Making a Case for All Five Teams Still Alive for the Stanley Cup

NHL Jun 10, 2021

We're getting close to the Stanely Cup semi-finals.  Five NHL teams are still alive as contenders.

The Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, and Tampa Bay Lightning each have locked up a spot in the final four, as their respective division winners.

The West Division winner will be determined in next game (or two) between the Colorado Avalanche and Las Vegas Golden Knights.  Game 6 of the intense playoff series will be played tonight.  If needed, Game 7 would be played on Saturday, June 12th.

Despite the Golden Knights not quite certain yet as participants in the semi-finals, they are nonetheless co-favourites to win the 2021 Stanley Cup, along with defending champion Tampa Bay.  In fact, Colorado – despite absolutely needing to win the next two games – is shorter odds to win the cup than either of the two longshots, the Islanders and Canadiens.

Here's a look at the current futures odds to win the 2021 Stanley Cup according to SPREADS.CA:

Now, let's break down the odds and evaluate each team and its chances to win the cup:

Montreal     12-1 – The famed Canadiens are this year's Cinderella team.  No one expected Montreal to be here, perhaps not even the Habs.  In recent years, the NHL playoffs have been fertile ground for suprise teams.  Recall the St. Louis Blues coming out of nowhere a few years ago and winning the Stanley Cup.  And last season, the Dallas Stars where the surprise team taking the the heavily-favoured Lightning to a sixth game in the finals.  What's most impressive about the Canadiens is their winning streak – currently at seven games.  No team is hotter at the moment, even though they're getting several nights off in preparation for the winner of the Las Vegas-Colorado series.  No doubt, Montreal deserves to be an underdog in the next series (or two, if they make it to the finals).  But these odds are attractive given Montreal is playing with such confidence right now and has a veteran goaltender cabable of carrying the team.  The Canadiens strike me as an attractive wager at this price, and are certainly a "live dog" to give either West Division winner trouble in the next round.

NY Islanders     7-1 -- The Islanders shocked the Boston Bruins by winning their series 4 games to 2 and came out atop the East.  The Isles also scored 15 goals in their last three games.  Nonetheless, they're longshots at +700 to win the cup.  The path to victory likely goes through Tampa Bay and then (according to the odds) Las Vegas.  Assuming this worst-case scenario for New York, are their odds any better than 7 to 1 to win eight games against those two very tough opponents?  Probably not.  However, it's worth noting the Islanders have advanced past the league’s semifinals for the second year in a row, and beyond the First Round for the third year in a row.  So, this team has a recent history of going deep into post-season play.  However, they are underdogs for a reason:  The Isles have found that postseason success despite not having consistently great regular season performances. Since the start of the 2018-19 season the Islanders are 10th in the league in overall regular season points percentage, and the past two seasons have finished 11th and 12th in the league standings.  So, these odds are probably either about right or longer than 7 to 1 to win it all.  

Colorado     4.5-1 – These odds seem utterly ridiculous.  No team faces a more difficult route to the cup right now than the Avalanche.  Colorado would have to defeat the Golden Knights twice (they're dogs in tonight's game), then win a semi-finals series vs. red hot Montreal, and then win the finals, probably against Tampa Bay.  That's a brutal gauntlet of opposition, certainly longer that the 4.5 to 1 chance implied in the current odds.  Perhaps betting markets are just being stubborn, and unrealistic given the expectations put on this team most of the season.  The Aves were the favourites after the first round of the playoffs when they convincingly swept the St. Louis Blues.  It looked like Colorado would have an easy time in this series, going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.  But the Avalanche have blown the chance to put away the Golden Knights are are now down 3-2, facing elimination.  Even if you believe Colorado will take this to a Game 7, tand they're +120 underdogs tonight, these odds are absurd.  

Tampa Bay     1.8-1 – For several reasons, the Lightning are deserving favourites and perhaps even have value at this number.  First, this team is the reigning Stanley Cup champions.  So, they know how to win, and have won when playing under pressure.  Second, they draw the Islanders in the next round, which is probably an easier opponent than they were expecting.  Third, the Lightning came out of a tough division with three championship-level teams (Carolina and Florida posted the 3rd and 4th most points in the regular season).  And finally, the Lightning have spoken in the media about wanting to prove that last season's victory in a shortened season wasn't a fluke.  So, there's some determination to repeat the hoisting of the cup.  Given the Lightning will be heavily favoured versus New York and then are probably close to even money against the Las Vegas-Colorado winner, the odds are perhaps better than +180 on this team's chances.  If somehow the Canadiens advance, the Lightning would be prohibitive favourites in that series, as well.  This is a very bettable number.    

Las Vegas     1.8 -1 – The Golden Knights have established a winning tradition.  Expectations are high in Las Vegas for a reason.  But there are also reasons to be skeptical about the VGK being listed as co-favourites to win the cup.  First, Las Vegas was taken to a full seven games by the Minnesota Wild in the First Round, which showed some vulnerabilities.  Next, this team fell behind 2-0 in the series and then was trailing by 2 goals in Games 3 and 5 before making mad comebacks in both games and winning.  Of course, those comebacks proved the Golden Knights are never out of a game completely, but for those looking to bet on on against Las Vegas, the way they're winning games and advancing has to be of some concern.  Assuming they wrap up the Colorado series, that puts the Golden Knights in a fabulous position to advance into the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in their four seasons.  Then, they'd be close to even money in a series against Tampa Bay (or heavy favourites against the Islanders).  I think these odds a little high.  I'd have them at least +200 before considering any kind of wager.  

Series Predictions:

Las Vegas advances in the Colorado series.

Montreal gives Las Vegas trouble, but Golden Knights advance in semi-finals.

Tampa Bay handles NY Islanders easily, wins 4 games to 1, and advances.

2021 Stanley Cup Finals – Las Vegas vs. Tampa Bay.  Fittingly, the two odds-on favourites.

Best Bets:

Tampa Bay Lightning at +180.

Montreal Canadiens at +1300