Jason Chen looks at BetMGM’s updated Stanley Cup odds for the NHL’s 16 playoff-bound teams and searches for potential value bets.
Twenty-six seconds. That’s how long it took for the Blackhawks to score two goals in the middle of the third period to gain a lead they would never relinquish, and they essentially eliminated the Penguins from playoff contention. The Islanders didn’t have a difficult job against the Canadiens, and a team that’s been known to pull through when everyone else doubted them managed to do it again.
To be determined still are the division champions in the Metro, Pacific and Central, and playoff seeding. It matters because there are certain teams worth avoiding in the first round. The Panthers can clinch the first wild-card spot in the East and avoid the Bruins with a win, and the winner of the Metro can avoid the Rangers.
BetMGM, the sports betting partner of The Hockey News, has provided the updated Cup odds as of April 12, 2023. The Bruins, obviously, are the favorites, and naturally also have the highest ticket percentage (26.5 percent of all betting tickets were placed on the Bruins to win) and the highest handle percentage (39.5 percent of total dollars wagered were placed on the Bruins to win).
Let’s take a look at the 16 teams in contention and see if we can find value bets with additional Cup odds provided by moneypuck.com. As always, please play responsibly.
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1. Boston Bruins +375 (Implied Odds: 21.05%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 12.8%)
The Bruins are a historically good team, and most public models, including moneypuck.com and hockey-reference.com, have their odds of winning the Cup a little higher than teams that have won both the Presidents’ Trophy and the Cup in the past (8-of-37, 21.6 percent). The Bruins’ path will start with the Isles or Panthers (potential sweeps) before facing the winner of Leafs/Lightning and the eventual Metro champion.
Betting on the favorite is never a bad idea, but there just isn’t a lot of value, and predicting the NHL playoffs is usually a futile exercise considering how many upsets there are every year.
2. Colorado Avalanche +650 (Implied Odds: 14.29%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 11.5%)
The Avs have been riddled with injuries all season – there is still no date set for Gabriel Landeskog’s return – but since Jan. 1 have posted the fourth-best points percentage behind the Bruins, Oilers and Rangers. Even with all the parity, repeat Cup final appearances in the cap era are fairly common; the Lightning, Pens, Hawks, Kings, Bruins and Wings have all been able to sustain a high level of play for multiple seasons.
The Avs’ win last year may have just been the start, with Nathan MacKinnon (27), Mikko Rantanen (26) and Cale Makar (24) still in their mid-20s. The problem? The Oilers might be the better team and potentially face an easier path. The wild card in all this is Alexandar Georgiev, who has only two games of playoff experience under his belt.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs +900 (Implied Odds: 10.00%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 8.2%)
Based on these odds, Vegas (the sportsbooks, not the team) expects the Leafs to pull off the win against the Lightning. What a relief that would be. Problem is, if the Leafs pull it off, they face another juggernaut in the Bruins in the next round, and past history just seems to haunt the Leafs wherever they go. The question – as with many teams this season – is goaltending. Can Ilya Samsonov hold down the fort for an entire playoff run? Did the Leafs add too many players to make it all work seamlessly? Being the third team on this list does seem a little high.
4. Carolina Hurricanes +1000 (Implied Odds: 9.09%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 9.5%)
The Canes are limping into the playoffs. After dominating the Metro for much of the season, they’re on the verge of losing the division title. Losing Max Pacioretty for the season hurt because that was going to be their big late-season acquisition, but add Andrei Svechnikov to the list, and they’re essentially facing a roster crunch.
There’s more pressure on Seth Jarvis and Teuvo Teravainen, who’s had a very disappointing season, and Jesse Puljujarvi and Stefan Noesen are forced to play higher in the lineup than they really should. Their goaltending overall has also been worse than expected, and the Canes have not advanced past the second round in the past two seasons. This just doesn’t feel like their year.
