Stanley Cup Odds: 5 Early Sleepers That Could Shock Us All
Published on October 11, 2017
The National Hockey League really couldn’t ask for a better start to the 2017-18 season.
Goal scoring is up tremendously through 1 week of the campaign. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights are 3-0 and a huge feel-good story in the wake of the tragic mass shooting that rocked Las Vegas earlier this month. One of the league’s most popular teams, the Maple Leafs, looks like world beaters. Heck, even the Penguins’ visit to the White House on Tuesday drew tons of media attention. (As they say, any publicity is good publicity.)
Now that each team in the league has seen at least 2 games of action, and some have played 4 times, we’ve also got a better sense of where everyone stands. It’s a perfect time to review the Stanley Cup futures board and see where we can find some value, especially on teams that weren’t expected to do much this year but are off to promising starts.
It’s been nearly a quarter of a century since a Canadian team took home the Stanley Cup, but the early-season odds suggest that that streak has a good chance of coming to an end in 2018.
Led by , who put up a hat trick on opening night, the Edmonton Oilers are currently the Cup favorites at Bovada despite a 1-2 start to the year. And right behind them are the Toronto Maple Leafs, whose blistering offense (19 goals in 3 games) has them looking like a serious threat to snap a lengthy Cup drought of their own. Toronto’s last NHL championship came in 1967.
Behind those 2 teams are the usual Cup favorites, with the two-time defending champion Penguins, perennial regular-season power Capitals and Steven Stamkos-led Lightning all paying +1200 or less. The Blackhawks, who have already won 3 Cup titles this decade and are off to a surprising 3-1 start this year after losing several key pieces over the offseason, are also right there at +1200.
Here’s the full odds at Bovada following 1 week of action:
Betting on Stanley Cup futures isn’t just about correctly predicting who will win the NHL championship.
While it’d be nice to win a futures bet on a huge darkhorse, you can also look at Stanley Cup futures bets as a way to invest in teams that will exceed expectations in general. As long as the teams that you pick on the futures odds end up making the playoffs, you can then start to hedge against them by placing series bets on their postseason opponents and make a tidy profit that way.
So while these 5 sleepers likely don’t end up lifting the Stanley Cup this spring (especially the expansion Golden Knights), I still think they’re worth considering as Cup sleepers at their current prices.
Not only are the Blues 4-0 to start the season, they’re also doing it with a skeleton roster. St. Louis has been without stalwart defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and notable forwards like Alex Steen and Patrik Berglund in each of those games. 2 other forwards, Zach Sanford and Robby Fabbri, aren’t expected back until the spring at the earliest, with the strong possibility that Fabbri doesn’t suit up at all this season.
The Blues haven’t just been fattening up on a soft schedule, either. Their first win of the year came in Pittsburgh on opening night, and they’ve also posted road victories at the Rangers and Islanders. In fact, St. Louis has been underdogs in 3 of its 4 wins, and the other victory came over the Stars, a team that is expected to be one of the top teams in the West this year.
You can debate whether the early success is sustainable since St. Louis has been outshot by an average of 37-28 through 4 games. But don’t forget that the Blues were one of the best teams in the West during the second half of last season, and they’ll only get better once they get Bouwmeester, Steen and Berglund back in the lineup. A playoff spot already looks pretty likely once again for St. Louis.
It’s been a really encouraging start to 2017-18 for the Flames. After dropping a 3-0 road decision to the tough Oilers on opening night, Calgary has responded by doubling up the Jets 6-3 at home, then snapping a 29-game losing streak in Anaheim with a 2-0 blanking of the Ducks.
Going 2-1 in the first 3 games is a 180 degree turn from what the Flames did last year when they opened the season with just 10 wins in their first 25 games. That was head coach Glen Gulutzan’s first year behind the bench, and Calgary may have taken a bit of time to adjust to his systems. Over their final 57 regular-season games last year, the Flames went 35-20-2, so they may simply be picking up where they left off.
The other positive for the Flames so far is that they may finally have the goaltending necessary to take the next step. The Brian Elliott experiment last year blew up in their face, especially in the playoffs, and veteran Mike Smith was brought in over the offseason. So far this year, Smith has posted a 1.68 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.
I also love the signing of Jaromir Jagr, who has yet to make his debut for the Flames. Jagr’s 208 games of playoff experience will be invaluable for a young Calgary roster this spring.
Even though they’re just 2-2 through 4 games, there’s a lot to like about the way the Flyers have opened the season. Philadelphia is averaging more than 3 goals per game and has allowed the sixth-fewest shots per game in the league so far, and the Flyers have accomplished all of that on the road.
If they’d just been able to hold onto a 2-goal third-period lead in Nashville on Tuesday, the Flyers would be 3-1 going into their home opener Friday versus Washington. And despite the blown lead, Philadelphia can take some positives out of rallying from a 3-0 deficit against the defending Western Conference champions to build that 2-goal advantage in the first place. The Flyers were also shorthanded two players on Nashville’s tying and winning goals, and likely would have held on if it weren’t for those late penalties.
Rookie Nolan Patrick has already scored his first goal, and fellow freshman Travis Sanheim is making an early impact on the Flyers blueline. As long as Philly gets decent goaltending (which always seems to be the challenge for the Flyers), they look like a serious contender to make the playoffs in the East.
Alright, here’s where you definitely have to buy into the hedging philosophy on Stanley Cup futures bets.
There’s no way that the Knights will win the Cup in their first year of existence (the Blues in their inaugural season in 1967-68, but that was only because their entire division that year was filled with expansion teams), and it’s also pretty likely that the Knights won’t make the playoffs either.
However, the Florida Panthers missed the playoffs by just 1 point in their first-ever season (1993-94), and the Knights are already proving they’re a lot better than we thought they could be. Vegas blitzed Arizona for 4 first-period goals in its home opener Tuesday, downing the Coyotes 5-2 to join Toronto as the only teams to win each of their first 3 games this year.
It’s possible that the Knights’ hot start is all about adrenaline and trying to give their city something to smile about after the horrific shootings earlier this month. Other than James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas doesn’t have many proven NHL goal scorers.
But if Marc-Andre Fleury (1.32 goals against-average and .963 save percentage through 3 games) can keep providing them with excellent goaltending, the Knights might just threaten for a postseason berth. If they do somehow get in, a +6600 price on them to win the Cup would open up plenty of hedging options.
It’s far too early to give up on the Devils’ chances this season, particularly when you look at how they’ve performed to start the year. They haven’t had the toughest opposition so far, but New Jersey has still shown a much-improved offense in scoring a combined total of 10 goals in lopsided routs of the Sabres and Avalanche.
Lack of offense has been a big issue for a long time in New Jersey, but the Devils made an effort to address it through the signing of Marcus Johansson and first-overall selection of Nico Hischier in the draft. Johansson has already delivered 2 goals and 3 points in his first 2 games, and Hischier earned a pretty assist in his second career contest.
We’ll get a better sense of where the Devils stand when they visit Toronto on Wednesday night (New Jersey is a +172 underdog in that game at Bookmaker.eu). If the Devils can hang tough with the fast-skating Leafs, you’ll want to consider grabbing this huge price on New Jersey before it disappears.