New Champ Will Be Crowned
An NHL expansion team is eight wins away from a Stanley Cup title.
The Vegas Golden Knights were the longest shot on the board (200-1) to capture the NHL crown before the season began in their first year in the league. Now, we’re down to the Final Four and the Golden Knights have outlasted 27 other teams.
Vegas ousted San Jose in six games in one of two Western Conference semifinals. Winnipeg upset Nashville in the other series in seven games. The Golden Knights (+130) and Jets (-160) meet in Game 1 in Winnipeg on Saturday (odds provided by TopBet).
Washington (+150) eliminated the two-time defending champions in one of two Eastern Conference semifinals. The Capitals dropped Pittsburgh in six games and will meet Tampa Bay (-180) in the conference final, which starts Friday. The Lightning sent Boston packing in five games.
Let’s take a look at both best-of-seven series and try to pick the two winners.
Caps Finally Reach Final Four
The NHL will crown a new champion this year, thanks to the Capitals. The Metro Division champs finally reached the conference final for the first time in 20 years.
The Capitals got off to a terrible start in the postseason, losing their first two games at home. They swept the next four against Columbus and then outplayed Pittsburgh to earn a shot at the Eastern Conference title. Alexander Ovechkin leads with team with 15 points in 12 games.
The Lightning are in the conference final for the third time in four years. They lost the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-15.
Tampa has lost just two games through two rounds of the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov has 12 points in 10 games to power the Lightning.
Tampa won the season series, beating Washington twice in three meetings. But the confident Caps have been better on special teams and they have never had more momentum in the playoffs than this postseason.
VGB’s pick — Washington (+150)
Scheifele Leads League In Scoring
Even though the Golden Knights won the season series over the Jets, this will be the expansion team’s toughest test of the postseason.
The Jets have a lot of firepower from their forwards and defense. Mark Scheifele leads the team and the league in scoring with 11 goals in 12 games.
But the biggest challenge for the Jets will be cracking the Golden Knights’ defense. Vegas has allowed just 17 goals in 10 games this postseason. And three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury has been the best goalie for any team in the entire playoffs.
The Golden Knights have stumped the hockey world at every turn this year. The dream continues.
VGB’s pick — Vegas (+130)
Format For Conference Finals
The four winners of the second round advance to the best-of-seven conference finals. The reseeding in the previous playoff format, which ensured the top seed would play the lowest remaining seed, was discarded in 2014.
In the first two rounds, the higher-seeded team has home-ice advantage. Thereafter, it goes to the team with the better regular-season record. For example, even though Vegas won the Pacific Division and Winnipeg was second in the Central, the Jets had a better regular-season record and therefore earn home-ice advantage in the conference final.
The winners of the East and West move on to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Alternative Bets For Conference Final Games
There are first-period prop bets, alternative over/under totals, whether the game will end in a tie in regulation, which team will be the first to score. You can even predict the exact margin of victory and whether the total goals scored will be odd or even.
There are dozens of options with huge favorites and attractive long shots.
VGB’s Top 10 NHL Teams
(Current odds to win the Stanley Cup listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)
- Tampa Bay (54-23-5) +190 — Just two losses in two rounds of playoffs.
- Winnipeg (52-20-10) +220 — First conference final in seven seasons.
- Vegas (51-24-7) +350 — Hottest event in Las Vegas? Knights practices.
- Washington (49-26-7) +400 — First time in conference final in 20 years.
- Nashville (53-18-11) — Predators lose three home games, ousted by Jets.
- Boston (50-20-12) — Pastrnak third in league in playoff scoring (20 points).
- Pittsburgh (47-29-6) — Dream of third consecutive Cup comes to an end.
- San Jose (45-27-10) — Sharks hit a wall against red-hot expansion team.
- Toronto (49-26-7) — Leafs moving on from Hall of Fame general manager.
- Colorado (43-30-9) — Young Avalanche star among Hart Trophy finalists.