The 2013-2014 NHL regular season is just eight games deep, but there are already some indicators that more than a few teams have the look of a major contender for the Stanley Cup.
The San Jose Sharks currently own the best record in hockey with 15 points. The only blemish on San Jose’s season is a shootout loss on the road to the Dallas Stars on Thursday. Led by 19-year-old center Tomas Hertl, the Sharks have outscored their opponents by a total of 39-15, but it has not been enough to propel them as frontrunners to win the title.
According to betting site bodog.net, the Pittsburgh Penguins are the favorites to win the Cup at 6/1, followed by the Chicago Blackhawks at 7/1. The St. Louis Blues are 15/2 favorites, while the Sharks come in at 8/1.
Sidney Crosby, who played just 99 games in the past three seasons, has played all eight games for Pittsburgh this season. He is clear leader in individual points with 17, and is tied for the lead in goals with seven. The 26-year-old is in excellent form, and could be set to win his second Hart Trophy.
The Penguins, who have built a solid lead in the Metropolitan Division with 14 points, will try to extend their winning streak to five games when they host the Colorado Avalanche at CONSOL Energy Center on Monday night.
The Blackhawks have failed to find the back of the net like they did in 2012-2013, but appear poised to regain their scoring touch from last season’s magical season. Chicago rebounded from a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and a road defeat to the Blues to win four of their next five games. However, the defending champions have only played two road games, and trail the Avalanche in the Central Division.
While the Avalanche are off to a hot start, they are 10/1 favorites to come out of the West, and just 20/1 favorites to win the Cup. Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov is fourth in save percentage at .950 and has allowed just 1.68 goals per game.
The Blues are in third place in the Central, but have played seven games, while Colorado and Chicago have played eight. Left wing Alexander Steen has been a force for St. Louis. The eight-year veteran has already scored seven goals and has 11 points.
Offseason acquisition Magnus Paajarvi, who Blues coach Ken Hitchcock claims had a “terrific” training camp, has received some recent ice time after sitting out the first six games to give way to the veterans. He could be ready to make up for lost time.
Last year’s Eastern Conference champions are also in the mix for another postseason run. The Boston Bruins have 10 points in seven games and are listed as 5/1 favorites to win the East, but their odds of winning the Stanley Cup are 12/1.
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.