NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Odds Edition

Toronto Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal with teammate Mitch Marner. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Anyone else, besides me and Ray Shero, feel like they just awoke to Christmas morning?

Playoffs begin this evening, it’s the most wonderful time of year, and we’re about as jacked up as Mitchell Marner after chugging his second-intermission Red Bull.

Drop the puck already.

Only a sweet 16 teams are relevant, so we present our NHL Power Rankings: Stanley Cup Odds Edition.

Teams are ranked according to my (highly questionable) judgment on their strength heading into the post-season. The Vegas line on their odds of keg-standing from Lord Stanley are tagged below each write-up.

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1. Tampa Bay Lightning

Has there been a greater favourite for prom king? The Lightning strut into the dance like they own the place. Only the second team ever to amass 62 wins, the Bolts finished with a ridiculous plus-103 goal differential, only 41 goals better than runner-up Calgary. Tampa dresses three 40 goal scorers. Nikita Kucherov won the Art Ross in a walk, and the Bolts have strong contenders for the Hart, Vezina and Jack Adams. Brayden Point might get some Selke votes, and I have two Lightning defencemen on my Norris ballot. The tournament’s deepest entry by a mile.
Stanley Cup odds: 2/1

2. Calgary Flames

You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “there’s no easy first-round match-ups” during the lead-up to Game 1, but the Flames did themselves so many favour by clinching the left conference. Not only do they draw a Colorado squad that actually lost more games (44) than it won (38) — yay for the lose point! — but if they can take care of business swiftly, the Flames can kick up their feet and watch Vegas and San Jose pummel each other. For all the hand-wringing over Calgary’s goaltending, remember this: No Pacific playoff team gave up fewer goals than the Flames (227).
Stanley Cup odds: 8/1

3. Boston Bruins

Give the big, bad Bruins home-ice advantage as well the edge in grit and leadership edge over the Maple Leafs, sure. And Bruce Cassidy is one of the best coaches no one talks about. But Toronto has the upper hand in speed and offensive depth, no matter how high your opinion of Charlie Coyle. The big question here is, which Tuukka Rask do we get? If it’s the one who posted seven sub-.900 save percentages in his past 10 appearances, Cassidy needs to recognize it quick and give Jaroslav Halak the crease.
Stanley Cup odds: 9/1

4. Washington Capitals

Anyone else feel like the hockey world is sleeping on the reigning champs? Sure, their hardworking Round 1 opponent should be loose and has nothing to lose, but the Hurricanes should also be exhausted from their standings climb, feeling like they’ve already played two months of playoffs. Led by a guy who’s won the Rocket Richard so often they might consider renaming the trophy, the Caps dodged the Penguins and Islanders, have the bulk of their Cup roster in tact, and now know what it takes to go all the way.
Stanley Cup odds: 12/1

5. St. Louis Blues

Hotter than a pistol, the Blues’ remarkable post-Christmas ascent should strike fear throughout the province of Manitoba. Think Ryan O’Reilly was happy to not attend Sabres locker clean-out day? The Selke threat has watched everyone around him pick up the slack over the past three months. The defence looks mean, Vladimir Tarasenko rediscovered his touch, and if rookie Jordan Binnington can maintain his .927 save percentage, look out.
Stanley Cup odds: 14/1

6. Nashville Predators

Good on the Predators for out-pacing the Jets down the stretch. Now the Central Division kings can hang another banner and dodge the bullet that is the third-seed Blues. It’s the same old story in Nashville: The defence is elite, the goaltending should be solid enough to win a round or two, but the offence — rated 19th overall — is suspect. Incredibly, Nashville rolls in with the absolute worst power play in the NHL (12.9 per cent), and new guys Wayne Simmonds and Mikael Granlund (one goal apiece) haven’t provided an antidote. Serious ambitions have been tempered by even more serious concerns.
Stanley Cup odds: 12/1

7. Pittsburgh Penguins

I’ve learned long ago: Never bet against a Sidney Crosby team. Evgeni Malkin is healthy, Matt Murray hit his stride in the second half, and the Penguins’ power play and experience are enough to make them a threat in any series. Yes, the Islanders carry more momentum into the tournament, but the Penguins’ status as a mini dynasty and perennial contender earns them an edge in power.
Stanley Cup odds: 16/1

