The NHL lags behind the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball in terms of overall popularity and betting action taken among the four major North American professional sports leagues. However, ask any impartial fan of all those leagues and they will likely tell you that the Stanley Cup playoffs are the best postseason of them all. Nothing beats a hockey Game 7 in overtime for drama.
The chase for Lord Stanley’s Cup begins Wednesday with the Nashville Predators as +375 favorites on the 2018 Stanley Cup odds to win the first championship in franchise history. In 2017, the Predators were the last team into the 16-team playoff field and pulled off an historic first-round sweep of Western Conference top-seeded Chicago. Nashville then reached its first Stanley Cup final in team history but lost in six games to Pittsburgh.
This season, the Predators led the NHL with 117 points, winning the Presidents’ Trophy for the first time. However, history has shown that winning that Trophy generally leads to NOT winning the Stanley Cup. The last to do it was Chicago in 2013. The team that led the NHL in points the past two years, the Washington Capitals, lost in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in each.
Nashville opens Thursday as a -400 series betting favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against the Colorado Avalanche (+330). The Predators have won their past 10 games against the Avalanche.
Led by Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cup championships since that dynastic New York Islanders team at the start of the 1980s.
The Penguins are given only the sixth-best odds to do it, though, at +1000. They open the playoffs Wednesday as -190 favorites on the Game 1 betting lines and -225 favorites on the series prices against the rival Philadelphia Flyers (+195). Pittsburgh was 4-0 against Philadelphia during the regular season.
The top team in the East is the Tampa Bay Lightning, and they are at +600 to win the second Stanley Cup in franchise history. Their lone title was back in 2004. Tampa Bay claimed the Atlantic Division title when the Boston Bruins (+550 to win Cup) were upset at home in the season’s final game against the Florida Panthers, who missed the playoffs. The New Jersey Devils are +3300 Stanley Cup longshots with the Avalanche. New Jersey opens in Tampa Bay on Thursday and was 3-0 against the Lightning during the season.
For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.