March Madness might be over, with UConn winning the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but Spring Madness is about to begin. The NHL playoffs are every bit as unpredictable as the NCAA Tournament is, and in the case of hockey, the Madness goes all the way into June. The NHL playoffs begin on Wednesday night, so let’s set the tone with a look at the Stanley Cup betting odds.
Balance and depth are the key words as we go into this year’s postseason. Last year, the Chicago Blackhawks looked about as sure a bet as can possibly exist in the NHL, and after surviving one huge scare (from Detroit in the second round) and a stiff test from Boston in the Finals, the Blackhawks validated their standing as the top team by hoisting the Cup.
It’s last season’s runner-up, the Boston Bruins, who come into the 2014 playoffs as the Stanley Cup betting favorite, but you have to go eight deep in a 16-team field before you see a sudden dropoff in the odds. Here’s how they stack up…
St. Louis: 9-2
San Jose: 10-1
Los Angeles: 12-1
That’s a decent range from the Bruins at the top to the Kings, as the eight-best price. But there’s no sharp drop anywhere within the range, the kind you would normally see after 3-5 teams. Add to that the fact that Los Angeles won the Cup in 2012 and made the Western Conference Finals in 2013, and you have the makings of a bracket stacked with championship quality.
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But it wouldn’t be hockey if we didn’t have the dark horses and the longshots. Here’s the next group of five…
NY Rangers: 20-1
Tampa Bay: 25-1
And three teams fall in the category of a true longshot bet…
TheSportsNotebook will be providing regular coverage of the NHL playoffs. At some point between Tuesday and the early part of the day Wednesday, we’ll have a Tale of the Tape—a snapshot look at all 16 teams, what they do well, what they don’t and who the key players to watch are.
Then we’ll move into specific previews of each first-round series, and from there settle into regular game coverage, as the puck drops on Wednesday at 7 PM ET.