Halfway through the second round, the NHL playoff picture looks much different than it did at the start of the postseason. A few of the top contenders were bounced in the first round, and other top teams are on the verge of elimination.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are the new favorites to win the Stanley Cup as they look to defeat the best team of the regular season. The Washington Capitals ran away with the NHL’s best record and a league-high 120 points, but they trail Pittsburgh in their series, 3-1. The Penguins eliminated the New York Rangers in the first round, and they are one win away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in three years.
Washington still has better odds than the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders and Nashville Predators, none of whom are on the verge of elimination like the Capitals. Tampa Bay is in control of their series with New York, leading two games to one after taking Game 3 in overtime. Nashville upset the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, but they lost two of their first three games to the San Jose Sharks.
With so much parity in hockey, a few teams have similar championship odds. The St. Louis Blues have the second-best odds at +325, and behind them are the Sharks (+425) and Dallas Stars (+500).
The Sharks have made the biggest leap since the playoffs started. At the beginning of the first round, Bovada.lv gave San Jose 16/1 Stanley Cup odds. Their chances quickly changed when they eliminated the Los Angeles Kings in five games. Now, the Sharks need to outlast the Predators to reach the Western Conference finals. Nashville had the worst regular season of any team that’s still alive in the postseason.
The Kings, Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks began the playoffs as three of the top four favorites to win the Stanley Cup. With a 2-1 series lead over Dallas, it’s St. Louis that is favored to come out of the West and reach the finals.
The Blues haven’t had much playoff success in recent years. They last reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1970, where they lost for a third consecutive season. Before this season, St. Louis had won just one playoff series since 2002.
Stanley Cup 2016 Odds [Sportsbook.ag]
Pittsburgh Penguins +220
St. Louis Blues +325
San Jose Sharks +425
Dallas Stars +500
Washington Capitals +650
Tampa Bay Lightning +850
New York Islanders +1400
Nashville Predators +1800