First-Round Flops

Both regular-season conference champions are gone … out … done for the year. A crazy first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs has left the NHL Futures an unpredictable mess.

Underdogs have won or lead the majority of the eight first-round matchups of postseason play, including the elimination of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied an all-time record for the most wins in the regular season. The Calgary Flames, who last won a conference title 15 years ago after taking the West this season, are another one of the opening-round flops.

With the top two picks now out of the running for the championship, who does that leave as the favorite for North America’s oldest trophy in sports? The defending champion Washington Capitals (+550) from the East and the St. Louis Blues (+550), who were dead last in the standings in early January, in the West are now the frontrunners (NHL Odds provided by Bovada).

Stanley Cup Playoff Format

Sixteen of the 31 clubs earn enough points during the regular season to reach the postseason. That means the Odds of Making the NHL Playoffs are 16-in-31 or 51.6 per cent.

Both of last season’s finalists — the Capitals and Las Vegas Golden Knights — reached the playoffs, while only two of the Original Six — the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs — made it to the second season. The Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers did not.

The top eight teams from each conference in the NHL regular season qualify for the playoffs. In the first round, the teams are split into two separate brackets by division. The division winner plays one of two wild-card teams, while the second- and third-place teams square off in the other.

There is no reseeding after the first round. If a wild card beats the divisional winner, that team still plays the remaining team from that division in the second round.

There are four rounds in total, with the winner of the East meeting the champ from the West in the Stanley Cup final. All series are a best-of-seven format with the team with the better regular-season record earning home ice advantage.


Stanley Cup Odds Explained

Betting on a hockey team at any time before the Stanley Cup Finals is commonly referred to as a future wager. Bettors must correctly select a team to win an event that takes place at a later time — in this case the Stanley Cup, which ends in June.

The money wagered will be tied up until there is an outcome and bettors will receive fixed odds when they place the wager. The future odds are normally updated on a weekly basis on Bovada and wagers can be placed throughout the regular season and playoffs.

All of the remaining teams in the playoffs have a plus sign in front of their NHL Stanley Cup Odds. The number after a plus sign in front of the posted odds is the amount of profit a bettor earns on a $100 bet. Let’s take a look at the Top 5 favorites according to their posted future odds on Bovada (regular season record in brackets):

St. Louis Blues +550

(45-28-9) A bettor will earn a $650 total return if the Blues can win their first championship ever ($100 bet + $550 profit = $650 total return). The Blues were last in the NHL on Jan. 2 before winning 11 straight games. “Where we were and where we are now, those guys deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround,” head coach Craig Berube said. St. Louis ousted the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, led by defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and forward Jaden Schwartz, who had four goals.

Washington Capitals +550

(48-26-8) A bettor will earn a $650 total return if the Capitals can repeat after winning their first title ever last season ($100 bet + $550 profit = $650 total return). The Metro division winners were looking as strong as ever heading into the playoffs, but their work is not done yet in the opening round against the Carolina Hurricanes. Superstar forward Alex Ovechkin scored 51 times in the regular season to win Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leader in goals for the eighth time.

Columbus Blue Jackets +650

(47-31-4) A bettor will earn a $750 total return if the Blue Jackets can win the first championship in their 19-year history ($100 bet + $650 profit = $750 total return). The Jackets stunned the hockey world with the biggest upset of the season. Not only did they eliminate the top team during the regular season, but they swept the best-of-seven series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. “I think we’re a team that feels really confident now that we’ve gotten in with everything we’ve faced and gone through,” forward Nick Foligno said.

New York Islanders +650

(48-27-7) A bettor will earn a $750 total return if the Islanders can win their fifth Stanley Cup in their 47-year history ($100 bet + $650 profit = $750 total return). The Islanders proved everyone wrong this season as few picked them to even reach the playoffs. Head coach Barry Trotz, who left the Capitals after winning the Cup, has found a new home on Long Island as the Islanders buried Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in four straight games. For the first time in 100 years, the Islanders went from allowing the most goals in the NHL to the fewest in the following season.

Colorado Avalanche +850

(38-30-14) A bettor will earn a $950 total return if the Avalanche can win their third Stanley Cup in their 47-year history ($100 bet + $850 profit = $950 total return). The Avalanche knocked off the Calgary Flames in five games, marking the first time in NHL history that the top-ranked team in each conference has been knocked out in the first round. The trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog carried the Avalanche in Round 1. “To sort of kick down the front door and get into the playoffs and go 8-0-2 down the stretch is a real good sign,” head coach Jared Bednar said.

Stanley Cup Prediction

The odds board has been tipped upside down with the elimination of the two conference champions. With the exception of the defending champs, the current Stanley Cup favorites are all new faces on the big stage.

If defense wins championships, the Islanders are your pick. If you like an explosive offensive line, the Avalanche have the firepower. If Cinderella is your story, then the Blues certainly fit the bill. But it’s hard to overlook the fact that the Blue Jackets trounced the NHL’s best team in four straight. Their fiery head coach, John Tortorella, will have his young, hungry group ready for its next assignment.

Pick — Columbus (+650)

See below the top sportsbooks where you can wager online and choose the best one for you: