We have just a few weeks left until the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs and as the regular season comes to a close, there are a number of spots still up for grabs. We’ve some remaining Canadian interest too as we get ready for 31 teams to become just 16.
Who will make it through to the next phase and retain their hopes of becoming Stanley Cup Champions for 2020?
Artemi Panarin (@artemiypanarin) has been on both sides of this matchup but now bleeds @NYRangers blue. Which pair would you take? 🤔@NYRangers vs. @NHLBlackhawks on Wednesday Night Hockey at 8 ET on @NHLonNBCSports. pic.twitter.com/XU7kd3h5i3
— NHL (@NHL) February 18, 2020
For much of this regular season, the battle for favouritism in the Eastern Conference has been between Tampa Bay Lightning and last season’s beaten finalists the Boston Bruins. At the time of writing, Tampa has sneaked ahead at odds of 3.60 to win the Conference while the Bruins follow at 4.00 with Sports Interaction
In terms of qualification to the playoffs, both teams are certainties but what about those sides where progression is still in the balance? At this advanced stage of the regular campaign, we can probably add the remaining four teams currently occupying the top three places in each division. We’re therefore including Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders and Canada’s first representatives the Toronto Maple Leafs.
We, therefore, need to focus on two wild card slots that are currently occupied by the Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers. They are the vulnerable teams and we suspect that they could be overtaken by the Carolina Hurricanes and the Florida Panthers who lurk just behind.
The teams at the top of the Eastern Conference also occupy the favourites’ berths in the Stanley Cup betting so wherewith the west’s challenge come from? Once again, we have a fairly tight outright market in this respect with Colorado Avalanche the marginal favourites to win the Conference at 4.00 with Bodog. That figure leaves reigning Stanley Cup Champions the St Louis Blues just behind at 4.75 with PowerPlay.
Once again, we can move both of those teams through to the playoff stage and joining them will be the other top three sides including the Dallas Stars and the Vegas Golden Knights. The good news for Canadian hockey fans sees two more teams set to go through automatically to the next stage. Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks both look handily placed in the Pacific Division and we expect them to progress without any alarms.</p
Once again, that leaves the precarious wild card positions which are currently occupied by the Calgary Flames and the Arizona Coyotes. We may have some bad news for Canadian backers here as the Flames have a narrow gap to the chasing pack which includes the Nashville Predators but there is hope that the Winnipeg Jets can sneak through.
To summarise, we expect the top three sides in each Conference to make it through to the NHL playoffs. We’re at an advanced stage of the regular season and aren’t looking for any real shocks in the latter games.
Those wild card slots are, however, up for grabs and we are expecting some changes in this respect. We suspect that we may lose the Calgary Flames but we’re hopeful that the Winnipeg Jets will take their place. The current form looks promising for the Jets and we’re looking for them to complete the following final 16.
Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Islanders, Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, St Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Arizona Coyotes.
As we wait for developments, the following Conference tips can keep you busy:
- Boston Bruins to win the Eastern Conference at 4.00 with Sports Interaction
- St Louis Blues to win the Western Conference at 4.75 with PowerPlay