In the NHL's Western Conference, the surprising Colorado Avalanche enter the playoffs as the Central Division’s No. 1 seed, avoiding a first-round confrontation with the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Despite the Avs' regular-season success, including an 8-3 run down the stretch to edge the St. Louis Blues for top spot in the Central, Colorado sits well back of the favorites at 16-1 in Stanley Cup futures betting at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com, the lines provider to Bleacher Report.
And it’s the St. Louis Blues, who lost six straight to end the season, who enjoy the best odds to win the Western Conference and play in the Cup finals. To do it, they need to end the reign of the aforementioned Blackhawks in the first round.
Series odds: Colorado -135 | Game 1 odds: Colorado -140
The Avs, who had the first overall pick in June’s draft and rebounded for a terrific season, take on the wild-card Minnesota Wild, who are pegged as 40-1 long shots. Colorado has had the Wild’s number all year, taking four of five regular-season meetings, including a pair of wins in Minnesota.
“But can they sustain that success with a young lineup in the playoffs? That is the question on the minds of many hockey handicappers and that is why Colorado is not a huge favorite here in series betting odds,” according to Odds Shark’s Jack Randall, who was interviewed Tuesday.
Series odds: St. Louis -115 | Game 1 odds: St. Louis -120
The other Central Division series has No. 2 St. Louis facing No. 3 Chicago in a battle of titans. The Blues reigned as Stanley Cup favorites for much of the season but currently sit second to Boston at 6-1.
The Hawks failed to dominate in the regular season, but with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane returning from the injured list, Chicago is expected to give the Blues all they can handle.
The Blackhawks sit at 8-1 in futures betting and dominated the Blues in a pair of late-season meetings after losing their previous three games head-to-head.
Series odds: Anaheim -205 | Game 1 odds: Anaheim -175
Despite outpacing the Stars by 25 points in the regular season, the Ducks have managed just one victory over Dallas this season and are 5-10 in their last 15 games against the Stars.
Series odds: San Jose -145 | Game 1 odds: San Jose -140
The other Pacific matchup features a pair of California powerhouses as the No. 2 San Jose Sharks take on the No. 3 Los Angeles Kings. The 10-1 Kings and 9-1 Sharks met five times in the regular season with four games decided by a single goal.
Los Angeles took three of the five games. However, it was the Sharks who came out on top in the clubs’ most recent tilt by posting a 2-1 victory in Los Angeles two weeks ago.