We’re moving on with the 2013-14 NHL betting season, and we’re going to take this time to analyze what we are seeing and make our Stanley Cup picks for the road ahead.
1: Chicago Blackhawks (+650) – It’s ridiculous that we can still get +650 on the Blackhawks right now to win the Stanley Cup. They have opened up a six-point lead in the Central Division (granted, the St. Louis Blues have five games in hand, as to the Colorado Avalanche, who are 10 points back), and they are really rolling in spite of the fact that both G Corey Crawford and G Nikolai Khabibulin have both been out of the lineup. G Antti Raanta has been nailing down the fort just fine. LW Bryan Bickell was just activated from IR, and literally every skater is available to Head Coach Joel Quenneville. That’s scary for the rest of the league, knowing that the Hawks are averaging 3.6 goals per game this season, easily the best mark in hockey. Last week alone, the team dropped six goals or more three times. This club is the real deal.
2: Boston Bruins (+800) – We’re high on the Bruins as well, and part of the reason we are so high on them as because of what is ahead. They enter the last full week before Christmas with three points and two games in hand on the Montreal Canadiens and five points on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, and they are playing in a conference where the only other team to note is the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, the next nine games are against Calgary, Buffalo, Buffalo, Nashville, Ottawa, Ottawa, and Islanders, and Winnipeg before going to back on the West Coast. By the time that streak is said and done with though, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bruins have the best record in the Eastern Conference. The time is right now to buy on the B’s, as we would take them down all the way to 6 to 1 with the Blackhawks. We think this is the Stanley Cup Finals in the making, and we are going to continue to bet accordingly.
3: Los Angeles Kings (+1200) – The price on the Kings hasn’t been great all season long, but we think this is the best value we are going to find for a while here at nearly the halfway point of the campaign. The team is coming off of a great run of six wins in a row before losing on the road to Chicago on Sunday (no shame there, especially knowing it was the second game of a back to back). Now, there are four home games, all of which are very winnable contests. Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks, who are also hot, are on the East Coast, where they might be running into some problems. In two weeks when we address this again, we might think that Anaheim has the better odds. However, right now, the Kings, especially knowing that they are keeping all of this together without G Jonathan Quick, have some good value. They might be the second best team in the Western Conference, which really looks wide open behind Chicago.
4: Minnesota Wild (+2500) – The Wild are tough to want to back right now. They only have 43 points, which leaves them tied for fourth place in the Central Division. The problem is that they are going to need to get to at least 95 points just to sniff the postseason. Here’s the one thing which we can’t deny, though. G Josh Harding has been playing like the best goalie in the league. He has 17 of the team’s 19 wins on the season, and he leads the league in just about every quantitative category as well. The Wild only have 81 goals scored so far on the season though, and they are going to need more of that success if they are going to make a run in the postseason. Harding was thrown into the mix last year, but this season, he and his mates have a playoff run under their belts after that series against the Blackhawks last season. Though we would have a hard time justifying Minnesota beating Chicago in a seven-game series, this is clearly going to be one of the teams to watch going forward.
5: Florida Panthers (+50000) – We made a sound investment two weeks ago when we said that the Blue Jackets would get back into the playoff hunt, and they have gone from 100 to 1 down to 50 to 1. We have made similarly good investments on the Flyers and the Devils in the past, and we are going to add the Panthers to that list now. Florida isn’t a very good team, but there aren’t many very good teams in the Eastern Conference. There are however, some really bad ones, and there are plenty who are overachieving. The Panthers are young and are going to get better as the year goes on. They’re a lot better in net with G Tim Thomas than without him, and getting him back healthy is going to be a key. But here’s the bottom line with Florida: The team is six points back of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and it has won three games in a row. There isn’t a game on the docket between now and January 6th where they will be more than perhaps a +130 underdog, so the opportunity is there to claim some points. 500 to 1 is just too ridiculous of a price to pass on a team which is this close to getting into the second season, as unlikely as it truly is.
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.