NHL Futures Picks: Odds and Pretenders and Contenders
by George Monroy - 2/28/2014
The NHL season resumed from the Winter Olympic hiatus with most teams ready to make a full-on sprint to the finish line. The season has a little over a month, and around 23 games, left to be played before the playoffs begin. Nearly every team in the league is still jockeying for position in the standings, but the upper-echelon squads have already been earmarked by sports bettors and NHL experts.
Sportsbook.ag has eight to 10 teams near the top of its Stanley Cup futures odds, and while any team that makes the playoffs should probably be considered a title threat, let’s look a little closer at the top squads and figure out which should be considered contenders and which should be considered pretenders. All odds come from Sportsbook.ag
Anaheim Ducks: +500—Pretenders
When the Ducks are playing at the top of their game, they are one of the best, and scariest, team’s in the NHL. The only trouble is that Anaheim can be terribly inconsistent and a very bad team at its lowest points. The Western Conference-leading Ducks play in streaks, and if one of those bad patches happens to come early in the playoffs then the team might be ripe for an upset. Anaheim would look far more attractive at +800 odds.
Chicago Blackhawks: +500—Contenders
Chicago is the defending Stanley Cup Champions and has been one of the most consistent squads in the NHL. The Blackhawks never fall too far from the top of the Western Conference standings and have the experience, defensive presence and goaltending to beat any team in the league during a seven-game series. Chicago should be the clear-cut favorite in the West and are serious contenders at +500.
St. Louis Blues: +500—Contenders
St. Louis ranks in the top five in goals scored, goals allowed, power-play percentage and penalty-kill percentage—but what is most impressive of all is the team’s consistency. The Blues have not lost more than two-games in a row all season and will be a difficult matchup throughout the playoffs. At +500 odds, St. Louis is definitely a contender.
Pittsburgh Penguins: +550—Contenders, Boston Bruins: +800—Contenders
The Eastern Conference has been notoriously weak this season, and both Boston and Pittsburgh are the only legitimate contenders. Boston looks particularly attractive at +800 odds simply because the team is just as good as any of the co-favorites and may be the best defensive team in the entire league. Goaltender Tuukka Rask is a shut-down presence in front of the net, and he can win a game by himself.
San Jose Sharks: +800—Contenders
San Jose is currently fourth in the Western Conference standings and are ranked seventh in goals scored and fourth in goals allowed. The squad is being led by the duel threat of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but it would be a far better bet in the +1000 range. The Sharks will be one of those teams that none of the top clubs wanted to face in the second round of the playoffs, and they are contenders.
Los Angeles Kings: +1500—Pretenders
Los Angeles has real issues on offense and went from being one of the top scoring squads in the league to one of the worst. The team is currently ranked 27th in goals scored with an average of 2.3 per game. The Kings have talent and are always liable to get hot, but they should be considered a pretender until proven otherwise. Los Angeles’ number would look far more attractive at +2000
New York Rangers: +2200—Pretenders
New York has slowly improved all season and seems to be peaking at the right time. The squad has won nine of its last 12 games dating back to mid-January and continues to play solid hockey since returning from the break. The issue with New York, however, is the team’s inconsistency, particularly in front of the net. Staring goaltender Henrik Lundqvist has been spectacular over the last month, but he goes through spans where he looks inefficient and out of sync. New York is a team that cannot be trusted.
Read more articles by George Monroy
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