NHL Playoffs 2012: Stanley Cup Odds Heading into the First Round

Kevin Stott@@KevinStott11Senior Analyst IApril 11, 2012

NHL Playoffs 2012: Stanley Cup Odds Heading into the First Round

0 of 17

    The puck drops on the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs this week, with three opening games Wednesday night, four more games on Thursday and one on Friday.

    Let's take a look at each team's chances to win the Stanley Cup with odds fresh from the world's largest and most renowned sports book, the LVH's (formerly Las Vegas Hilton) SuperBook here in Las Vegas.

16. Florida Panthers (40-1)

1 of 17

    Because of the NHL’s flawed standings system, the Florida Panthers, winners of the Southeast Division, enter the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the East, thanks in great part to 18 points earned in overtime and shootout losses.

    The Panthers host the sixth-seeded Devils in the series opener on Friday night (NHL NET, 7:05 pm PDT), with Florida opening as a +105 underdog at the LVH SuperBook (NJ -115) in the game.

    Florida is led by Tomas Fleischmann (61 points, team-leading 27 goals), Brian Campbell (49 assists), Stephen Weiss (who has played in all 637 games in his career with the team and is in the playoffs for the first time after his third straight 20-goal season) and goalie Jose Theodore (2.46 GAA, .917 save percentage, three shutouts).

    The Panthers notched only 38 total wins—just 32, not counting shootout wins—but strangely, like all other East teams with lower odds of winning the Stanley Cup, had a slight edge (point-wise) in their season series (2-1-1) against their first-round opponent.

    The last time these two met in the playoffs, the Devils swept Florida back in 2000.

    To me, the Panthers (20-1 to win Eastern Conference) are lucky to even be in the postseason and have the hardest path of all 16 teams to try and win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

15. Ottawa Senators (40-1)

2 of 17

    Ottawa could be a dark horse at 40-1 and worth a look, but like all teams in the Eastern Conference, would have an incredibly tough path to even get to the Stanley Cup finals.

    The Senators travel to Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night to skate with the Rangers (NHL NET, 7:05 pm ET), and are +165 underdogs (Rangers -175) in that series opener.

    Ottawa has a very talented roster led by Daniel Alfredsson (1,082 career points, the most by any active NHL player without a Stanley Cup), Jason Spezza (84 points), Milan Michalek (35 goals) and Erik Karlsson (59 assists).

    In net, the Senators' Craig Anderson (2.83 GAA, .914 save percentage, three shutouts) will have the unenviable task of trying to match saves with New York’s Henrik Lundqvist, but is quite capable of rising to the occasion.

    Ottawa, the No. 8 seed in the East, won the season series (3-1) and opened up at 20-1 to win the conference at the LVH SuperBook.

    And strangely enough, these two teams have never met in the postseason, not counting the Rangers beating the original Senators franchise in a two-game, total-goals series, way, way back in 1930.

    Only Ottawa fans are advised to take a shot on their Senators, who also would have a nasty path just to survive the East and make it to the Stanley Cup.

14. Phoenix Coyotes (30-1)

3 of 17

    Coming off an impressive regular season, Phoenix hosts the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks on Thursday night (NBCS, 10:05 pm ET) in Game 1 of this Western Conference series.

    The Coyotes are a -110 favorite (Chicago, Even) in this opener and will need Ray Whitney (77 points, 53 assists) and Radim Vrbata (35 goals) at their best, along with goalie Mike Smith (2.21 GAA, .930 save percentage, eight shutouts) to continue to stand on his head as he did in the regular season.

    Phoenix (13-1 to win West), the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, won the season series (3-1-0) and the two squads will be meeting in the postseason for the first time this year.

    This series is a tossup and I really don’t think either has a chance to make it to the Stanley Cup finals.

13. Washington Capitals (30-1)

4 of 17

    The Capitals always seem to have big postseason aspirations at the beginning of each season, then reality always brings the team back to earth.

    On Thursday night, the Capitals travel to Beantown to play the defending Stanley Cup champions Bruins (NBCS, 7:35 pm EDT) in Game 1, with the Bruins opening as a -150 favorite and Washington a +140 underdog.

