- The first round of the 2019 playoffs saw all four division winners lose
- Only three teams with home-ice advantage advanced to round two
- The eight remaining teams are packed pretty tightly in the new Stanley Cup futures
After the most unpredictable first round in NHL history, all I can say is good luck predicting the rest of these Stanley Cup playoffs.
All four division winners have been knocked out, busting the bracket and creating anything-can-happen scenarios. Whichever of the eight remaining teams can avoid serious injuries and get timely goaltending in crunch time will have a big leg up in the quest to hoist the Cup in June.
With so many favorites watching from home, the new 2019 Stanley Cup futures are pretty tight. Oddsmakers seem to think that any team can win it.
2019 Stanley Cup Futures
|Team||Odds to Win 2019 Stanley Cup at BetOnline|
|San Jose Sharks||+500|
|St. Louis Blues||+500|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+700|
|New York Islanders||+700|
Betting on the Bruins and Blues
The Bruins are the outright favorite heading into the second round. Boston knocked off the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games, and the 2011 Cup champs and 2013 finalists are the most battle-tested of the remaining teams. Veteran forwards Pierre Bergeron, David Krejci and Brad Marchand, defenseman Zdeno Chara, and goalie Tuukka Rask know what it takes to deliver in big games.
In the West, the Blues are attracting a great deal of interest. In addition to knocking off the Winnipeg Jets in six games, the Blues have been the hottest NHL team since January.
Rookie sensation goaltender Jordan Binnington leads a confident St. Louis team that believes it can outlast anyone. Second-line forward Jaden Schwartz stepped up with four goals in the last two games versus the Jets, and they managed to advance despite regular-season leaders Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko combining for just six points in six games.
The Second-Tier Teams
The New York Islanders swept Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins to earn a long rest. Led by Barry Trotz, who coached the Capitals to the Cup last year, the Islanders have the discipline and strong defense to keep rolling, not to mention a lights-out starter in Robin Lehner (.956 playoff save percentage).
They face the upstart Carolina Hurricanes, who upset the Capitals in seven games. The ‘Canes are playing with house money, but if they can push a series to the limit, all they have to do is get the puck to Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams (who assisted on the series-clinching double-overtime winner Wednesday night).
The San Jose Sharks used that previously mentioned luck in their incredible Game 7 comeback against the Vegas Golden Knights. Unfortunately, they might have lost captain Joe Pavelski as well, but the Sharks have a lot of momentum as they take on the Colorado Avalanche.
Dallas gets to face the Blues after knocking off the Nashville Predators. The Stars were 3-1-0 against St. Louis in the regular season and have arguably the best goalie in the West, possibly the league, in Ben Bishop, who posted a .945 SV% against Nashville.
Columbus and Colorado Are Dangerous #8 Seeds
The Columbus Blue Jackets stunned President’s Trophy-winners Tampa Bay with a four-game sweep, and the Colorado Avalanche outworked the Western Conference-champion Calgary Flames. Confidence and nothing-to-lose attitudes are dangerous combinations for both teams.
Of the two, the Blue Jackets have a better chance thanks to a deeper roster that belies their No. 8 seed. Columbus will look to shake off its rust beginning Thursday night against the Bruins. Colorado gets to face the Sharks in Game 1 on Friday as Mikko Rantanen, the co-leading point-getter among the surviving teams, and Nathan MacKinnon look to pick up where they left off.