The St. Louis Blues pushed all their chips into the NHL pot during last week, and now they’re favored to hoist the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
According to Bovada.lv, the Blues are solid 5/1 favorites a week after acquiring former Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Ryan Miller and forward Steve Ott from Buffalo last week.
The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins each come in at 13/2 odds, followed by the Anaheim Ducks and Boston Bruins at 15/2.
At the start of the season, the Blackhawks were heavily favored to win it all again, but the acquisition of Miller has catapulted St. Louis to the top.
While Miller’s stats this season are comparable to now-former St. Louis starting keeper Jaroslav Halak, it was believed Miller would thrive even more with the Blues third-ranked defense in front of him. Thus far, Miller is 3-0 in his three starts since the blockbuster move.
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Miller also joins a St. Louis squad that’s third in goals per game and fifth on the power play with left wing Alexander Steen netting a team-best 29 goals and fifth-year defenseman Alex Pietrangelo force-feeding teammates for 37 assists.
The Blues are one of six teams in NHL history to make the Stanley Cup Finals but walk away without a championship. Under legendary coach Scotty Bowman, the Blues made three straight Cup appearances beginning in 1968, but they were swept in all three series.
Two points behind the Blues for third in the conference, Chicago stands to be the first team to repeat as Cup champ since Detroit back in 1998, and the first to make back-to-back Finals appearances in five years.
The Blackhawks first line of Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp is as formidable as any in the league, but little salary cap space limited Chicago’s ability to make any major move to shore up its 12th ranked defense. Goalkeeper Corey Crawford also doesn’t look like the same player who surrendered less than two goals a game a year ago.
Fresh off leading Canada to a gold medal last month in Sochi, NHL points leader Sidney Crosby and wingman Evgeni Malkin are favored to guide the Penguins out of the Eastern Conference.
Pittsburgh holds a miniscule one-point lead over the Bruins, and the two will battle it out for much-needed home ice advantage come playoff time. Boston acquired defenseman Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia earlier this week, and while he’s yet to make his debut the 28-year-old provides even more size along a Bruins defensive line headlined by Zdeno Chara.
Other top teams in contention for the Cup are the San Jose Sharks (9/1), who are just three points back of St. Louis in the West, and the 2012 Cup winner Los Angeles. The Kings (11/1) are tops in the league in goals against thanks to Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones, but have struggled to put any points on the board ranking 27th in goals per game.