NHL Playoff Odds 2014: Handicapping Every 2nd-Round Team's Championship Hopes
It required three Game 7s on Wednesday night, but the first round has given birth to the final eight playoff teams left to fight for the Stanley Cup.
The defending champion (Chicago) and runner-up (Boston) and lone Canadian representative (Montreal) all advanced to the conference semifinals. There are six teams that amassed 100 points in the regular season still alive along with one wild-card team, the Minnesota Wild.
One team—the Los Angeles Kings—erased a 3-0 series deficit to win in seven games.
"This is something we're all going to remember for the rest of our lives," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said after eliminating the San Jose Sharks. "We're not done yet. We have to move on. We're probably gonna start in a few days now. This will be in our heads tonight. That was an unbelievable feeling, a great team effort."
With eight teams remaining, what are their chances to win the Stanley Cup? Let's take a look.
Best Asset: Depth
They have four excellent two-way forward lines, three sets of defense pairs that range from terrifying to solid and perhaps the best goaltender in the NHL. To score against the Bruins is akin to having to slice through the thick brush in an African jungle with a Swiss Army knife. There are almost zero weaknesses with this team, which makes concocting a plan to go about beating them so daunting.
Potential Downfall: Depth defensemen
The Bruins' bottom four defensemen are Kevan Miller, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski. They've done nothing this season to make anyone think they're a liability, as Miller and Bartkowski have been steady in their own zone while Hamilton and Krug have been smart about joining the offense. But there isn't a ton of experience here, so that could be the crack in the hull of the ship.
Stanley Cup odds: 4-1
Best Asset: Steady leadership
Facing a 2-0 series hole against the St. Louis Blues, the Blackhawks rallied for four straight victories, three of which came without the suspended Brent Seabrook. The biggest reasons the Blackhawks are in the second round is the combination of talent and calmness exuded from Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. They are all two-time Cup winners and when the chips are down, they've proven on multiple occasions they can deliver.
Potential Downfall: Corey Crawford
He needed to be better after allowing eight goals on 83 shots in his first two starts against the Blues, and that he was. In winning four straight, he allowed six total goals and earned a 1-0 shutout win in Game 3. Still, Crawford lacks postseason pedigree outside of winning a Stanley Cup after a 48-game season. If anyone on the Blackhawks can derail a third Cup in five seasons, it's Crawford.
Stanley Cup odds: 5-1
Los Angeles Kings
Best Asset: Experience
By rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Sharks in the first round, the Kings became one of two teams (the Rangers are the other) to reach at least the second round of the postseason in three straight seasons. They have a wealth of talent, but the fact this team has been through so many playoff battles served them well against the Sharks. Now that they're facing one of their of biggest rivals in the Ducks, that experience should prevent them having a letdown after a historic comeback against the Sharks.
Potential Downfall: Exhaustion
Only two teams in the past 22 years (1992 Penguins, 2011 Bruins) have won the Stanley Cup after winning a first-round series in seven games. Last season, the Kings needed seven games to beat the Sharks in the second round and looked spent in losing in five games in the conference finals to the Blackhawks. It may not affect them in round two, but playing such a physical, emotional series against the Sharks could hurt long-term.
Stanley Cup odds: 6-1
New York Rangers
Best Asset: Depth
The Rangers roll four lines and three defense pairs about as consistently as any team in the league. History shows it's teams of that nature that tend to have the most long-term success in the playoffs. In their Game 7 win against the Flyers, it was Daniel Carcillo and Benoit Pouliot scoring for the Rangers. The Rangers have had success this season because they can get contributions from anyone at any time, and that could serve them well going forward.
Potential Downfall: Missing stars
As great as it is to get offense from your lower lines, the Rangers haven't gotten much from Rick Nash so far this postseason. He had zero goals in seven games against the Flyers despite launching 30 shots on net. He has been unwilling to drive the net and putting pucks into goaltender's chests from 40 feet away won't get the job done. Henrik Lundqvist was good against the Flyers but he could be better. If he doesn't raise his game, the Rangers won't get past the second round.
Stanley Cup odds: 7-1
Best Asset: Elite, top-six talent
Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have the ability to dominate play, whether they're on the same line or separated. They drove play throughout their first-round victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets and have the ability to do the same in the second round. Beyond Crosby and Malkin, James Neal and Chris Kunitz are deadly offensively as well. This is arguably the best group of top-six forwards in the NHL.
Potential Downfall: Subpar, bottom-six talent
And that was the case before injuries to Brandon Sutter and Joe Vitale in Game 6 against the Columbus Blue Jackets decimated the Penguins third and fourth lines. As the competition stiffens, Crosby and Malkin will find the going tougher. That leaves the responsibility for secondary scoring on the lower lines and if they can't come through, the Penguins will be in trouble.
Stanley Cup odds: 7-1
Best Asset: Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry
The dynamic duo combined for five goals and nine assists in the six-game series, with Getzlaf missing Game 5 with an upper-body injury. Perry had the primary assists on the Ducks' two goals in the final two minutes of the third period of Game 6 to tie the score a force overtime in the clinching game vs. the Dallas Stars. Getzlaf had three goals in his first four games of the series, the final two coming after absorbing a Tyler Seguin one-timer in the face during Game 1.
Potential Downfall: Advanced statistics
The Ducks finished 13th of the 16 playoff teams in Fenwick close differential (-10.6) yet still found a way to win despite being outshot so heavily. Their PDO (the sum of shooting percentage and save percentage at even strength) in the first round was 103.9, the second-highest number in the league. Regression has been staring the Ducks in the face all season, and it may finally smack them in the chops during the second round.
Stanley Cup odds: 10-1
Best Asset: Carey Price
He has the ability to be the great equalizer against superior teams, and that's what he will need to be in the second round against the Bruins. Price won Olympic gold at Sochi in February and while that came behind one of the best hockey teams ever assembled, it was still a successful performance in a high-pressure situation.
Potential Downfall: Size and strength
They're not exactly the tiny group that existed as recently as a few years ago (and really, that team took the 2011 Bruins to seven games in the first round), but they don't have as much size and strength as most of the remaining teams. Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais and Daniel Briere won't bowl over anyone, but Lars Eller, Rene Bourque and Thomas Vanek are all physical players. Even with Brendan Gallagher playing much bigger than his frame, the Habs are relatively tiny.
Stanley Cup odds: 15-1
Best Asset: Momentum and confidence
Of all the teams remaining in the postseason, the Wild had the second-worst Fenwick close differential during the regular season. It worked out for them that they got to face in round one the Colorado Avalanche, who finished 27th in that category. But what the Wild have now is a belief they can beat anyone, because while advanced statistics may paint an accurate picture of a team's quality, they know they just beat the West's No. 2 team on the road in Game 7.
Potential Downfall: Goaltending
Darcy Kuemper suffered an injury during Game 7, leaving the Wild with Ilya Bryzgalov for the final minutes of the third period and overtime. It didn't hurt the Wild, as Bryzgalov only had to stop one shot to earn the win, but it could be a problem in the second round. There's reason why coach Mike Yeo went to Kuemper after Bryzgalov lost the first two games of their series with the Avs. With a banged-up Kuemper and an inconsistent Bryzgalov, the Wild are in trouble no matter who plays in the second round.
Stanley Cup odds: 20-1