2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs Preview With Odds and Pick
The 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs are underway starting Wednesday night, as the Red Wings, Lightning, Rangers, Penguins, Blues and Blackhawks are all in action.
All eyes may be on Chicago, who have a chance to defend their title after winning 47 games and finishing third in the competitive Central Division in NHL’s Western Conference.
They’re not the favorites, though. Despite winning in 2015 and three times since 2010, a potential dynasty is no lock, largely thanks to a bevy of quality threats near the top of the league.
The upstart Florida Panthers could be one threat, while many peg the Washington Capitals, who finished the season with the league’s best record (56 wins) as “fresh blood” and a rising team that could very well give the league a new type of champion.
Let’s take a look at what Vegas thinks and also gauge if any sleepers (or even the Blackhawks) can win the Stanley Cup Finals this year.
- Capitals (7/2 odds to win the title)
- Blackhawks (13/2)
- Penguins (15/2)
- Ducks (8/1)
- Stars (8/1)
- Kings (8/1)
- Blues (9/1)
- Rangers (15/1)
- Sharks (15/1)
- Lightning (18/1)
- Panthers (20/1)
- Islanders (20/1)
- Predators (25/1)
- Wild (30/1)
- Red Wings (40/1)
- Flyers (50/1)
Washington had the best record throughout the season and was equally dominant, both at home and on the road. They’re the easy, obvious pick to win the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals and Vegas certainly has them leading the way with 7/2 odds to get professional hockey’s tournament going.
They’re not the only top option in the bookmakers’ minds, of course, as the Capitals are closely followed by last year’s champs (13/2), the Pittsburgh Penguins (15/2) and the Ducks, Stars and Kings all tying for fourth with 8/1 odds. The last team with better than 10/1 odds are the St. Louis Blues (9/1).
Favorites don’t always get the job done, just like game simulations aren’t always right. NHL 16 predicts the Capitals will win this year, but the game has incorrectly predicted the NHL champ the past two years. Perhaps the trend will reverse this year, or maybe we need to consider a few sleepers when we’re laying down NHL bets during the playoffs.
Sleepers to Watch
The sleeper watch starts off with the New York (15/1 odds), as the Rangers finished third in the Metro division, just two games back behind the Penguins. New York exhibited a strong balance with solid play at both ends and was especially tough at Madison Square Garden this year (27-10-4). The Rangers also are still feeding off of a 2014 trip to the Stanley Cup Finals and could still look to wrap up unfinished business.
Another obvious sleeper are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Finals last year and haven’t won since 2004. Tampa Bay took second in the Atlantic Division and is arguably one of the more balanced teams in the playoffs. They did lose Steve Stamkos earlier this year due to injury, however, but that actually could make them more of an underdog than ever. And who knows, perhaps he could return if they can make another deep run.
Two other teams we really can’t write off either are the Red Wings and Panthers. Florida won the Atlantic Division and displayed really solid balance across the board, showing the ability to win at home or on the road, as well as offensively and defensively. Losing Vincent Trocheck (25 goals) hurts the offense, but they should have the depth to potentially make some noise. They’re not quite as dominant as your usual division title winner, but there are worse gambles considering their 20/1 odds.
Detroit has to be the funnest sleeper to consider betting on. The Red Wings got into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth (actually literally won one less game than the Boston Bruins), but still do serious damage on their home ice and have some savvy veterans they can still lean on. Their goal-tending has been very weak and they probably don’t have the defense to be looked at as serious contenders, but this is a team that has made the playoffs for 25 straight seasons. They’re not elite, but they’re survivors, so we can’t forget about them completely, nor their fun 40/1 odds.
WhatIfSports agrees with Vegas, and so do their simulations. Succeeding by round, the Capitals carry the highest percentage in terms of likelihood to advance each round, and ultimately hoist the Stanley Cup Finals trophy.
It makes sense, as they dominated all year, had the best record and had the second most potent offense. In fact, they could have been even better were they not coasting to close the year. WhatIfSports also gives a shout out to the Florida Panthers and Chicago Blackhawks, but of the two, Chicago is the more serious contender.
Chicago is going for a shot at being a repeat champion and winning for the fourth time since 2010, so naturally they feel like a very likely thorn in Washington’s side. That being said, the Capitals have looked like the best team in hockey all season and the writing may merely be on the wall that they’re bound to be our champion.
We also need to watch out for the Ducks, Blues and Stars on Chicago’s side, but given the Blackhawks’ star power, home play and overall defense, they look like the best bet to meet up with the Capitals in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals. A repeat may be too much to ask for in the end, however, as we’ll take the Capitals to cap their stellar season with a title.
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