March Madness is approaching and the 64 team tournament is consistently the most heart pounding and exhilarating collection of games in all athletics. Who will win it all? A perennial favorite that won't be denied or will one team catch lightning in a bottle and make history?
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Now What: Re-Picking NHL Stanley Cup Playoff Futures
Every year you hear about how the NHL has the best postseason in all of sports. One round into the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs and the league has once again delivered on that reputation.
For that, we can thank — or blame, if you had money on them — the Lightning following its all-time historic choke job. Not only was the 62-win team eliminated in the opening round, but they were swept out by the lowly Blue Jackets. It was Columbus' first-ever playoff series victory in nearly 20 years of existence and they somehow outscored Tampa by a whopping 19-8 margin. That was just one of five lower seeds that upset the higher-seeded foe.
If you're one of the many bettors that was duped by Tampa, there's a chance at redemption. With the conference semi-finals on tap, we have an updated preview of NHL Futures for the Western and Eastern Conference, as well as The Cup!
Odds To Win Eastern Conference
The East is a free-for-all after Tampa's historic meltdown. Here's who TopBet is pegging with the best NHL odds to advance to the final:
- Boston Bruins (+180)
- New York Islanders (+250)
- Carolina Hurricanes (+310)
- Colombus Blue Jackets (+370)
While this postseason has been upsets galore, we're siding with a perennial favorite to escape the East in the Bruins. Of all the playoff teams remaining on both sides of the bracket, Boston won the most games (47) and racked up the most points (107). That predicament leaves them with home-ice advantage the rest of the way.
Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella might not believe experience matters, but we do. With five former Stanley Cup winners on its roster, the Bruins are the most battled-tested team remaining. It was that same experience that helped dig them out of a 3-2 hole last round to overcome the Maple Leafs.
After it's impressive first-round display, a lot of bettors are jumping on the Columbus bandwagon. We'd push pause on that. Game 1 between the Bruins-Blue Jackets will be a full nine days after Columbus put the finishing touches on its sweep. That nine-day rest period kills its momentum more than anything.
Sidenote that deserves some attention. Two professional teams from Beantown, the Red Sox and Patriots, have already hoisted championships this sports year. What's one more, right (and no, we're not referring to the Celtics here either)? Is it the year of Boston sports or what?
Odds To Win Western Conference
We've been piling on Tampa this entire time, but Calgary — the Western Conference front-runner — isn't getting away unscathed. They too bowed out in the first round, losing in five games to Colorado. That upset trend continued with all but one series out West as the lower seeds advanced. Updated conference title futures are as follows:
- San Jose Sharks (+190)
- St. Louis Blues (+230)
- Colorado Avalanche (+300)
- Dallas Stars (+350)
Call us crazy, but we're gravitating toward the Stars' line. There's something to say about getting hot at the right time and Dallas is absolutely peaking when it counts. Even before its upset over the Predators, the Stars finished the regular season on a 5-1-1 tear.
A resurgent offense is to credit for Dallas' hot streak. Over the regular season, the Stars finished third-to-last in goals scored at a measly 2.55 per game. But against Nashville — the fourth-stingiest defense in all of the NHL no less — that average jumped to three a game, including a pair of five-goal games.
Dallas also draws a good matchup against St. Louis in round two. During the regular season, the Stars took three of four meetings, outscoring the Blues 13-7 in the series.
That's not to say St. Louis isn't scorching-hot themselves. Its odds of making the NHL playoffs in January were practically dead before staging an unbelievable turnaround. The winner of this series could very well be in the driver's seat out West.
We believe the X-factor will be at goalie, though. It's the rookie (Blues' Jordan Binnington) vs. the veteran (Stars' Ben Bishop). Our confidence is higher with Bishop, who is fresh off a career-record 47 saves against Nashville and will surely be motivated going against his hometown team.
Odds To Win NHL Stanley Cup
You've seen the conference championship lines, but how about the NHL Stanley Cup odds? Here are the five teams with the best chance to win the "Holy Grail" of hockey:
- Boston Bruins (+375)
- San Jose Sharks (+410)
- St. Louis Blues (+475)
- New York Islanders (+600)
- Colorado Avalanche (+650)
If our Stanley Cup final prediction — Dallas vs. Boston — pans out, it would follow the NHL norm of a nail-biting series. Both teams met twice in the regular season and in both games, the winner was decided in overtime (the series was split).
We talked about goalie being the difference-maker in the postseason. Knowing that, our faith is a tad stronger in the Bruins' Tuukka Rask (say that name really fast ten times). The 32-year-old Rask willed Boston past Toronto with 32 saves in Game 7. He's also been in two Stanley Cups before so he's a gamer in every sense of the word. Like we said, it must be the year of Boston sports.
Check out one of the sportsbooks below for more NHL lines. They'll have a bevy of bets available throughout the remainder of the playoffs.
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