The 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs begin this Tuesday night. And in advance of the opening faceoff, Bovada has released its futures odds not only for the Stanley Cup champion, but for potential matchups in the title series and conference championships.
The following is a closer look at a few of the various scenarios in terms of where the value lies in the posted odds.
Eastern Conference Champion
It is no big surprise that the Pittsburgh Penguins have been opened as the 3/2 odds-on favorite to come out of the East as champs. With a shortened regular season that featured a 48-game schedule against just conference opponents, the Penguins dominated their competition from Day 1. They finished the season with an overall record of 36-12 that included a 15-game winning streak in the month of March, an 18-6 record both home and away and no overtime losses.
Pittsburgh is also getting healthy at just the right time with the return on Sidney Crosby to practice this past Friday after breaking his jaw at the end of March. All the pieces are in place for a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the only thing that can keep the Penguins from getting there is themselves.
If you are looking for value in another team from the East, the best bet would be to go with the New York Rangers at 17/2. They were the only playoff team to beat Pittsburgh since Jan.31, and they have a goalie in Henrik Lundqvist that can get hot at just the right time to steal a few wins along the way. The other plus is that these teams know each other extremely well from playing in the same division, which tends to benefit the underdog over the course of a seven-game series.
Western Conference Champion
Much like Pittsburgh in the East, the Chicago Blackhawks dominated the Western Conference this season with an NHL-high 77 points. They were also equally as good no matter where they played with an 18-3-3 record at home to complement an 18-4-2 record on the road. They have been opened at 7/4 to win the conference. And while there may not be much of a return with those odds, that is no reason to bet against them.
What makes Chicago so attractive is an offensive attack that was ranked second in the league in scoring with a 3.1 goals-per-game average to go along with a goals-against average of 2.0 that was ranked first in the NHL. Adding to the Blackhawks' arsenal is a pair of goalies in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery, who each boast a GAA of less than two and a save percentage higher than .920. That kind of combination has Stanley Cup written all over it.
Last season the Los Angeles Kings went on an incredible roll all the way to a title, but at 15/2 to win the West, save your money on believing that lighting will strike twice. The only other team that might make sense to wager on would be the Anaheim Ducks as 11/2 second-favorites to win the West. The Ducks remained neck-and-neck with Chicago in the race for the top seed in the conference until fading a bit down the stretch to finish in second place with 66 points. These two teams met three times this season with the Ducks winning all three contests.
Stanley Cup Champion
With two dominant teams expected to clash in the NHL Finals, the slight edge in the odds to win this season’s title goes to Pittsburgh at 7/2 versus Chicago’s 15/4 odds. This would be a dream matchup between two teams that know how to find the back of the net, but the better value in the odds goes to the Blackhawks because of their situation in goal.
Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury is a quality goaltender with a 2.39 GAA and a save percentage of .916. Backup goalie Tomas Vokoun’s numbers are equally as good, but I would much rather have the Blackhawks’ dynamic duo if I was trying to win a championship. The Penguins won a lot of games this season by simply outscoring their opponents as opposed to stopping them. They probably will not have that luxury against Chicago.
If you do not want to go chalk in this tournament, consider a small play on the Rangers at 18/1 or Anaheim at 12/1. Both teams would need to elevate their game to a much higher level to pull off such a run, but it is not an impossible task.
Stanley Cup Matchups
The odds have a Pittsburgh vs. Chicago matchup in the Stanley Cup Finals at 11/2, which is not that bad of a return considering how far and above these two teams are from the other 14 playoff teams. It is still a long road through three conference rounds, and if some other team’s goalie gets incredibly hot anything can happen as the playoffs wear on. However, the risk that comes with chasing a higher return does not really justify the investment in any other teams.
The only other play that might make some sense is Pittsburgh vs. Anaheim at 14/1. The Ducks have already proven they can beat Chicago, although there is a huge difference between winning games in the regular season and winning them when the entire season is on the line.