NHL Teams That Could Take it All in 2018

by Jim Beviglia
on October 4, 2018
9

Minute Read

It’s really only been about four months or so, but it seems like long ago that the Washington Capitals completed their no-doubt, four-games-to-one defeat of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2018 NHL finals to take home the Stanley Cup. In the interim, you probably kept yourself busy with other sports or, you know, got to know your family and friends again.

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Well, it’s time to pull out your oversized shirts and plant yourself on the easy chair. The NHL season begins for real tonight with four games, while the rest of the league’s 31 teams will be getting underway a little bit later in the week. It will be the first chance for fans to see all the teams in real action, since the preseason contests often are played at less than full intensity with an eye towards keeping everybody healthy for when it counts.

That said, it is never too early to make some hypotheses about who the finest teams are going to be when all is said and done. And, if you are the type to wager on sports, this is the perfect opportunity to do. At no point will you find odds that are any more beneficial to you. Once the oddsmakers seen the product on the ice, they will adjust the favorites and longshots’ chances accordingly.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look around the league and see where we stand. What teams who stood out last year have what it takes to get back and do it again? Are there some sleepers who might be able to come out of nowhere and surprise, a la the Vegas Golden Knights and their incredible expansion run a year ago? And which team will be holding the Stanley Cup aloft at the end of the line?

Well, the past is prologue, so before we can think about looking ahead, we have to take a look back and see where we’ve been.

The 2017-18 NHL Season In Review

Perhaps no storyline captivated the hockey world, or maybe even the sporting world, like the one written by the Vegas Golden Knights. Most people assumed that their first season in existence as the 31st team in the NHL would be spent as a curiosity. After all, other than the setting, no one thought that the expansion team would be anything to see.

Yet they put together perhaps the finest season of any expansion team in any sport in recent memory. They came charging out of the gate and didn’t stop until they had put up 51 victories and 109 points, good for a Pacific Division championship. They were third overall in the conference behind the powerhouse Nashville Predators, tops in the league in points, and the resurgent Winnipeg Jets.

In the Eastern Conference, the two-time defending NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins couldn’t quite find the groove they had managed in years past, ending up under 100 points and third in the Metropolitan Division. In their stead in the Metro were the Washington Capitals, coming up with 105 points. Meanwhile, The Tampa Bay Lightning nipped the Boston Bruins 113-112 in points to take the Atlantic Division championship in the Eastern conference.

Many of the last postseason spots were decided by extremely small margins. In the East, the Columbus Blue Jackets and New Jersey Devils, the latter spurred by unlikely league MVP Taylor Hall, squeezed into the playoffs by a point over Florida. Meanwhile the last spot in the West was also decided by just a point, with Colorado edging out St. Louis.

In the postseason, there weren’t many surprises in the first two rounds, although there were some grueling series, such as Boston’s 4-games-to-3 edging of Toronto. It wasn’t until the conference championships when big upsets started to happen: Washington upended East top seed Tampa Bay, while Vegas’ incredible run continued with an upset of Winnipeg. In the finals, the Capitals veteran might proved too much for the Golden Knights’ momentum, and Washington rolled to a relatively easy Stanley Cup victory.

Factors In Picking The Winner Of A Stanley Cup Championship

While looking at the season gone by can help you get a good feel for where everybody stood at the end of the year, that doesn’t mean the coming season will replicate it exactly. Otherwise the Penguins back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017 wouldn’t have been such an anomaly. Before them, the Detroit Red Wings had been the last time to accomplish the feat of two Stanley Cups in a row, doing it in 1997 and 1998.

So why is it so hard for champions to repeat and for good hockey teams to stay good, while other teams can come from the doldrums one year and rise to championship level the next? Well, read on, and you’ll find three main reasons why there is such performance turnover from year to year in the NHL.

Personnel Changes

The salary cap in the NHL helps to ensure parity among the league’s teams. It also leads to teams that have built excellent young talent eventually having to sell some of that talent off as the years go by. That means that the wealth gets spread around from team to team year after year.

This past offseason saw many extremely important players changing hands. Perhaps the biggest name was John Tavares, who immediately stamped Toronto as a Stanley Cup contender when he left behind the New York Islanders to sign a massive free agent contract. In addition, the San Jose Sharks’ acquisition of defenseman Erik Karlsson has many people believing that they could be the team to beat in the West.

Pressure Factors

A year ago at this time, no one in the world thought that the Vegas Golden Knights had any hopes of even making the playoffs, let alone making it all the way to the finals. They found motivation in being doubted, and they also built off the enthusiasm of their home city, who really took the Knights in as their own. That kind of boost can turn even teams that look ordinary on paper into championship contenders, but it is awful hard to spot.

By the same token, the teams that played carefree a year ago in the postseason will now have the targets on their backs. Washington’s championship means that they’ll have every team giving them their best shot. And the Knights won’t sneak up on anybody this year, so they’ll need to be even better to compensate.