5. Edmonton Oilers +1000 (Implied Odds: 9.09%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 13.5%)
We’re starting to get good value here. The Oilers can score their way out of trouble at any time, and the acquisition of Mattias Ekholm might’ve put them over the edge. He’s the steady, all-situations, two-way defender they’ve been looking for since the day they drafted Connor McDavid.
They should make their way out of the Pacific with fairly little trouble, and if the Avs come out of the Central, note the Oilers have been the best team over the past two months and also employ the league’s best player. All three of their meetings during the season went into overtime, and the Oilers have slightly better possession metrics at 5-on-5. Despite having the same odds as the Canes and just slightly worse than the Leafs, the Oilers offer far better value.
6. New Jersey Devils +1100 (Implied Odds: 8.33%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 4.4%)
If you’re a firm believer that teams need to lose in the playoffs before they can learn how to win, then the Devils should be ignored altogether. They’re the least experienced group of the bunch after capping off a wondrous turnaround from last season, but since March 1, they rank only 15th in points percentage.
There just won’t be as much open space in the playoffs for many of their skilled players to operate, and Timo Meier just hasn’t made quite the impact he’s supposed to, not to mention his most recent playoff performance (five goals in 20 games in 2018-19) also left a lot to be desired. Make no mistake, this is the beginning of a new era for the Devils, and like the Pens, Caps, Avs and numerous other teams before them, they’ll likely fall short a few times before capturing the big prize.
7. New York Rangers +1200 (Implied Odds: 7.69%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 2.0%)
The Rangers are a popular pick. Despite ranking seventh on the board, they have the third-highest ticket percentage and handle percentage. After an awful February (.863 SP, 3.71 GAA), Igor Shesterkin has been brilliant over the past two months and could steal any series by himself. They certainly look primed to emerge victorious from the Metro with elite players at every single position.
It makes sense – the past history of Presidents’ Trophy winners and the uncertainty of Leafs vs. Lightning will scare away the bets, making the Rangers the obvious pick. Is there some survivorship bias at play here? Absolutely, but you’d also be hard-pressed to find holes in this lineup.
8. Vegas Golden Knights +1200 (Implied Odds: 7.69%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 3.3%)
Between Adin Hill, Laurent Brossoit and Jonathan Quick, do they have 16 wins in them? Jack Eichel yearned for spring hockey, and it’s here, but at certain high-pressure periods during the season, Eichel was also nowhere to be found. William Carrier, Shea Theodore and Zach Whitecloud are nursing minor injuries, and Mark Stone doesn’t seem close to returning.
The Knights went 1-2-1 against the Oilers during the season and allowed at least four goals in three of those games. Maybe the Knights’ path is easier than those in the Central, but their overall chances seem smaller than the Rangers, who beat the Knights by a combined 9-2 score in two meetings.
9. Tampa Bay Lightning +1400 (Implied Odds: 6.67%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 3.7%)
If the Lightning can axe the Leafs (again), they’re a terrifying team, but that’s a pretty big ‘if.’ They have talent and experience, but there’s one thing that may just sink them – fatigue. The Lightning have played more playoff games than anyone else – more than 20, in some cases – and at times this season, they really struggled to get in a rhythm.
Already, their late-season fade makes them seem like a team that can no longer just flip the switch. Key players, including Anthony Cirelli and Brandon Hagel, missed games down the stretch, and Tanner Jeannot will not be available to start the series. A reminder Father Time is undefeated.
10. Dallas Stars +1400 (Implied Odds: 6.67%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 4.5%)
The Stars should be at the top of everybody’s dark horse list and a good value bet with these odds. They have an elite goalie who nearly stole a series last playoffs, an elite defenseman and an elite forward. Peter DeBoer has guided his team to the conference final in his first season at three of his four previous stops, so there’s definitely some good past history to draw on.
Aside from Mason Marchment, they have no other significant injuries to report, and Evgenii Dadonov and Max Domi have provided some much-needed offense lower in the lineup. The standings in the West are very tight, but they’re arguably the third-best team after the Oilers and Avs.