    Alex Ovechkin (65 points, 38 goals) always carries a great deal of weight on his shoulders for this team, which has a pretty solid supporting cast in Dennis Wideman (35 assists) and two goaltenders the Capitals can go to in Thomas Vokoun (2.51 GAA, .917 save percentage, four shutouts) and Michael Neuvirth (2.87 GAA, .903 save percentage, three shutouts).

    The Capitals (15-1 to win East) won the season series 3-1-0 and defeated the Bruins in the  East quarterfinals (4-2) in the last time these two teams faced off in the playoffs in 1998.

    For Washington to advance, Ovechkin, who leads all active players with 0.68 goals and 1.35 points per career playoff game, must be able to put the puck in the net past Boston’s goalie-extraordinaire Tim Thomas.

12. Los Angeles Kings (20-1)

5 of 17

    The Los Angeles Kings will be a team to watch this postseason, and with goalie Jonathan Quick (1.95 GAA, .929 save percentage, 10 shutouts), they can pull off an upset of the No. 1 seed in the West, Vancouver, in this series.

    Los Angeles won the season series (2-1-1) and with Anze Kopitar (team-leading 76 points, 25 goals, 51 assists) firing on all cylinders, the team has fans in Lalaland thinking this might be their year.

    The No. 8 seed Kings travel to Vancouver on Wednesday night for Game 1 (NBCS, 10:35 pm EDT) and could very well pull off an upset north of the border, with Los Angeles sitting as a +125 underdog (Canucks -135).

    The Canucks won the last time these two met in the playoffs in the 2010 West quarterfinals (4-2), but will have their work cut out for them against a Los Angeles (9-1 to win West) team hungry for NHL success.

    I really believe a bet on the Kings to win this series (+170) would be a pretty smart move for the astute gambler looking for some value.

11. San Jose Sharks (20-1)

6 of 17

    San Jose travels to St. Louis on Thursday night for the series opener (CNBC, 7:35 pm EDT) in another Game 1 which will be pivotal in determining postseason momentum.

    The Sharks, as always, are led by Joe Thornton (77 points, 50 assists), along Logan Couture (31 goals) and goalie Antti Niemi (2.42 GAA, .915 save percentage, six shutouts), each of whom also had very respectable seasons.

    San Jose, the No. 7 seed in the West, is a +140 underdog in the opener (Blues -150) and comes in at 9-1 to win the West.

    The Sharks, who were swept by the Blues in the regular season (4-0), ousted St. Louis from the 2004 West quarterfinals (4-1) in their last postseason meeting.

10. New Jersey Devils (20-1)

7 of 17

    The New Jersey Devils enter the postseason as the No. 6 seed, and, as always will depend heavily on the performance of legendary goalie Martin Brodeur (31-21-4) to get where they want to go.

    The Devils have to wait until Friday to play their opener at Florida (NHL NET, 7:05 pm PDT), and are a slight -115 favorite to win Game 1. Like Florida, New Jersey gained many of its 48 points by virtue of shootout wins (12-4).

    Besides the 39-year-old Brodeur (2.41 GAA, .908 save percentage, three shutouts), who is sitting on 99 career playoff victories, New Jersey is led by stars Ilya Kovalchuk (team-leading 83 points and 37 goals) and Patrik Elias (54 assists).

    Of concern for the Devils (10-1 to win Eastern Conference) is the fact they have failed to make it past the first round of playoffs since 2007, losing three straight opening series to date.

    New Jersey went 2-2-0 against the Panthers this season and swept Florida (4-0) out of the 2000 East quarterfinals the last time these two met in the postseason.

    New Jersey is playing good hockey, but with teams like the Penguins, Flyers, Bruins and Rangers lurking in the East, I would find it hard to back this team to go all the way this season.

9. Chicago Blackhawks (15-1)

8 of 17

    The Blackhawks head to the desert on Thursday night to play the Coyotes (NBCS, 10:05 pm ET) and are even money (Phoenix -110) in Game 1.

    Marian Hossa (77 points, 48 assists), Patrick Sharp (33 goals) and Jonathan Toews (23 goals) lead Chicago (7-1 to win West), but the key in this series could be the availability of the injured Toews.

