Anybody else, aside from me and Ray Shero, feel as though they just awoke to Christmas morning?
Playoffs start this day, it’s the most wonderful time of year, and we are roughly as jacked up as Mitchell Marner after chugging his second-intermission Red Bull.
Drop the puck already.
Just a sweet 16 teams are applicable, so we present our NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Odds Edition.
Teams are ranked according to my (highly questionable) judgment in their strength going to the post-season. The Vegas line on their odds of keg-standing out of Lord Stanley are tagged below each write-up.
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1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Has there been a favourite for prom king? The Lightning strut to the dance like they own the place. Only the second team to amass 62 wins, the Bolts completed using a ridiculous plus-103 goal differential, only 41 goals better compared to Calgary. Tampa dresses three 40 goal scorers. Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross at a stroll, and the Bolts have powerful contenders for the Hart, Vezina and Jack Adams. Brayden Point might find some Selke votes, also that I have two Lightning defencemen in my Norris ballot. The deepest entry by a mile of the tournament.
Stanley Cup chances: 2/1
2. Calgary Flames
You have no doubt heard the phrase”there’s no simple first-round match-ups” during the lead-up to Game 1, but the Flames did themselves thus many favor by clinching the abandoned conference. Not only do they draw a Colorado squad that actually lost more matches (44) than it won (38) — yay for its drop point! — but if they can take care of business swiftly, the Flames can kick up their feet and observe Vegas and San Jose pummel each other. For all the hand-wringing over Calgary’s goaltending, remember this: No Pacific playoff team gave up fewer goals than the Flames (227).
Stanley Cup odds: 8/1
3. Boston Bruins
Give the big, bad Bruins home-ice edge as well the edge in grit and leadership edge over the Maple Leafs, convinced. And Bruce Cassidy is one of the best coaches nobody talks about. However, Toronto has the upper hand in speed and offensive thickness, however large your view of Charlie Coyle. The major question is, which Tuukka Rask do we get? If it’s the one who posted seven sub-.900 rescue proportions in his previous 10 looks, Cassidy should recognize it fast and give Jaroslav Halak that the crease.
Stanley Cup odds: 9/1
4. Washington Capitals
Anyone else feel as the hockey world is sleeping about the reigning champs? Suretheir hardworking Round 1 opponent ought to be loose and has nothing to lose, however, the Hurricanes should also be exhausted from their standings climb, feeling like they’ve already played two months of playoffs. Led by a guy who’s won the Rocket Richard so frequently they may consider renaming the trophy, the Caps dodged the Penguins and Islanders, have the bulk of their Cup roster in tact, and now know exactly what it takes to move all of the way.
Stanley Cup odds: 12/1
5. St. Louis Blues
Hotter than a pistol, the Blues’ remarkable post-Christmas ascent should strike fear throughout the province of Manitoba. Think Ryan O’Reilly was happy not to attend Sabres locker clean-out moment? The Selke threat has watched everybody around him pick up the slack over the past 3 months. The defence seems mean, Vladimir Tarasenko rediscovered his touch, and if newcomer Jordan Binnington can preserve his .927 save percentage, look out.
Stanley Cup chances: 14/1
6. Nashville Predators
Good on the Predators for out-pacing the Jets down the stretch. Now the Central Division kings can hang another banner and dodge the bullet that’s the third-seed Blues. It is the exact same old story in Nashville: The defence is elite, the goaltending should be strong enough to win a round or 2, but the offence — ranked 19th overall — is suspect. Incredibly, Nashville rolls in with the absolute worst power play in the NHL (12.9 per cent), and fresh guys Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund (one goal apiece) have not provided an antidote. Considerable ambitions have been tempered by much more serious issues.
Stanley Cup chances: 12/1
7. Pittsburgh Penguins
I’ve heard long ago: Never bet against a Sidney Crosby team. Evgeni Malkin is healthful, Matt Murray hit his stride in the second half, and the Penguins’ power play and expertise are enough to make them a threat in any series. Yes, the Islanders take more momentum to the tournament, but the Penguins’ status as a miniature dynasty and perennial contender makes them an advantage in power.
Stanley Cup odds: 16/1
8. New York Islanders
The Islanders would be the ideal case of a sum exceeding its parts. Goals have been difficult to uncover (228 complete, putting them 21st total ), and Barry Trotz’s group has bought into the concept that all they need to do is find the web once more than their opponent. As good of a benefit Nassau Coliseum might feel to be, the Isles actually registered the same amount of wins house and off (24). Nobody has analyzed Mike Sullivan’s match plans as closely as Trotz, so when his Jennings-winning goaltenders will keep it rolling up, that knows how many chapters are abandoned in this Cinderella story?
Stanley Cup odds: 20/1