Unknown Events

It’s easy to sit here right now and diagnose the strengths and weaknesses of each team on paper. But who knows what will happen once they hit the ice? Injuries are the biggest factor, but you also have to be on the lookout for possible trades, slumps, unexpected stars coming from nowhere, and any number of unforeseen events that can tilt the balance of the season.

The Top NHL Stanley Cup Contenders

Let’s take a look at the top five contenders for the Stanley Cup, at least according to the oddsmakers. As you’ll see, each has a lot to be excited about. But they also have some things to be concerned about as well.

Toronto Maple Leafs

What We Like: The addition of Tavares gives the Leafs arguably two of the top five centers in the league, since they can already rely on exciting youngster Auston Matthews. They also have rock-solid play in the net from durable Frederik Andersen.

What Concerns Us: Andersen has to be great, because the teams blue-liners don’t stand out as anything special. They also have to figure out who best to pair up with their two star centers, although that duo will help improve everyone around them.

Tampa Bay Lightning

What We Like: The hunger should be there after their heartbreaking loss in the Eastern Conference finals to Washington in Game 7 a year ago. We certainly know that the talent is there, led by high scorers Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos and defending defensive player of the year Victor Hedman.

What Concerns Us: The psychological factor in getting over the hump in the playoffs can be daunting after a while. Talent-wise there really aren’t any red flags, as even net-minding is in good hands with Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Winnipeg Jets

What We Like: No team has quite the collection of young talent that the Jets possess coming off their breakout season a year ago. The embarrassment of riches includes standout first-line center Mark Scheifele, high-scoring Patrick Laine, and budding goalie star Connor Helleybuck.

What Concerns Us: Right now, anyway, the Jets don’t have the depth at center that some of the other top contenders do. They rectified that last year with a trade during the season, and they could certainly do it again this year, but it’s a risky gambit.

Nashville Predators

What We Like: People are fixating on the small sample size of their playoff loss to Winnipeg and forgetting how dominant they were in the regular season. With all the key pieces back in place, they should position themselves well to rectify the hard-luck ending of a year ago.

What Concerns Us: Maybe there will be indeed be a playoff hangover after all. The Jets exposed the Predators weaknesses after the first line on offense, and they also made Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne look over the hill.

Washington Capitals

What We Like: There are times in a postseason run where everything clicks and that muscle memory carries over to the next season. If nothing else, the Capitals learned how to do it a year ago after many years of playoff frustration.

What Concerns Us: In addition to the “heavy lies the head that wears the crown” worries, there are also issues with this team in terms of its age. Younger talent seems to rise to the fore more than ever before in the NHL, and the Caps might lacking in that department.

Live Longshots For The NHL Stanley Cup

Don’t believe that a team can come out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup? Check out the Golden Knights a year ago. With that in mind, here are five teams to keep in mind as possible prop bet jackpot tickets.

Pittsburgh Penguins: 12-1 odds aren’t bad at all for a team just a year removed from winning their second consecutive title. And, last I checked, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were still in the house, and that’s a pretty good start.

Philadelphia Flyers: They hit their stride late last year, only for the Penguins to act as buzzkill. Still, the young talent is exciting, especially on the offensive side. If they could get good goalie play, that weird new mascot might really have something to cheer about.

Edmonton Oilers: Can a single player lift a team to another stratosphere all by himself? Well, you’ll get 30-1 odds find out. Quite simply, Connor McDavid is the sport’s most transcendent talent right now, and he just might be good enough to carry this team far enough until reinforcements appear at the deadline.

Deciding On A Betting Website For Your NHL Stanley Cup Champion Futures Wagers

Maybe you’re someone who wants to take a proposition bet stab at one of the teams I mentioned, or any of the others in the league. You might also be the kind of person who loves to bet on the hockey action all year long. In either case, it’s a good idea to follow some guidelines to make sure you choose the right site (or sites) for your online hockey wagering.

Customer Service And Reputation

Don’t go into any website blindly. Read up on reviews on forums or social media, or check out the recommendations right here. Chances are that you’ll find sites that have established an excellent reputation for solving customer problems when they arise.

Wagering Variety

Do you want to make proposition bets during the season on the NHL? Are you interested in puck line bets, over-unders, regulation bets, and all of the other specific wagers you can place on an NHL contest? If so, you need to make sure that the website that you choose can take care of all of that for you.

Bettor Bonuses

Betting websites are always trying to attract new customers who will use their service over the long term. As a result, there is no need for you to settle for less than the most lucrative gambling incentives. These can come in the form of deposit percentage boosts, VIP perks, free bets, and much, much more.

Conclusion

The proposition wagers available to NHL fans for the Stanley Cup are quite enticing this year. I personally would go for the value and go for a big score with one of the long shots I mentioned. Whatever you choose, here’s hoping your favorites end up on top when the last Zamboni is parked at season’s end.

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