    Chicago goalie Corey Crawford (2.72 GAA, .903 save percentage) will have to be better than he was in the regular season as the Blackhawks, as a team, registered zero shutouts. 

    The West's No. 6 seed, Chicago lost the season series (1-2-1) and these two have never met in the postseason. 

8. Nashville Predators (15-1)

9 of 17

    Another team to watch, and one that could shock the hockey world and win its first Stanley Cup is the Nashville Predators.

    Nashville opened a -130 favorite against visiting Detroit (+120) in Game 1, which skates Wednesday night (CNBC, 8:05 pm EDT).

    The Predators (7-1 to win West) are led offensively by Martin Erat (58 points, 39 assists) and
    Patric Hornqvist (27 goals), but the real key to the team’s success this season has been the outstanding play of goalie Pekka Rinne (2.39 GAA, .923 save percentage, five shutouts), who has played in a mind-boggling 72 games for Nashville.

    The two teams tied in the season series (3-3-0), while Detroit won the last time these two met in the postseason (4-2) in the 2008 West quarterfinals.

    This series has seven games written all over it.

7. Philadelphia Flyers (15-1)

10 of 17

    The Flyers and Keystone state-rival Penguins open up the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night (NBCS, 7:35 pm EDT) at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, and if you could only watch one series, this would be the one.

    No. 5 seed Philadelphia is a +135 underdog in Game 1 (Penguins -145), and will need players like Claude Giroux (93 points, 65 assists), Scott Hartnell (37 goals) and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (2.48 GAA, .909 save percentage, six shutouts) at their best to topple the team Sin City has made the favorites to win the Stanley Cup heading into the postseason.

    Another guy the Flyers will need increased production from in the series is Jaromir Jagr, a former Penguin who will want to show everyone he still has game, even at his age.

    Philadelphia is 7-1 to win the East, and can very well win that long-awaited Stanley Cup again this season if it can only get through the rugged first round.

    The Flyers won the season series (4-2-0) but lost the last time these two met (4-2) in the playoffs in 2009.

6. Detroit Red Wings (12-1)

11 of 17

    Always a threat to win the Stanley Cup, the Red Wings (6-1 to win West) have the guns to do just that, in Henrik Zetterberg (69 points), Johan Franzen (29 goals) and Pavel Datsyuk (48 assists).

    Jimmy Howard (2.12 GAA, .920 save percentage, six shutouts) has been decent in net for Detroit, the No. 5 seed in the West, which travels to Nashville on Wednesday night (CNBC, 8:05 pm EDT) for Game 1 of what promises to be a knockdown, drag-out series.

    The teams tied 3-3-0 in the season series, while the Red Wings defeated the Predators in the 2008 West quarterfinals, 4-2, the last time these two former Norris Division members met in the postseason. 

    Nashville opened as a -130 favorite with Detroit a +120 underdog in Game 1.

5. St. Louis Blues (8-1)

12 of 17

    Here’s a team to really keep your eye on.

    The Blues welcome the Sharks to St. Louis on Thursday night for the series opener (CNBC, 7:35 pm EDT) and are -150 favorites in Game 1 (Sharks +140).

    Opening at 3-1 to win the West, the second-seeded Blues are led by David Backus (54 points, 24 goals) and Alex Pietrangelo (39 assists), and have received superb goaltending from both Brian Elliott (1.56 GAA, .940 save percentage, nine shutouts) and Jaroslav Halak (1.97 GAA, .926 save percentage, six shutouts) this season.

    San Jose won the last time these two met in the playoffs in the 2004 West quarterfinals (4-1), but will be hard pressed to defeat St. Louis in this opening round as the Blues are currently the best they have been in a very long time.

     The Blues swept the season series over the Sharks, 4-0.

4. Boston Bruins (8-1)

13 of 17

    The Bruins started the season out 3-7-0 before returning to form, and like all home teams in Game 1 of these Stanley Cup playoffs, need to win their opener against Washington on Wednesday night (NBCS, 7:35 pm EDT).

    Boston is a -150 favorite (Caps +140) in that opener and is 4-1 to win the Eastern Conference according to the LVH SuperBook.

