The NHL season begins tonight. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that TheSportsNotebook was writing post-mortems on the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals, as Chicago beat Boston in a thrilling Game 6. Now we’re back for more, and in an new era for the NHL.
Realignment has come to the league for the first time since 1994. The six divisions have been consolidated into four. TheSportsNotebook’s NHL analysis has previewed each of the four at the links below.
The one thing I didn’t do in the divisional previews was take broader view at the race for the Cup itself and make some final predictions. Let’s begin by summarizing how the betting markets see the NHL landscape, with the odds on teams to win the Stanley Cup…
St. Louis 10-1
LA Kings 12-1
NY Rangers 14-1
San Jose 18-1
NY Islanders 30-1
Tampa Bay 50-1
New Jersey 50-1
I’m a Boston fan, I genuinely like the way the team looks and I think hell will freeze over before Pittsburgh makes the Finals with that appalling defense. So I’ll take the Bruins to again win the East. In the West, I really have no reason to go against Chicago, but I really like the way Los Angeles played last year. The 2012 Stanley Cup run was kind of a magic ride, as an 8-seed. The Kings might not have gone all the way in 2013, but they did reach the Western Conference Finals and began to look like a much sounder hockey team. I’ll pick them out of the west.
From the standpoint of the betting odds, I really like New Jersey at 50-1. The Devils acquired a top goalie in Cory Schneider. The team has offensive problems, but it’s a lot easier to work on those when you get the right guy in the net. And you’re not going to find a team at those prices without at least a few problems.
TheSportsNotebook’s NHL coverage will ease into the season for the next three months or so, as we check in on different teams around the league for a more focused look than the preseason preview really allows. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Now let’s get the puck dropped and get rolling.