We’re in the tail end of this short NHL season. While we don’t yet know who is going to win it all, we are far enough along to know which teams are the real Stanley Cup contenders and which ones are destined for a long summer. Any team that makes the playoffs can, of course, win the Stanley Cup. At this point, though, it would qualify as a very significant upset in my eyes if one of these nine 2013 Stanley Cup contenders didn’t hoist the hardware (All odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
Pittsburgh Penguins (+350 to win the Stanley Cup now, +700 at start of season)
Pittsburgh has some issues — namely that Sidney Crosby took a puck in the face and has a broken jaw that could keep him out of action for the rest of the season and maybe longer. Their talent is obscenely deep, though, and they had a brilliant Trade Deadline to add to their already impressive experience. This is by far the best team in the Eastern Conference and the best in the league by a decent margin as well.
Montreal Canadiens (+1200, +2500)
I struggle to really believe in this team based on what is on paper, but they keep playing very good hockey. They can score. They are defensively sound. The goaltending is strong. The coaching is an excellent fit for the squad. They are as good on the road as at home. They aren’t going to go down without a serious fight.
Washington Capitals (+5000, +2500)
Some people will be surprised to see the Capitals on here. They have finally moved into a playoff spot, though, and they stand a good chance of holding Winnipeg off to win their division. They have solid talent and are finally showing that they are embracing new coach Adam Oates and his system. They are rounding into form at the right time, and they will make things interesting.
New York Rangers (+2000, +800)
Like the Capitals, the Rangers have been a massive disappointment, but are slowly starting to find their form. They were aggressive at the Trade Deadline, and that will hopefully give a boost to an invisible offense. They should be much better than they have been. If they can overcome their play and near their potential, they are a threat.
Boston Bruins (+800, +1400)
I think the Bruins have a big disadvantage compared to the Penguins. Still, the addition of Jaromir Jagr at the Trade Deadline was brilliant, and he adds to a deep team that is exceptional defensively. They are the second best in the division.
Chicago Blackhawks (+550, +1500)
The Blackhawks have cooled off after their historic start to the season, but they are still a very potent force. They are second in scoring behind only Pittsburgh. They are second in goals allowed behind only Boston. They have only two regulation road losses in 19 games. They are incredibly deep. It’s hard to know how close to form this season will go because of the odd season, but if it does then the Blackhawks and Penguins would meet for a truly epic Cup showdown.
Anaheim Ducks (+1000, +3000)
Anaheim, like Montreal in the East, is a team playing well beyond the sum of their parts. They have cooled down somewhat lately, but they still have the hallmarks of a contender — good road play, solid offense with good depth, decent goaltending, defensive competence and strong coaching. The coaching in particular is a big asset here — Bruce Boudreau is a very solid coach who fits well with the talent he has, and he is going to make this team dangerous down the stretch.
Vancouver Canucks (+1500, +1000)
I don’t particularly like how the Canucks have been playing this year. They have their share of excuses, though — mostly that the injury bug has punched them in the mouth. Repeatedly. They have the experience of a run to the finals two years ago, though, and they have more than enough talent if they can stay healthy. The goaltending situation has been a massive distraction thanks to the uncertainty of whether Roberto Luongo would be traded, but he’s in town for the rest of the year now. With him and Cory Schneider on board, the team has two goalies that are capable of leading a team deep. They need to up their play significantly, but they could do so.
L.A. Kings (+1200, +1000)
The defending champs have struggled to find their way this year, but they have gotten better recently. They have arguably the best goalie in hockey and the experience of last year to draw from. The roster is solid, and the coaching suits them. They have a losing road record, which is a concern — especially since they aren’t likely to be higher than a No. 4 seed so they will face plenty of road games, but they are 3-1-1 in their last five away from home, so they are moving in the right direction. They aren’t an elite contender, but they are still a decent threat to repeat.
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