by OddsShark (@OddsShark) – Sponsored Post
The Eastern Conference futures board aligns somewhat with the standings, but being at the top in the first week of the new year has hardly been a portent of a Stanley Cup final berth in recent years.
With the 82-game NHL regular season just past its midpoint, the Washington Capitals are the +350 favorite on the Eastern Conference championship odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The Boston Bruins (+450) are the second favorite at betting sites, followed by the Tampa Bay Lightning (+650), Carolina Hurricanes (+750), Toronto Maple Leafs (+850), New York Islanders (+950) and Pittsburgh Penguins (+1000).
Only one of the last six teams – the 2014-15 Lightning – that had the most points in the conference on January 7 has gone on to win the Eastern Conference. But all six of the teams which claimed the Prince of Wales Trophy and advanced to the Stanley Cup final were in the top six of the conference in points percentage at that stage.
The Capitals might well be capable of bucking the anti-frontrunner trend as they have an elite offense led by Alex Ovechkin and keep the defensive zone tidy in front of one-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Braden Holtby. The Bruins, the defending conference champions, lead the Atlantic Division but have had some regression lately with only four wins over their last 10 games. Of course, that can also create the opportunity for a team to regain betting value.
The grueling nature of the playoffs can work against teams having extended runs two seasons in a row. Bettors who believe in fresh legs might want to consider either Tampa Bay, which infamously was swept in the first round last spring after a 128-point regular season, or Toronto, which has also closed the gap on Boston since installing Sheldon Keefe as coach in mid-November. Toronto was unable to get by Boston in the first round in 2018 and 2019.
The Hurricanes’ position on the NHL odds might owe to their run to the Eastern Conference final last season. Carolina has a fairly deep attack and one of the league’s best first defense pairings in Jaccob Slavin and Dougie Hamilton, but the X-factor in their playoff prospects is goalie Petr Mrazek, who runs hot and cold.