1: Pittsburgh Penguins (+600) – We realize the Penguins are the class of the Metropolitan Division as they continue to dominate with 72 points. Pittsburgh is a winner in seven of its last 10 contests including a 4-2 mark on the road in that stretch. The Pens are well on their way to a top-seed in the playoffs where they will have home ice at least through the conference finals. Their 20-4-0 overall record at home makes them a favorite to win it all if they hold true to form on home ice. One of the biggest reasons for Pittsburgh’s recent success has been the play of G Marc-Andre Fleury who is 5-1 in his last six starts. Fleury had an awful showing in last year’s playoffs giving up 17 goals in five games before being benched, but so far this season he has rebounded well with a 2.33 GAA and .915 save percentage. Pens C Sidney Crosby has keyed the offense all year with 25 goals and 43 assists. His continued health can only help the team reach their goal of winning the Stanley Cup. Head coach Dan Bylsma has a great history of pushing all the right buttons in the playoffs and this team is loaded with experienced veterans poised to run away with the top-seed in the East.
2: Anaheim Ducks (+750) – The Ducks finally suffered their first regulation home loss of the season Tuesday night as the Winnipeg Jets got out of the Honda Center with a 3-2 win. Anaheim’s home dominance has keyed them to an NHL leading 79 points this season. This team has won eight of its last 10 by a combined score of 40-23 with four of those wins coming by just one goal. Anaheim G Jonas Hiller has lost his last two starts including giving up three goals in 11 shots Tuesday, but has otherwise been stellar this season with a 2.41 GAA and a .912 save percentage. The Ducks own the league’s third best scoring offense at 3.37 goals per game which paired with solid defensive play has made them tough to beat all year. Leading that offense has been C Ryan Getzlaf with 25 goals and 34 assists. Getzlaf has 15 points over his last 10 games including two games where he recorded three points. The number on Anaheim bringing home the Stanley Cup actually became more likely a sizeable move from last week’s +900 odds. Their chances figure to get even better if the Ducks can continue this current streak of hot play on home ice.
3: Los Angeles Kings (+1200) – The Kings have won games with the league’s top defense and solid goaltending that has helped them to third place in the Pacific Division. We mentioned last week that the team could stand to move G Ben Scrivens at the trade deadline, and they did just that sending him to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2014 third round pick. Since the trade the Kings are a homesick squad having lost their last three games on the road. Los Angeles G Jonathan Quick is one of the best in the NHL, though he took losses in his last two starts he has put up a 2.09 GAA and .916 save percentage this season. Kings C Anze Kopitar leads the team with 40 points on the year including 13 goals and 27 assists. Kopitar is also the team’s leader in +/- with a +22 mark so far. The Kings will need to start winning some of these one goal games on the road if they want to make it into the playoffs and get their shot at the cup. With a long season still to go, L.A. will have to pass a lot of tough tests to become a more likely title contender.
4: Vancouver Canucks (+2800) – We would be completely crazy not to mention the Canucks this week. Speaking of crazy, Vancouver has lost coach John Tortorella for 15 days (six games) for his role in a brawl between his team and the Calgary Flames over the weekend. Tortorella then tried to get to Flames coach Bob Hartley in the hallway outside the locker room to deserve his suspension. Outside of that, the Canucks have won their last two games and sit just three points behind the Kings for third place in the Pacific Division. Vancouver will have a chance to improve their standing with a four game home stand coming up in which they should get at least three wins over lesser teams and have a chance to beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Canucks G Roberto Luongo is responsible for getting this team going as he gave up just three goals in his last two wins over the Flames and Edmonton Oilers. If this team is going anywhere it simply has to get an offense that ranks 20th in the league to start scoring more goals. Before Tortorella’s tirade, the Canucks had managed just one goal in their last three games. We expect this team to walk through fire for its coach from here on out and become a strong contender as the year goes on.
5: Ottawa Senators (+5000) – Ottawa has gotten hot at the right time winning seven of its last 10 games to get within six points of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens for third place in the Atlantic Division. Senators G Craig Anderson is 7-1-2 in his last 10 starts and put up a 2.40 GAA and two shutouts in his current hot streak. It isn’t often that a defensive player leads a team in points, but that is true in Ottawa right now with D Erik Karlsson who has 47 points on 11 goals and 36 assists this season. This team will need help from its frontline players if it is to continue this run for the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Senators have been better on the road this season than at home. They are exactly .500 at 11-11-2-3 at home and an impressive 11-8-2-2 on the road. So maybe having four of their next five on the road isn’t a bad thing for the Senators who have won four of their last five road contests. If this team can keep going on the road and getting wins, it will be difficult to keep it out of the playoffs.
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.