    Spearheading the Bruins' offense are Tyler Seguin (67 points, 19 goals) and Patrice Bergeron (42 assists), but the guy the B’s need to be on his best behavior is netminder Tim Thomas (2.36 GAA, .920 save percentage, five shutouts), who is the big reason that Boston is now the holders of hockey’s Holy Grail.

    With Nathan Horton out with a concussion, a player Boston really needs to shine this postseason is David Krejci who scored a career-high 23 goals this year.

    The Bruins lost the season series to Washington (1-2-1) but should find a way to advance, and in my opinion, have a very good chance of getting to, and winning the Stanley Cup again if they’re on top of their game.

    The last time these two met, the Capitals won 4-2 in the East quarterfinals in 1998.

3. Vancouver Canucks (5-1)

14 of 17

    The Western Conference's top-seeded Canucks host Los Angeles in Game 1 on Wednesday (NBCS, 10:35 pm EDT) in British Columbia, and like always, will depend heavily on the Sedin brothers and goalie Roberto Luongo this postseason.

    Henrik Sedin (81 points, 67 assists) and Daniel Sedin (30 goals) will be the focus of the Kings' defense but Luongo (2.41 GAA, .919 save percentage, five shutouts) will be the key for Vancouver in advancing to the West semifinals.

    Vancouver is a -135 favorite in the opener (Kings +125) and went 2-2-0 in the season series this year.

2. New York Rangers (9-2)

15 of 17

    The Rangers have had a fantastic season, thanks in great part to the superb play of goalie and likely Vezina Trophy winner Henrik Lundqvist (1.97 GAA, ,930 save percentage, eight shutouts).

    In Thursday night’s opener in the Big Apple (NHL NET, 7:05 pm ET), it will be important for the Blueshirts (-175) and Lundqvist (39-18-5) to win to protect their hard-earned home-ice advantage over Ottawa. Should the Senators (+165) find a way to win Game 1, this series just might go the distance.

    New York gets a great deal of its scoring punch from Marian Gaborik (76 points, 41 goals) and Brad Richards (41 assists) and will need to establish early-on that it is the dominant team in the series.

    The Rangers, the No. 1 seed in the East—where they opened at 11-5 odds to win—lost the season series (1-2-1) to Ottawa, and needs to focus from the drop of the first puck to in order to advance to the second round.

    They may be the top seed in the East, and have had a wonderful season, but I think New York has too many doubts and too many tough teams possibly ahead of them to win it all this year.

1. Pittsburgh Penguins (4-1)

16 of 17

    The Penguins host their heated rivals, the Flyers, in the opening game of the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night (NBCS, 7:35 pm EDT) in the Steel City, and despite being the favorite in Las Vegas to win it all, are just the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Evgeni Malkin (team-leading 109 points, 50 goals and 59 assists) and Marc-Andre Fleury (2.36 GAA, .913 save percentage, three shutouts) had excellent seasons, but all eyes in the hockey world will be on superstar Sidney Crosby to see if he has really returned to prime from injuries that have nagged him over the past two seasons.

    Pittsburgh (9-5 to win the East) lost the season series to Philadelphia (2-3-1), but defeated the Flyers in the 2009 East quarterfinals (4-2) the last time these two met in the playoffs.

    Problematic for Pittsburgh, though, is the fact it has only won one of the six meetings (this past Saturday) with the Flyers at their new CONSOL Energy Center since the arena opened last season.


17 of 17

    In short, it looks like the winner of the Stanley Cup will likely come from the Eastern Conference, but one never knows, as the team advancing may be so banged up that a Western Conference-winning opponent like the Blues, Predators, Red Wings, Kings or Canucks may be able to pull off an upset.

    With the new NBC television contract, most of the games will be televised this postseason, so for the hockey fan, it’s time to stock up on food and beverages, make sure your television and remote control (batteries brother) are ready for the next two months and possibly make a futures bet or two on a team you think has some value, or a realistic chance, to win the Stanley Cup.

    And unlike some playoffs in other professional sports, there can be no off-nights for any of the 16 teams. And remember, any team can win any game or series heading into this opening round.


    > Follow me on Twitter @KevinStott11