NHL Playoff Picture 2021: Postseason Hunt and Updated Stanley Cup Odds

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 24, 2021

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Devon Toews (7) skates past Vegas Golden Knights center Chandler Stephenson (20) during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Denver, Saturday, March 27, 2021. Toews scored in the first period. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

The Stanley Cup playoffs are quickly approaching, and the first two teams have clinched their spots in the postseason (the Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche). With 14 berths still up for grabs, teams will be looking to finish the regular season strong to remain in the hunt to hoist the Stanley Cup in July.

The 2020-21 NHL season has been unorthodox. It got off to a late start, and the league changed some things in order to limit travel amid the coronavirus pandemic. There's no Eastern and Western Conferences and instead are four divisions (East, North, Central and West), with the top four teams from each advancing to the postseason.

The regular season has consisted of intradivisonal games, and that will remain to be the case for the first two rounds of the playoffs. There could also be an unusual Stanley Cup Final matchup because it's possible that two teams that are typically in the same conference could go head-to-head for the championship.

Here's a look at the NHL standings, followed by the latest Stanley Cup odds for the top contenders.


NHL Standings

East Division

1. Washington Capitals (64 points)

2. Pittsburgh Penguins (63)

3. New York Islanders (63)

4. Boston Bruins (60)

5. New York Rangers (54)

6. Philadelphia Flyers (49)

7. New Jersey Devils (34)

8. Buffalo Sabres (33)


North Division

1. Toronto Maple Leafs (63)

2. Winnipeg Jets (57)

3. Edmonton Oilers (56)

4. Montreal Canadiens (49)

5. Calgary Flames (43)

6. Vancouver Canucks (39)

7. Ottawa Senators (38)


Central Division

1. Carolina Hurricanes (67)

2. Florida Panthers (65)

3. Tampa Bay Lightning (64)

4. Nashville Predators (54)

5. Dallas Stars (50)

6. Chicago Blackhawks (49)

7. Detroit Red Wings (41)

8. Columbus Blue Jackets (39)


West Division

1. Vegas Golden Knights (68)

2. Colorado Avalanche (66)

3. Minnesota Wild (63)

4. Arizona Coyotes (45)

5. St. Louis Blues (44)

6. San Jose Sharks (41)

7. Los Angeles Kings (40)

8. Anaheim Ducks (35)


Latest Stanley Cup Odds

Colorado Avalanche: +375 (bet $100 to win $375)

Tampa Bay Lightning: +750

Vegas Golden Knights: +750

Toronto Maple Leafs: +800

Carolina Hurricanes: +900

Boston Bruins: +1100

Washington Capitals: +1300

Pittsburgh Penguins: +1400

New York Islanders: +1600

Florida Panthers: +1800

Minnesota Wild: +1900

Edmonton Oilers: +2100

Winnipeg Jets: +2100

Montreal Canadiens: +2200

Dallas Stars: +3000

Complete list of odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook.


Although the Avalanche are in second in the West Division behind the Golden Knights, they are the Stanley Cup favorites heading into the final stretch of the regular season. Colorado has won nine of its past 10 games and 17 of its past 20 to bounce back from a surprisingly inconsistent start.

The Avalanche have won the Stanley Cup twice, but they haven't done so since 2001. They are going to be in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, but they haven't made it past the second round in any of the previous three seasons.

"When they work like this and you start seeing the results coming year after year, getting better and better every year, it's highly encouraging as a coach," Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar recently said, per Mike Chambers of the Denver Post.

If Colorado is going to make it deeper this postseason, it will likely have to get past Vegas, which has made the playoffs in each of the first four seasons in franchise history. The Golden Knights have yet to win the Stanley Cup, but they are again among the top contenders this year.

"What this franchise has done so far is unheard of," Golden Knights head coach Peter DeBoer said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN). "I don't know if you'll ever see that again out of an expansion team."

Las Vegas and Colorado are likely to finish in the top two spots in the West Division, and they look poised to face off in the second round of the playoffs. Whichever team wins that series is almost certainly going to be the Stanley Cup favorite heading into the next round.

However, there are some teams outside of the West Division that are Stanley Cup contenders.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to become the first team to win the Stanley Cup in back-to-back years since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017. Tampa Bay is in third in the Central Division and hasn't won more than two consecutive games in the past month, but there's still time for it to get on a roll.

The Washington Capitals (East), Toronto Maple Leafs (North) and Carolina Hurricanes (Central) are division leaders who should also be in the Stanley Cup mix.

Although Washington is a recent champion, having won the Stanley Cup in 2018, it's going to face some tough competition in the first two rounds of the playoffs, with the Penguins, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins likely to be the other three teams to make it out of the East.

But until the 16-team playoff field is set, it's unknown how this year's postseason could play out. A lot could change, and a hot streak could see a new top Stanley Cup contender emerge in the weeks to come.


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