed, the young goaltender struggled and was sent down to the AHL, leaving the Panthers with veteran Sergei Bobrovsky as their only starter for the time being. Unpredictability and uncertainty in the net is a major concern, especially in the Stanley Cup playoffs when teams are oftentimes carried by their goaltenders.
Tampa Bay Lightning (+850)
|Lightning stat line||20 wins in 30 games||3.20 goals per game||2.60 goals against per game|
The Lightning are the reigning Stanely Cup Champions and are looking to win the Cup for the third season in a row. This team was forced to overcome some early season obstacles including losing Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov to long-term injuries but has since rebounded. The Lightning this season are led by their defensive unit, with Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev, and Jan Rutta being some of the best two-way defensemen in the league and depth in the forward unit.
Ultimately, what puts the Lightning over the top and makes them an intriguing bet to win the Stanley Cup is their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy who won the Conn Smythe Trophy last season. Vasilevskiy is the best goaltender in the NHL and is putting together another great season in the net, allowing the defensive unit to play aggressively at the blue line. It’s tough to win the Stanley Cup and the last team to “Threepeat” was the New York Islanders in the 1980s but the Lightning are a favorable bet to win the Cup and provide great odds in the process.
Toronto Maple Leafs (+900)
|Maple Leafs’ stat line||20 wins in 30 games||3.27 goals per game||2.50 goals against per game|
The Maple Leafs always look poised to win the Stanley Cup, hoping to end the longest drought in the NHL but fail to advance out of the first round. The Maple Leafs have not won the Cup since 1967 and have not advanced past the first round since 2003, to say they are cursed is an understatement. Last season, the Maple Leafs finished the regular season with the best record in the North Division and had a 3-1 series lead against the Montreal Canadiens but lost the series in seven games.
The Maple Leafs once again, have a great roster led by Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. This season, however, the Maple Leafs have a great defensive unit, led by Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, and have a goaltender in Jack Campbell that is having an incredible season. The Maple Leafs struggle on the backend of both units but have a team that is built for a Cup run making them a risky but strategic bet.
Vegas Golden Knights (+900)
|Golden Knights stat line||20 wins in 32 games||3.47 goals per game||3.06 goals against per game|
The Golden Knights took the NHL by surprise when they reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season but they are no longer the surprise team rather they are now expected to win the Cup. The Golden Knights have one of the best teams in the NHL with an offense that not only has a talented forward unit, led by Max Pacioretty and Chandler Stephenson but also with great play from the point with Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo firing shots from the point.
The primary obstacle for the Golden Knights is the backend of the defense, with Alec Martinez being on the long-term injured list, and goaltending. Robin Lehner is one of the more talented goaltenders in the NHL but he has struggled this season. It’s possible that the Golden Knights acquire a goaltender at the deadline, to put the team over the top this season but until then, it would be advisable to avoid the Golden Knights as a future bet.
Dark Horse Teams
The Minnesota Wild (+1400) aren’t getting great odds but early on, they look like one of the best teams in the NHL and have no glaring weakness on their roster. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins (+1800) have one of the most top-heavy lineups in the NHL and can easily become the team to beat later one this season but are best to avoid at the moment. Two other teams to consider are both located in Alberta with the Edmonton Oilers (+2000) and Calgary Flames (+2000) both off to hot starts but have underlying issues on their rosters with the Flames lacking depth and the Oilers lacking a starting goaltender. There’s still plenty of hockey left in the 2021-22 season and a lot can still happen but early on, it’s becoming clear which teams are worth betting on and which ones to avoid.
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