11. Los Angeles Kings +2000 (Implied Odds: 4.76%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 7.6%)
They’re a deep team, but the goaltending is shaky, and we’ve yet to see the best of Quinton Byfield and Arthur Kaliyev. Kevin Fiala and Gabe Vilardi’s injuries are concerning because they generate a ton of offense, especially Fiala, whom the Kings acquired after averaging a paltry 2.43 goals per game in last year’s playoffs. Joonas Korpisalo and Pheonix Copley, who has never been tested in the playoffs, have to be good because the margin for error is small, and the leash will not be very long. The Kings are a long shot for good reason.
12. Minnesota Wild +2000 (Implied Odds: 4.76%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 3.2%)
I think the Wild’s chances are better than the Kings’, especially now that Kirill Kaprizov is back. If Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson can play in the playoffs the way they’ve done in the second half of the season, they could go on a deep run. The other key point is Matt Boldy has to provide some offensive support. He was brilliant when Kaprizov was out, and he shouldn’t take a back spot just because Kaprizov is back. It’s a very tough road, however, having to go through the Stars and Avs, whom they’ve beaten just once in regulation combined all season.
13. Florida Panthers +3000 (Implied Odds: 3.23%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 8.2%)
The Panthers’ offense completely died in the playoffs last season, and they’re undeniably a worse team this season. Can Matthew Tkachuk, who was second in playoff scoring on the Flames, provide that spark the Panthers lacked? This is why the Panthers swapped him out for Jonathan Huberdeau, who was hugely disappointing. Among the long shots, the Panthers are the most intriguing bet due to their talent.
Paul Maurice is a Stanley Cup-winner, so maybe his experience will come in handy, and note the Panthers have been playing playoff-style hockey for the better part of the past month as they clawed their way into the playoffs. The Bruins may not be so intimidated, but if the Panthers can nail down the first wild-card spot, the winner of the Metro should really watch out. The Panthers’ biggest weakness remains in net with Sergei Bobrovsky coming off another mediocre season. How long does Alex Lyon’s magic last?
14. Seattle Kraken +5000 (Implied Odds: 1.96%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 2.4%)
It’ll be interesting to see what the Kraken management say after the season. They’ve had a really high shooting percentage despite not having any elite players, and their goaltending isn’t any good. At crunch time in the playoffs, who are the players they will go with in certain situations? The Kraken were really good because there’s no hierarchy to their lineup, meaning they were balanced and could rely on multiple players during a gruelling season, but if they need a goal, is Jared McCann really their best option?
The Kraken were one of the league’s best teams at 5-on-5, but so were the Flames, who ranked second and missed the playoffs. The Panthers and Devils finished third and fourth, respectively, and there’s a good chance they’ll both exit in the first round. I still see the Kraken as more “lucky to be here” than a dark horse, and the odds certainly reflect that notion as well.
15. Winnipeg Jets +5000 (Implied Odds: 1.96%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 3.4%)
The Jets are definitely lucky to be here. They needed the Flames to lose, which they did in the most Flames-ian fashion this season by outshooting their opponents and then losing in extra time, and it also didn’t hurt that Darryl Sutter made curious decisions all season. They will only go as far as Connor Hellebuyck takes them, and I’m not sure if Rick Bowness can press the right buttons. Perhaps the Jets’ dressing room will pull together for one last hurrah, but their play has been so mediocre in the entire second half of the season that it’s difficult to imagine they can just flip the switch.
16. New York Islanders +6600 (Implied Odds: 1.49%. Moneypuck.com Cup Odds: 2.0%)
Could you imagine if Bo Horvat took a shot at Vancouver only to have the Isles miss the playoffs? The Isles need to send a nice thank-you card to the Blackhawks for knocking the Pens out of the playoffs. At +6600, the Isles have the worst odds, and you can’t help but think they might get the benefit of the doubt if Barry Trotz was still behind the bench.
This is a team that has generally punched above its own weight and is two seasons removed from making the conference final. That being said, the Isles’ only saving grace – pun intended – is Ilya Sorokin. Without Mathew Barzal and lacking high-end talent, the Isles are justifiably the longest shot.