- The top-four NHL teams in each conference will play a round-robin tournament to determine seeding for the Stanley Cup Playoffs
- The Bruins (+160) and Blues (+185) are favored to win the No. 1 seed in the East and West, respectively
- Philadelphia (+350) was one of the NHL’s hottest teams before the shutdown
After an almost five-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NHL will return to action on August 1st with six games per day from ‘bubble’ locations in Toronto and Edmonton.
While 16 teams do battle in both the Eastern Conference Qualifying Round and the Western Conference Qualifying Round, the top four clubs in each conference will play a round-robin tournament to determine seeding in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Starting in the East, we’ll look at the odds to see what franchises are favored to claim the No. 1 seed and provide a best bet for both conferences.
NUMBER 1 SEED IN EAST
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+260|
BEARISH ON THE BRUINS
Having practically clinched home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs with 100 points through 70 games, there’s no doubt that Boston (+160) got a raw deal with a round-robin format that uses three games to determine the conference’s No. 1 seed.
Many, including super pest Brad Marchand, have posited that the Bruins’ old legs will have a harder time ramping up after the restart, but there’s also a case to be made that all the experience on the veteran-laden club will be advantage while playing in such a strange and unusual setting.
Brad Marchand on David Pastrnak being in quarantine: “Boy, that’s news to me. I thought he was on a two-day hangover” Even on a Zoom Conference call, the Marchy personality is still there pic.twitter.com/nFQk6j4qOI
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) July 18, 2020
A much bigger concern is that sniper David Pastrnak still hasn’t been allowed to practice after being in close proximity to someone with COVID-19.
While the Bruins’ league-best record gives them a tiebreaker for the No. 1 seed if they’re locked atop the standings after the three-game tournament, there’s too many red flags to justify a +160 bet. Instead, roll the dice with a young Flyers (+350) team that will be playing like there’s nothing to lose, and who were one of the NHL’s hottest teams over the two months before the shutdown.
Best Bet: Flyers (+350)
NUMBER 1 SEED IN WEST
|St. Louis Blues||+185|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+300|
PLAY THE BLUES OUT WEST
While there have only been three back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the 1980s, that stat can be safely thrown out now that St. Louis (+185) has had a five-month layoff. The unexpected break also means that Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko will be healthy for the playoffs after missing all but ten games last season with a shoulder injury.
The Avalanche (+205) will also enter the tournament at full health after being riddled with injuries all year long, and the round-robin will give them a chance to decide who to play in net (Pavel Francouz or Philipp Grubauer) before the real games begin.
— BarDown (@BarDown) July 17, 2020
The Golden Knights (+300) will also get to split the load between Marc-Andre Fleury and deadline-acquisition Robin Lehner, but will be missing what perhaps was their greatest advantage during their 2018 run to the Cup Finals – home-ice advantage.
Dallas (+475) is all set in net with Ben Bishop, but have struggled to score goals all season, ranking just 26th in the league on offense. Like Boston, the Stars also have a veteran club (nine players over 30) so could get off to a slow start.
Given all they overcame in winning the Cup in 2019 and finishing the abbreviated 2020 season atop the Western Conference, the Blues are our bet to snag the No. 1 seed.
Best Bet: Blues (+185)