As the start of the NHL season approaches, predictions will already be in place for which team people think will win the Stanley Cup. Will that winner emerge from the Atlantic Division? Read on to find out.
Potential Stanley Cup contenders from the Atlantic Division
For hockey bettors, long-term forecasts are accompanied by a lot of uncertainty. Not only can injuries and trades impact the accuracy of pre-season predictions, but hockey is a chaotic sport and one in which luck can have a big influence on the way a season plays out.
If you’ve ever bet on hockey, you’re accustomed to the vagaries of the game, if you are new to betting on hockey, you will soon find out about them.
Who are the favourites in the Atlantic Division?
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs accumulated 105 points last season, which was good for third place in the Atlantic Division. The organisation sent shock waves through the hockey world this off-season with the signing of free agent John Tavares, one of the best forwards in the game. This move has many fans, pundits - and the like - believing that the team will easily accomplish that feat once again.
The Leafs are currently listed as the most likely team to win the Atlantic Division and the Stanley Cup at 2.550* and 6.480* respectively. The team has a plethora of young, talented skaters and Tavares is a fantastic addition. While Toronto will be in the mix to be one of the league’s top teams in 2018-19, there are also some caveats to consider.
As far as last season goes, the Leafs had the fourth highest goal differential at 5-on-5 despite only having slightly above average shot metrics. This can mostly be chalked up to the fact that they have talent who possess the ability to outvote problems they may have - their goaltender (Frederik Andersen) also played very well in 2017-18.
The Maple Leafs parted ways with both Tyler Bozak and more importantly - James van Riemsdyk who was a perennial 30-goal scorer.
This poses another interesting question; is the acquisition of Tavares enough to make up for the loss of other important pieces, and does it put them ahead of the Boston Bruins, a team who were - by most measures - better than the Maple Leafs last season? Although the Leafs will be a dangerous team and likely vie for a divisional title, bettors should be warned against buying into the hype.
Tampa Bay Lightning
A popular pick to win the Stanley Cup in 2017-18 and rightfully so, the Lightning had a league leading goal differential of plus 48 during 5-on-5 play last season and owned the third best power play percentage in the league, converting on 23.9% of their opportunities.
Tampa Bay ranked first in the Eastern Conference standings with 113 points, and made a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They were ousted by the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference finals despite being a 1.56 favourite.
As far as last season goes, the Leafs had the fourth highest goal differential at 5-on-5 despite only having slightly above average shot metrics.
All of the same players who made the Lightning such a threat last season will be back in 2018-19, and the team will likely challenge for the Presidents Trophy once again.
According to the odds, they second most likely team to win the Atlantic Division at 2.810* and the Stanley Cup at 10.13*. However, while this team is once again expected to be among the league’s best, there isn’t much that separates them from the other main contenders in the Atlantic Division.
If the outcome of the final game of the regular season had been different, the Boston Bruins would’ve claimed the Atlantic Division crown and would’ve had locked up home ice throughout the first three rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs. That’s how close the race was between the Bruins and the Tampa Bay Lightning was in 2017-18.
Aside from a few minor additions that the organisation made and some prospects that will be vying for a roster spot, the Bruins will ice virtually the same roster that boasted a league leading 5-on-5 shot attempt differential of 54 percent in 2017-18.
Returning in 2018-19 is a balanced mix of proven players in the midst of their prime years and several promising young stars who have transitioned to the professional level with ease.
Overlooking a team that is home to what is quite possibly is the best trio in hockey, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak and one that came within one win of the Atlantic Division crown last season could prove to be a costly misake.
There is very little separating the Bruins from the previously mentioned teams and at odds of 4.070* to claim the Eastern Conference title, they could be the potential value play of the season. Boston is tied with the Winnipeg Jets as the sixth most likely Stanley Cup champion according to Pinnacle’s traders with current odds of 13.010*.
Are any outsiders worth considering?
It has been a tumultuous few seasons for the Florida Panthers. Not only did the organisation have to watch their former head coach and two talented wingers (that they more or less gave away in the expansion draft) lead the Vegas Golden Knights all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, but the Panthers also missed the playoffs themselves.
The Panthers have a talented group of forwards, and two very serviceable goaltenders, but aside from the addition of winger Mike Hoffman, the team has done little to improve.
Although the Panthers will likely be in the mix for one of the two wild card positions in the Eastern Conference, it’s more likely that the team will find themselves out of the playoffs than competing for the Stanley Cup in April.
Aside from a few minor additions, the Bruins will ice virtually the same roster that boasted a league leading 5-on-5 shot attempt differential.
The Panthers have 36.560* odds to win the Stanley Cup and while some bettors may label the Panthers as a dark horse and a potential hedging asset later down the line, they’re projected by many to be a mediocre team and it would be wise to look elsewhere for a dark horse instead.
There are other teams in the Eastern Conference that are projected to finish close to or higher than the Panthers in the standings that offer far more value.
Who will be battling at the bottom?
Of the eight teams with the least favourable odds to win the Stanley Cup, four of them reside in the Atlantic Division.
The Montreal Canadiens (76.01*), Buffalo Sabres (70.01*), Detroit Red Wings (111.01*) and Ottawa Senators (151.01*) are all teams that I have projected as having a 25% chance, or lower, of making the playoffs. Of course, 25% is not 0%t - although some are very close - but it’s hard to see any of these teams emerging as genuine contenders.
All statistics cited via Corsica Hockey.
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