It seems like the NHL season only just began, but this lockout-shortened year is over. Now the good part starts. While the regular season was less than 60 percent of what it normally is, the race for the best trophy in sports is just as long and brutal as ever. As we get ready for the fun to start, here are some 2013 Stanley Cup predictions to keep you going (all futures odds are from Bovada):
Pittsburgh Penguins (15/4)
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If Sidney Crosby is healthy then the Penguins will win the Stanley Cup. It’s as simple as that. Crosby and his broken jaw are practicing again but only in non-contact situations. If he can quickly get comfortable and isn’t limited by his injury then this team is just too deep, too talented and too focused for anyone else to compete with, and they had the best Trade Deadline of any team in recent memory. Without Crosby at his best they are still at least an Eastern Conference Finals team. This team is that good.
Boston Bruins (8/1)
I just don’t like this team that much. They are defensively very good and offensively competent, so they have the tools to be a contender. I just don’t like how they finished out their season — sputtering when they should have played well down the stretch. They aren’t mentally tough enough to go far this year.
Montreal Canadiens (14/1)
The Habs should just be happy to be here. They have far exceeded all expectations — making the playoffs seemed to be an uphill battle heading into the season, yet here they are hosting a series. When things step up a level and the games matter more, though, I just don’t trust them to compete.
Washington Capitals (16/1)
This team is dangerous. If Pittsburgh falters, it will be Washington that takes advantage. They have gotten hot at just the right time, and they have absolutely belief in new coach Adam Oates and his systems — after a very rough start on that front. Ovechkin is on fire, and he is the second-best player on the planet, so that’s obviously an asset. I’d feel better with different goaltending, but they will be a factor.
Toronto Maple Leafs (20/1)
The Leafs will get far more attention than they deserve because of their passionate fans thrilled for the playoffs after a long, long drought. This price is ridiculous, though. There are talent issues, depth issues, and real concerns about goaltending. They could potentially win one series, but they sure won’t win two.
New York Islanders (33/1)
The Islanders obviously won’t win the Cup — or a series, likely — but I have to mention them here. They deserve massive credit for making the playoffs and for playing well in crunch time when things mattered. The development of John Tavares and the rest of the roster means that this won’t be the first playoff appearance for this squad.
Chicago Blackhawks (4/1)
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are brutal, and anything can happen, but if any team but Chicago wins the Western Conference, it would be a massive upset. If any team other than Pittsburgh wins the East then Chicago will win the Cup as well — and they will give the Pens a massive test. They scored 17 more goals than any team in the West and allowed 14 fewer goals. They also had basically nothing to play for down the stretch, yet were almost unstoppable. This is a tough team with playoff experience ready for a run.
Anaheim Ducks (11/1)
They are second-best, but the gap is big. I always felt like they were playing over their heads, and in their last 10 games they sure looked like they were falling back to earth a bit. They have lots of talent and excellent coaching, but I just don’t see them competing over seven games with the Blackhawks.
Vancouver Canucks (12/1)
Vancouver made a deep run two years ago. This is not that Vancouver team. They have been hit hard by injuries this year, and neither their offense nor their defense is as good as it was back then. The only reason I can’t totally dismiss this team is because they have two goalies that are both capable of getting hot and carrying his team.
L.A. Kings (14/1)
We will not have a two-time champ. They had a losing road record. I can’t trust a team that can’t win on the road in the playoffs — especially as a lower seed. They finished eighth in the conference last year when they won the Cup, but even then they were 18-13-10 on the road. Jonathan Quick is a massive asset in the nets, and they can score, but they are going to run out of gas before the finish line.
St. Louis Blues (14/1)
The Blues are a team moving in the right direction, and with their young core they are only going to be more of a factor in coming years. This is too soon for them now, though, and they lack the pieces to make a deep run.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham