Sep 26, 2018
Sep 26, 2018

NHL winner odds: Who will win the Metropolitan Division?

Stanley Cup contenders

Outsiders who might have a chance

Where is the value?

NHL winner odds: Who will win the Metropolitan Division?

After months of waiting, the start of the NHL regular season is fast approaching. There are plenty of teams with a chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but which teams from the Metropolitan Division are genuine contenders? Read on to find out.

Potential Stanley Cup contenders from the Metropolitan Division

Pittsburgh Penguins

After winning back-to-back championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17 the Penguins were eliminated by the eventual champs, the Washington Capitals, in the second round of the playoffs last time around.

With a current regular season points total of 102.5 (priced at 1.909*), Sidney Crosby and company are the favourites to win the Metropolitan Division at 3.230* and their odds of to win the Stanley Cup are 14.510*.

In 2017-18, the Penguins ranked fifth in Expected Goals For Percentage (52.69) at 5-on-5, however, they underperformed by almost 5% due to poor shooting luck and poor goaltending. The betting market is clearly expecting positive regression though.

The team was quiet during the off-season but that shouldn’t raise any concerns. The Penguins had played more hockey than any other team over the two seasons prior to 2017-18 and it’s entirely possible that fatigue had a lot to do with their underwhelming season.

One of the most offensively-gifted teams in the NHL does not simply forget how to score goals.

On the other side of the ice, goaltender Matt Murray had the most difficult season of his young career, both personally - his father passed away around the midway point of the campaign - and professionally.

According to Corsica Hockey, Matt Murray saved almost 20 more goals than an average goaltender would have been expected to save had they faced similar shots at 5-on-5 during his first two seasons in the league. Last season, however, Murray was in the bottom five.

There are plenty of reasons to put the Penguins in the frame for the Stanley Cup and there will likely be a large proportion of bettors hoping that the team, and their goaltender, to return to form in the upcoming season.

Washington Capitals

Many have argued that last season’s Washington Capitals were one of the best regular season teams that fans of the National Hockey League have had the privilege of watching in the salary cap era.

Washington won the Presidents Trophy - awarded to the team that finishes with the most points in the standings - for the second consecutive year and having dispatched the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round, they faced off against their Metropolitan Division rivals and defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bettors at Pinnacle pushed the Capitals series odds from 1.92 at open to 1.75 at close and it was clear that despite previous failures in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there was confidence that Washington was the better of the two clubs.

The Penguins had played more hockey than any other team over the two seasons prior to 2017-18.

The series went down to the wire and the Penguins went on to win their second consecutive championship, but by most measures, Washington was the better team through seven games.

Fast-forward to the following season, and any keen hockey fan would’ve told you that the 2017-18 Capitals were a shell of their former selves. Yet, as fate would have it, Washington (despite having the least favourable Stanley Cup odds among teams who made it to the second round the previous year) took care of business.

They exorcised their demons, sent the Penguins packing, and eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals obviously have some very talented shooters, most notably Alex Ovechkin, but they were among the worst teams in the league in both shot differential and expected goals.

Currently priced at 14.010* to win the biggest prize in 2018-19, it should be noted that the current iteration of the Capitals are capable of reaching the same heights as before.

Outsiders who might have a chance

Columbus Blue Jackets

In last season's playoffs, the Columbus Blue Jackets were ahead by two games in their opening round series but - in spectacular fashion - the team lost four straight and were eliminated at the hands of the Washington Capitals.

Goaltending can take a team very far, and Sergei Bobrovsky is one of, if not the best, at the position. Last season, Bobrovsky had an Expected Save Percentage of 91.53 and he overperformed that mark by more than two full percentage points.

However, Bobrovsky seems unhappy with his current situation - which apparently has a lot to do with comments made by upper management and the coaching staff following the team’s exit from the post season - and signs are pointing to a split between the Blue Jackets and the best goaltender in the franchise’s history.

Artemi Panarin, who has been about a point per game player throughout his three years in the league, is entering the final year of his contract and apparently has no interest in signing an extension with the Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets were seventh in Corsi For Percentage, seventh in Goals For Percentage and 11th in Expected Goals For Percentage during 5-on-5 play in 2017-18.

All of the same pieces will return in 2018-19, however, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the team’s most gifted offensive player and their star goaltender.

The Blue Jackets, as it stands, are a threat in the Metropolitan Division, but it seems likely that the team will look to deal Panarin. Couple that with the reported wedge that’s been driven between the team and Bobrovsky, and bettors should exercise caution before backing this team in any kind of futures market.

The Jackets odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 26.010*.

Philadelphia Flyers

Many have labelled the Philadelphia Flyers as the epitome of mediocrity, not just in the NHL, but in all of professional sports over the past five seasons.

The Flyers squeaked into the playoffs last spring with 98 points, doing so on the backs of their best players, most of whom had career years. The Flyers big off-season acquisition, James van Riemsdyk, will be an important piece, but it seems that oddsmakers expect some regression.

For bettors who are confused by that statement, just look to the regular season points market. Despite adding van Riemsdyk, the Flyers regular season point total is set at 97.5 (the Over/Under is split right down the middle at 1.869*), which matches up with their actual point total last season.

Philadelphia’s odds to win the Metropolitan and Stanley Cup are 7.50* and 27.01* respectively. While it is more likely that the Flyers make the playoffs than miss them, the market has been slightly more bullish on the team than projections in the public domain which fall anywhere between 93 and 95 points.

New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils were expected to be a bottom feeder by many prior to the start of the 2017-18 season but a Hart Trophy winning campaign by Taylor Hall helped the Devils squeak into a wild card position.

While the team is better than some bettors might give them credit for, the Devils will ice virtually the same roster as they did last season. Bettors who choose to back them in futures markets will be hoping for all of the pieces to fall into place again.

Last season, Bobrovsky had an Expected Save Percentage of 91.53 and he overperformed that mark by more than two full percentage points.

Could the Devils surprise again in 2018-19? Sure they could, however, aside from hoping Taylor Hall can once again work some magic, they’re going to need goaltender Cory Schneider to come up big.

Schneider has had a tough couple of years in The Garden State, seeing his numbers take a dive after being regarded as one of the best goaltenders in the league prior to the 2016-17 season.

He hasn’t had great luck with injuries either, and questions surrounding his health still remain. He is currently recovering from offseason hip surgery and it has been reported that he will not play in any of the Devils preseason games. Schneider could also miss the beginning of the regular season.

Here at Pinnacle, the Devils regular season points total is at 90.5 - my projection is 91 points - and their odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 41.010*.

New Jersey’s chances of making the playoffs are under 50%, and just like the Panthers, I believe that there is another team in the Metropolitan Division who has a better shot at getting into the dance with much longer odds to boot.

Carolina Hurricanes

It’s become sort of a fall ritual for those in the hockey analytics community to project big things for the Carolina Hurricanes, and while the team has been among the league’s best in terms of 5-on-5 shot attempt differential, they have failed to live up to expectations.

The Hurricanes had the second best Corsi For Percentage and fifth best Expected Goals For Percentage at 5-on-5 in 2017-18 but ranked just outside the bottom five in goal differential, which is what we’ve become accustomed to.

The Hurricanes finished with 84 points in the standings due to the team’s inability to score goals and the lousy play of their goaltenders. Scott Darling was supposed to provide stability in the crease for Carolina but it was a train wreck from the start.

Darling did play very well during his time in Chicago, posting a 20.04 GSAA in 75 games as Corey Crawford’s backup, and it’s not unreasonable to think that he could find his game once again.

Dougie Hamilton, arguably one of the best offensive defencemen in the league, and underrated defenceman Calvin de Haan join what is perhaps one the most talented blue lines in the league. Expect Hamilton and de Haan to fit in right away and bring a different element to the team.

Creating goals could still be a problem for the Hurricanes, and the fact that they parted ways with Jeff Skinner - who was their most reliable scorer - might not help matters. However, with a new head coach, and maybe the most offensively gifted forward in Andrei Svechnikov, all hope is not lost.

Where is the value?

Emmanuel Perry (Corsica Hockey), Dom Luszczyszyn (The Athletic) and myself, all have the Hurricanes projected in the 92-point range, which puts the team right in the mix with Florida and Philadelphia and the market seems to agree.

The general consensus at Pinnacle is that the Hurricanes won’t match up to that as their regular season points total is hovering around 88.5 (although that has moved from 85.5).

Many have labelled the Philadelphia Flyers as the epitome of mediocrity, not just in the NHL, but in all of professional sports over the past five seasons.

The Hurricanes are currently priced at 14.010* to win the Metropolitan Division and 67.010* to win the Stanley Cup, and while winning the division would require everything to go right for the team, making the playoffs is not out of the question.

So, if bettors are looking for a dark horse to win the Stanley Cup, odds on the Hurricanes are nearly twice as long as the Panther’s odds despite being projected by some to have a higher likelihood of locking up a playoff position.

Outside of those mentioned above, the New York Rangers (67.01* to win the Stanley Cup) and the New York Islanders (81.01*) have been given little to no chance of lifting the trophy come June 2019.

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