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Blackhawks enter season as favorites on Stanley Cup odds

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Since the NHL is a salary-cap league which is structured to produce parity, it’s surprising that the Chicago Blackhawks have such a gap over the field on the odds to win the Stanley Cup in the season ahead.

The Blackhawks, who won the title in the two previous odd-numbered seasons (2013 and 2015) are listed at +750 to capture the Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins are listed at +1000, with their Eastern Conference rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals, also listed at +1000.

Chicago GM Stan Bowman excels at finding the right parts to complement C Jonathan Toews, RW Patrick Kane and G Corey Crawford. The Blackhawks should be strong, but come playoff time they could have a gauntlet in the Central Division with the Dallas Stars (+1200), St. Louis Blues (+1400) and Nashville Predators (+1600).

Dallas was indomitable in the regular season in 2015/16. The Stars have an excellent chance to deal for a good goalie, since many teams will be looking to avoid losing one for nothing in next summer’s Las Vegas expansion draft. The Stars offer more value than Chicago. Nashville also offers value after adding superstar D P.K. Subban to a core group that includes dangerous RW Filip Forsberg.

Among the three Eastern heavyweights, Sidney Crosby’s Penguins and Alexander Ovechkin’s Capitals are far and away the class of the Metropolitan Division.

Pittsburgh returns most of its championship team, but will have to decide how it goes forward in goal after veteran Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced by 22-year-old Matt Murray for their Cup run. The Penguins’ biggest concern entering the season, however, is the health of captain Crosby, who suffered a concussion late last week and has no timetable to return to the ice. That news, released Monday afternoon, could cause a dip in Pittsburgh’s title odds.

Washington’s window to win is open, and perhaps they can repeat the 2016 San Jose Sharks’ journey as the playoff underachiever that has a breakthrough. Washington’s Braden Holtby is also a strong goalie.

Tampa Bay, led by D Victor Hedman and C Steven Stamkos, has 25 postseason wins over the last two seasons. The Lightning are deep up front and are projected to finish atop the Atlantic Divison standings according to website PredictionMachine.com.

The Florida Panthers (+1600) will be without LW Jonathan Huberdeau (leg) for 3-4 months. That will likely affect Florida’s chance to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs.

No Canadian team made the 2016 playoffs, but the Montreal Canadiens (+2500) offer the most bounce-back potential. Franchise goalie Carey Price is fully healed from a knee injury and cornerstone D Shea Weber came back in the Subban trade. A team from north of the border has not hoisted the Stanley Cup since Montreal did it in 1993.

Blackhawks, Penguins leading the way on updated Stanley Cup odds

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When poring over the latest 2017 Stanley Cup futures, it’s important to remember that only four franchises – all in major U.S. markets – have raised the NHL championship trophy over the last eight seasons.

As a parity-driven league, the NHL would probably prefer that to change, but it’s not surprising that the Chicago Blackhawks at +700 and the Pittsburgh Penguins at +800 have the top odds to win the Stanley Cup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Six months out from the Stanley Cup final in June, they might be the safest, if lowest-reward picks available.

The Blackhawks, led by reigning Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane and center Jonathan Toews, are leading the Central Division. One red flag with Chicago is that their penalty killing is nearly the worst in the league, which could be an Achilles heel in the playoffs. Sidney Crosby, of course, is scoring at a practically career-high rate for the Penguins, who are also pushing for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.

Beyond that big two, though, several other teams possess value. Now that star goalie Henrik Lundqvist can take more nights off thanks to the emergence of understudy Antti Raanta, the New York Rangers (+1000) might be better equipped for the long haul of a two-month playoff run. The Rangers have made the third round three times during the Lundqvist era.

The Montreal Canadiens, with franchise goalie Carey Price, are now listed at +1100 on those NHL betting lines by virtue of a strong start. No franchise from Canada has won the Cup since Montreal did in 1993, but that trend is overdue to end. The defending Western Conference champion San Jose Sharks are also finding their form with defenseman Brent Burns leading the team in scoring,

The presence of 19-year-old wunderkind Connor McDavid has pulled the Edmonton Oilers (+1200) up the board, but it might be too soon to tell whether Edmonton’s endless rebuild has finally come to fruition.

Some of the longer shots worth monitoring include the Minnesota Wild (+1800), Columbus Blue Jackets (+2500, after opening at +10000 in preseason) and Boston Bruins (+2800). The Wild boast the best goal differential in the Western Conference and have been fortified by the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk and the leadership of center Eric Staal.

While playoff success is alien to Columbus, a breakout from center Sam Gagner and a balanced attack have them high up on most experts’ playoff rankings. Boston has also managed to stay competitive in the tough Atlantic Division despite having one of the NHL’s lowest shooting percentages. When those bounces start to go the Bruins’ way, they could be very dangerous.

Quartet of teams tied atop updated odds to win Stanley Cup

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Four weeks into the season, there has been major movement on the 2017 Stanley Cup odds.

Four teams – the Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, reigning champion Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals – share the top odds at +900 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

And the teams trending the most in each direction are the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings. Edmonton, which is on the upswing thanks to generational talent Connor McDavid, has seen its odds come down from +7500 to +1000. The Kings, who did not record a win in regulation time until their 12th game, have seen their odds rise from +850 at the outset of the season to +2500 on those NHL betting lines.

The Oilers have not made the playoffs since 2006, but one only need look at the recent success of the Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane) and Penguins (Sidney Crosby) to know a team which spends years amassing high draft picks can hit its stride very quickly. The Oilers have one of the NHL’s most productive offenses, which is going to keep them in a lot of games. Their odds still carry a lot of value.

Results in hockey are much more random than in other team sports. It is not surprising that most of the teams at the top of the board have a PDO – a team’s shooting percentage combined with the save percentage of its goalies – well above 100. Teams tend to regress or rise toward the mean over time. According to the PDO tables at SportingCharts.com, the New York Rangers (+1000), Blackhawks and Canadiens are all having a high degree of puck luck early in the season.

In Montreal’s case, one couldn’t be faulted for betting on a team which now has franchise goalie Carey Price fully healthy. Washington, led by captain Alex Ovechkin and bolstered by goalie Braden Holtby, is off to a strong start that is sustainable. Each seems to have the most solid case among the leaders.

The teams which currently possess value include the Dallas Stars (+2000) and the aforementioned Kings (+2500). Dallas has started slowly, but if the Stars get an upgrade in goal to back up their skilled attack, they could be poised for a run in the Western Conference.

The fact that the Kings have been snakebit scoring-wise during a small sample of games does not mean a team with premier defenseman such as Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin could not be a dangerous playoff team. The Kings were the No. 8 seed when they won their first Cup in 2012. At this juncture, they have a lot of value.