NHL Stanley Cup Futures Bets
The path to the 2021 Stanley Cup became a little clearer when the NHL announced schedules and division realignment for the upcoming season. In a nutshell, Canada isn’t allowing travelers, including professional sports teams. The NHL wanted to minimize travel (covid exposure), so it realigned its teams and shifted to an intradivisional format. That means that teams will only play teams within their division for the duration of the regular season.
That intradivisional format will also continue for the first two rounds of the playoffs, with four teams from each division making the post-season. From there, one winner will be crowned from each of the NHL’s four divisions, at which point the NHL semi-finals will start with the remaining four teams.
There’s no telling how things will shake out between now and when we reach the playoffs, but with a clearer picture on what to expect and Stanley Cup odds up at FanDuel, it might be a good time to enter the futures market.
Vegas Golden Knights +800
It’s no surprise that the Vegas Golden Knights have the second-highest odds of hoisting hockey’s Holy Grail in 2021. The Golden Knights made Stanley Cup Finals in the inaugural season. The following year, they were a phantom high-sticking call away from moving past the San Jose Sharks. Most recently, they made a run to the Western Conference Finals in the 2020 playoffs. The Golden Knights are a force to be reckoned with.
Advanced metrics paint an even brighter picture for the Golden Knights. At five-on-five, Vegas leads the league in Corsi rating, relative shots-for, relative scoring chances, and ranked second in relative high-danger chances. All of this culminated in the best expected goals-for percentage in the league and a 0.989 PDO (a combination of shooting and save percentages), which implies that there is actually room for increased output.
In case you didn’t think the Golden Knights had enough working in their favor, they went out and signed the biggest free agent in Alex Pietrangelo and made their team that much better. Stalwart Robin Lehner was also extended with the team, meaning that the Golden Knights defensive end seems almost impenetrable. Balanced scoring has been a hallmark of the Golden Knights since they entered the league, and they are bringing back their top six scorers, all of whom recorded 46 points or more last season.
Somehow the rich got richer, and they still aren’t priced as odds-on favorites to win the Cup. +800 might be the best price we’re going to get on the Golden Knights this season, and it’s not worth passing up.
Montreal Canadiens +3100
2021 might be the best chance for a Canadian team to bring the Stanley Cup north of the border. With the NHL’s divisional realignment, a Canadian team is guaranteed a spot in the semi-finals. That means that regardless of the outcome, Canada will have a vested interest in the playoffs. At first glance, the Montreal Canadiens might not be the best-looking team of the Canadian bunch, but there is reason to believe in them.
The Canadiens were second in the league in Corsi rating, relative shots-for, and relative scoring chances at five-on-five while ranking third in relative high-danger chances. This resulted in the league’s second-ranked expected goals-for percentage at 54.0%. Despite these metrics working in their favor, the Habs finished 13th in goals-for percentage with a mark of 50.9%. The Canadiens also posted a PDO of 0.992, which is slightly below the hypothetical average of 1.000. In reconciling that information, the Canadiens are due for increased output, which might be made easier by their off-season acquisitions.
Montreal addressed goal scoring in a big way this off-season. They signed former 30-goal scorer Tyler Toffoli to a four-year deal and traded for Josh Anderson, who is one year removed from a 27 goal season. If Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi can continue their development, opponents might be caught off guard by the Habs firepower. Defensively, the team remains sound. All-world players Shea Weber and Carey Price will both be back and ready to defend the Canadiens zone. However, both players are in the autumns of their careers, and health is a bit of a question mark.
Montreal solidified their back-end by trading for Jake Allen, who has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career, and defenseman Joel Edmundson, who posted a positive Corsi rating despite getting most of his starts in the defensive end. Both players will be relied upon defensively and should complement the Habs system nicely.
Take note — the Habs have 14 draft picks in the 2021 NHL draft, which means that they’ll have the capital required to make a move for a playoff rental if needed.
Like most long-shot teams, the Habs aren’t without their question marks, but at +3100, that’s a gamble worth making.