8. New York Islanders

The Islanders are the perfect example of a sum exceeding its parts. Goals have been difficult to uncover (228 total, putting them 21st overall), and yet Barry Trotz’s group has bought into the idea that all they need to do is find the net once more than their opponent. As great of an advantage Nassau Coliseum may feel to be, the Isles actually registered the same number of wins home and away (24). No one has studied Mike Sullivan’s game plans as intently as Trotz, so if his Jennings-winning goaltenders can keep it rolling, who knows how many chapters are left in this Cinderella story?
Stanley Cup odds: 20/1

9. Toronto Maple Leafs

Despite scoring more even-strength goals than 30 other teams and icing seven different 20-goal scorers — a list that does not include 2017-18 20-goal men Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri and William Nylander — the Maple Leafs’ wildly inconsistent (and, sometimes, disinterested) finish to their campaign has triggered alarms in Leafs Nation. Early leads, steady Freddy, and a sudden (magical?) improvement in team defence are now of essence. Can you recall a 100-point team with a more treacherous road to the final?
Stanley Cup odds: 20/1

10. Columbus Blue Jackets

Jarmo Kekalainen saved face (and avoided, for now, the knife) by qualifying for the playoffs Friday, but the gap between the first and second wild-card spots feels like a canyon this spring. The Blue Jackets’ reward for making the cut? The wagon that is the Tampa Bay Lightning. On the flip side, the Bolts probably aren’t thrilled to draw a hard-checking unit with a hot goalie and some of the league’s most underrated play-making defencemen.
Stanley Cup odds: 33/1

11. Winnipeg Jets

Are the Jets sandbagging, or has something gone dark in White Out City? Connor Hellebuyck needs to channel his inner 2017-18, Josh Morrissey needs to look healthy, and now would be a fine time for the frustrating Patrik Laine (30 goals, dash-24) to embark on one of his heaters. Winnipeg lacks the mojo it had storming into the 2018 playoffs, but the roster is deep and capable and may not be this strong next fall. It’s flip-switchin’ season.
Stanley Cup odds: 16/1

12. Vegas Golden Knights

Originally jump-started by the arrival of deadline steal Mark Stone, the defending Western Conference champions enter the post-season with a disturbing record in their final 10 games (3-5-2). The upside? Their opponent, San Jose, arrives just as scattered (3-6-1). Give the Knights a slight leg up on the Sharks if only because the severity of Joe Pavelski and Erik Karlsson’s injuries is a mystery. Also: Marc-Andre Fleury can be trusted more than Martin Jones to hold up for a long run.
Stanley Cup odds: 16/1

13. Carolina Hurricanes

The Corsi darling Hurricanes no doubt rate as one of the season’s greatest feel-good tales, but Carolina has already been in playoff mode for two months. “I’ll be honest,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s brutal.” The Canes are simply not as deep up front or as nasty all over to survive the Metro. Plus, there’s a feeling that simply making the playoffs and ending the drought is accomplishment enough.
Stanley Cup odds: 25/1

14. San Jose Sharks

After Doug Wilson’s aggressive summer, San Jose was circled as a top-three Cup contender. And the Sharks surely have the coaching and the horses to find a rhythm and get on a roll. Yet, something feels off. Injuries to star players and starter Martin Jones’ alarming save percentage (.896!) have tempered expectations lately. This is the type of group that could get bounced in five games or win it all.
Stanley Cup odds: 14/1

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15. Dallas Stars

Anton Khudobin was a brilliant signing made even more shiny by the frequent days off excellent starter Ben Bishop has required to mend. Jim Montgomery successfully installed a stingy enough defensive system to offset the lack of offensive punch beyond the Big 3 — and might have saved boss Jim Nill’s job in the process. The Stars are finding their game at the perfect time, but Nashville’s blue line will be the difference. If Stars-Preds isn’t the lowest-scoring first-round series, I’ll eat this laptop.
Stanley Cup odds: 28/1

16. Colorado Avalanche

Good on Jared Bednar for winning the turtle derby and making it back-to-back playoff appearances with a budget team in the midst of a mini rebuild. As much as we adore the Avalanche’s top end, depth is an issue on both sides of the puck. We struggle to put much faith in a club that lost six more games than it won.
Stanley Cup odds: 28/1

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