2021 NHL Stanley Cup Predictions with Futures Odds
For those of you who feel like the Tampa Bay Lightning were just skating victory laps around Rogers Arena about 10 minutes ago, you’re not alone. The NHL wrapped up its season about 70 days ago (September 28), with the Lightning skating to a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. That was only the team’s second-ever Stanley Cup Title, and much of the same is expected from the Lightning once the new season gets underway. Las Vegas sportsbooks have tabbed the Lightning as third favorites on the betting board, behind the likes of Colorado and Vegas.
Before we get into the teams and how I feel about them heading into this season, we need to figure out what the NHL is going to do in terms of season length, realignment, and all that fun stuff. From what I’ve read, the proposal is as follows: the season will be either 56 or 52 games and it will start in mid-January. The goal for the league is to have the upcoming season finish in July to ensure the following season (Oct 2021 to June 2022) gets started on time. As for realignment due to the COVID pandemic, the following divisions have been tossed out but have yet to be finalized:
Division 1: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York x2, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington.
Division 2: Carolina, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Minnesota, Nashville, Tampa Bay.
Division 3: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas.
Canadian Division: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg.
It’s anyone’s guess as to the exact day the season will get underway and if in fact, it’s even possible to have it done by July in order to have it not affect that season beyond this one. What I do know, though, is there are some juicy numbers on the betting board if you’re looking to beat the favorites.
Stanley Cup Odds
Colorado +700, Vegas +700, Tampa Bay +800
Right out of the gate we start with the favorites, and I have to say that I’m a little perplexed by these odds. Colorado was a good team last season. However, for all their hard work during the regular season, they were ousted in seven games in their second round of action. They have a solid core of players with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, Nazem Kadri and Cale Maker on defense. The problem lies between the pipes as Philip Grubauer simply isn’t a goalie you can rely on to get you deep into the playoffs in a normal playoff year. The only reason I can think of having the Avalanche as favorites is that they come out of the Western Conference where only Vegas, and maybe Dallas and St. Louis, have a legitimate shot at going on a deep playoff run. Other than that, I like some of the teams below them on the odds boards better.
As for Vegas, they are going to play their typical brand of hockey whether the fans and opposing teams like it or not. They’ll be relentless on the forecheck and then lull you to sleep with a defensive system once they get a lead. They have a solid one-two punch in net with Lehner and Fleury, and the defensive unit got a boost this offseason with the acquisition of Alex Pietrangelo. He will slot into the top pair and push Shea Theodore to the second pair, which gives them much more stability on the back end. There is a reason they are co-favorites with the Avalanche, and I’d give them the nod in terms of who I’d be lining up to bet first.
And the lone Eastern Conference team to make the top-three is the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning erased the horrors of the 2018/19 playoffs – when they were swept by Columbus in the first round after a record-breaking regular season – to capture a title in a much more difficult year. They essentially return all key pieces of the puzzle and, as always, they’ll be solid from the net, through the back end, right up to the forward. The problem for the Lightning is that they play in the East, where there are a bunch of teams that have the potential to take the next step and play themselves into a Cup Finals. At this price, I would not touch the Lightning.
Boston +1200, Toronto +1300, Philadelphia +1500, Pittsburgh +1600, Washington +1700, Dallas +1800, St. Louis +1800, New York Rangers +2000, Edmonton +2000, Carolina +2000, New York Islanders +2200, Vancouver +2500, Nashville +2500, Winnipeg +2800, Calgary +2800.
This is where things get interesting and you earn your way as a handicapper if you can find one of these teams to hit a futures ticket on. At first glance, the Eastern Conference looks like it’s an extremely deep conference this year. What I like to do is eliminate teams I don’t like based on roster, division, etc. I think Boston is going to have a down year. The Bruins have their big three players in Bergeron, Pastrnak and Marchand, but beyond them, it’s a very poor roster. Not to mention, the goaltending situation is a question mark with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak competing for the No. 1 role, and the defense is aging by the day. I don’t think the Flyers or Rangers are good enough to compete with the big boys, since the Flyers are inconsistent and the Rangers, despite the addition of No. 1 overall pick, Alexis Lafreniere, are still missing a few pieces. The Leafs are annual disappointments, but they have an offense that can score with anyone, and I like them at their current price of 13/1. The Penguins and Capitals are two veteran-laden squads that are due for bounce-back seasons, and I wouldn’t mind a piece of either of them at 16 or 17/1. Outside of them, I don’t like the Islanders, or Hurricanes much this season either.
Montreal +3000, Columbus +3500, Florida +3500, Arizona +4500, Chicago +5000, New Jersey +5000, San Jose +5000, Buffalo +5000, Minnesota +5500, Anaheim +6600, Los Angeles +7000, Ottawa +7500, Detroit +15000
You’d have to give me better than 100/1 on any of these teams to win the Cup in order for me to pull the trigger for a few bucks. If I had to take a stab, I’d try a team like Columbus, who are built for the postseason and have a coach who can get his guys going. They’ve already shown the ability to beat good teams, and we can see them doing it again. Other than that, Montreal and Florida have major holes up and down their lineup, while Chicago is overrated as is Arizona. The money to be made is in the contenders’ section, not down here.
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