As the NHL regular season winds down to an end, bettors are starting to take a look at Stanley Cup futures and which teams represent nice value heading into the playoffs. The format of the playoffs is different this season, as the top four seeds in each of the four divisions will make the playoffs, and then the final four teams remaining will be re-seeded again according to regular-season point totals. This means the traditional East vs West format is gone and we could have some interesting matchups in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Two teams that stand out as great values on the futures board right now are the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Both teams have deep, well-constructed rosters, and at least in the case of Las Vegas, have the experience of playing in the Stanley Cup finals in the past couple of seasons. Let’s take a look at these two teams and break down how they stack up against the posted NHL betting odds at online sportsbooks.
Toronto Maple Leafs (9.00 or +800)
The Leafs are one of the storied franchises in the NHL and own the largest fanbase out of any of the 31 different franchises. But Leaf Nation has had very little to cheer about in terms of recent playoff success and have not lifted Lord Stanley’s Cup since 1967.
In fact, Toronto is looking to be the first Canadian team to win it all since the Montreal Canadiens did in 1993. Toronto is cruising to a first place seed in the all Canadian North division, with a nine point cushion over second place Edmonton and a division best +35 goal differential on the year. The young stars are maturing led by Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, but the Leafs have added plenty of veteran playoff experience with Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Wayne Simmonds, and Riley Nash.
The one question mark for the Leafs if they go deeper into the playoffs is their goaltending. Frederik Anderson has been injured for most of the year although he has resumed practicing and should be ready to go for the playoffs. His fill-ins include a motley crew of journeymen including Jack Campbell, Michael Hutchinson, and David Rittich who have all impressed in their brief stints. Toronto will most likely have to get by Connor McDavid and the high flying Oilers, but if they can get the goaltending they need, Toronto has an excellent chance at making it to the finals.
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Las Vegas Golden Knights (7.50 or +650)
Las Vegas trails only the surprising Carolina Hurricanes in points this year with 72, but the Golden Knights possess the league’s best goal differential with a staggering +60. That shows you how well the team plays at both ends of the ice under head coach Peter DeBoer, with excellent goaltending from Robin Lehner and Marc Andre-Fleury, who have allowed only 105 goals against this year. That mark is best in the league by a mile, and the offense isn’t too shabby either putting up 165 goals and outscoring high octane offenses like Edmonton, Colorado, and Boston.
The divisional setups this season will most likely see Las Vegas and Colorado finally meet each other in a playoff series, which will be interesting considering the Avalanche still have the best odds to win the Stanley Cup at around +400. Las Vegas is a team that should be determined to get back to the finals after losing to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals in 2018, and then losing out to the surprising Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals last season. It’s hard to find any cracks in the Golden Knights armor this season, and seem like a team that has what it takes to overcome its recent playoff defeats. But first, Vegas will face a tough test and will need to find a way to get past Colorado before even thinking about returning to the Stanley Cup Finals.
- Golden Knights, ESPN - https://www.espn.com/nhl/team/_/name/vgs/vegas-golden-knights
- The Maple Leafs Are Making Their Most Persuasive Stanley Cup Case In Years, March. 3, 2021, FiveThirtyEight https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-maple-leafs-are-making-their-most-persuasive-stanley-cup-case-in-years/