1: Pittsburgh Penguins (+550) – We know that the Penguins are the best team in hockey, and they have proven it by continuing to open up their lead in the Metropolitan Division in spite of the fact that they have gone through a plethora of injuries. The team is stockpiled in the minor leagues as well, and the ability is there to take a young defenseman or two and send them off for a bona fide star to replace LW Pascal Dupuis, who has been lost for the season with an injury. The Pens are up eight points on the Bruins for the best record in the East and are 18 up on the Capitals for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. Simply put, we know that Pittsburgh, at dead worst, is going to be the #2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs this year, and the team is going to have home ice advantage until at least the Eastern Conference Finals. Better yet? The Pens haven’t lost a home game in two months, and they are 19-3-0 thus far this year at home. The price is only going to drop from here.
2: Anaheim Ducks (+900) – Are the Ducks ever going to lose at home? That’s a valid question to ask at this point in the season, knowing that they are now 18-0-2 at home thus far this year. The Honda Center is really proving to be a great place for Anaheim, but what really gets us is that the team is playing well on the road, too. It isn’t a mistake that the Ducks are 16-8-3 on the road to boot. They gained some valuable experience in the playoffs last season, and they were unlucky not to beat out the Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs. Yes, RW Bobby Ryan is no longer here on the team, but unlike last season, there is no goaltending quandary. The net belongs to G Jonas Hiller, and the team is going to live and die with him in the pipes. We just don’t see any way that the Ducks are blowing this big lead in the Pacific Division, no matter how tough the division happens to be. This is still one of the best teams in the league, and there is a real chance that there is great value here at 9 to 1 on Head Coach Bruce Boudreau and the gang.
3: Los Angeles Kings (+1350) – When you’ve got all of the playoff experience in the world from recent seasons and the best defense in hockey, all in spite of the fact that your superstar goalie has been missing for a month and a half with an injury, you know you have a great team. The Kings are allowing just 2.0 goals per game, and in spite of the fact that they are third in the Pacific Division, they easily have the best defense in the conference, which is saying something considering the fact that the Blues are pretty darn good, too. G Jonathan Quick is back, and if the team wanted to get cute, it could probably move G Ben Scrivens at the trade deadline for a big time forward from one of these teams that needs goaltending help for the postseason push. (Are you paying attention, Washington and Ottawa?) It’s going to be really tough to have to go on the road in the playoffs, but remember, we saw the Kings win the Stanley Cup a few seasons ago as the #8 seed in the playoffs without losing a single road game the entire way.
4: New York Islanders (+27000) – Why are the Islanders all of a sudden getting a whopping 270 to 1 price tag put on their heads? They have won three games in a row, and they are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games. They’re eight points back of the Rangers for the last playoff spot, but it’s not like any of these teams in between the two New York teams are playing that well right now either. Sure, the only team you can really eliminate is Buffalo from the fray, but to think that the Isles are out of the automatic qualifying spots in the Metropolitan Division isn’t out of the realm of possibility either. There are only nine points separating the Isles from the Caps, who sit second best in the division. The mountain to climb from the horrid start to the season is a tough one, but in the end, this is a more talented team than the one which pushed the Penguins to six games in the opening round of the playoffs last year. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo are both much better players, and vets like Cal Clutterbuck and Thomas Vanek were nice additions to the club to make it a more well-rounded team. Don’t discount the possibility for New York getting into the second season, and as we have seen in the past, any team that gets into the postseason has a shot of playing its way into the Stanley Cup.
5: Winnipeg Jets (+27000) – Are we completely out of our minds to think that the Jets might have some nice value here? Sure, they have lost five games in a row, but Head Coach Claude Noel was dismissed, which might finally get this team thinking about going back in the right direction again. The Western Conference is tough, but there are very winnable fixtures coming against Phoenix, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto, and Nashville just between now and the end of the month. The opportunities are there to go out and get a goalie to replace the beleaguered G Ondrej Pavelec, and if there is some change in direction, the time is still there for this team to get out of the foot of the Central Division and make some headway once again. It’s going to be tough for sure, but we have made some decent calls of late on teams like Florida, Philadelphia, and the Islanders to get back into their respective playoff races and into real discussion to beat the Stanley Cup odds, so the Jets might not be completely buried as of yet.
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.