- Tampa Bay has become a heavy 2019 Stanley Cup betting favorite
- Four other teams are seen as legitimate contenders
- How do the top teams in the NHL stack up heading into the stretch drive?
The latest NHL futures odds have a few noticeable tiers. At the apex are the Tampa Bay Lightning, who are an uber-short +280. The Bolts have earned their place at the top; they are eight points clear in the President’s Trophy race and own the league’s best goal difference.
The next tier is comprised of just four teams: the Calgary Flames, San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets, who are all between +500 and +750.
Before taking a closer look at the top-five contenders, here are the full odds for all 31 teams.
2019 Stanley Cup Futures
|Team||Odds at Bovada (Feb. 6)||Points||Goal Difference|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+280||81||+58|
|San Jose Sharks||+700||69||+22|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+750||69||+40|
|New York Islanders||+1400||66||+24|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+1600||64||+13|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||+3000||61||+7|
|St. Louis Blues||+6000||53||-7|
|New York Rangers||+15000||54||-26|
|New Jersey Devils||+25000||47||-25|
|Detroit Red Wings||+30000||49||-24|
|Los Angeles Kings||+35000||48||-33|
Tampa Bay Lightning
Why they will win it all: It would be doing a disservice to Tampa to merely say that they have “balance.” That wouldn’t accurately depict how good they are at both ends of the ice. They sit first in the entire NHL in goals for (207) and second in the East in goals against (149).
Their top-six forwards are as good as any group in the league, led by NHL scoring-leader Nikita Kucherov. Their bottom six also meets that description.
Their defense corps is so solid that Norris contender Victor Hedman only has to log 22:28 minutes per night. Ryan McDonagh is much healthier than he was last year and has returned to the elite status he always had in New York.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is having arguably his best season to-date in net, posting a .926 SV% and 2.44 GAA.
Why they won’t win it all: The NHL playoffs are the biggest crapshoot in all of sports. The President’s Trophy winner has only won the Stanley Cup once in the last decade (2012-13 Blackhawks).
Not a single one has even made the finals since 2013.
Basically, there’s more parity in the NHL than any other major sports league and winning four straight best-of-seven series requires having a lot bounces go in your favor, no matter how balanced your team is.
Also, Tampa is first in the league in shooting percentage (11.7%), a stat that tends to regress to the mean over time, even if your roster is replete with snipers. By the end of last year, Tampa’s league-leading shooting percentage was only 10.82%. History shows that they won’t keep scoring at their current rate unless they start generating more shots.
Why they will win it all: The Flames are basically Tampa-Lite. They have a great offense (197 GF, 2nd), solid D (152 GA, 9th), and are receiving (surprisingly) good goaltending from David Rittich (2.49 GAA, .918 SV%).
The 26-year-old Rittich, who only had 22 games under his belt before this year, is actually second in the entire league in GSAA (goals saved above average), an advanced metric which factors in shot quality.
They have the depth at both ends of the ice to survive a gruelling playoff run. Mark Giordano is a true no. 1 defenseman, while TJ Brodie, Noah Hanifin, and Travis Hamonic round out a great top-four.
With four 20-goal scorers spread over two lines, and three more with at least 11, Calgary can still put the puck in the net if/when Johnny Gaudreau goes quiet.
Why they won’t win it all: They are relatively inexperienced and untested. The majority of this roster was swept in the first round by Anaheim in 2017 and then missed the playoffs entirely last year.
Past playoffs have shown that random goalies can get hot and carry their teams to glory, but they’ve also shown that great regular-season goalies can stumble in the spotlight. Assuming Rittich will be lights-out when he’s never played a single playoff game is a big leap.
Another reason for concern is that the Flames are right behind Tampa in shooting percentage (11.69%), so their current goal-scoring clip is likely to level off.
San Jose Sharks
Why they will win it all: San Jose has a very solid group of forwards and, when healthy, the best group of defensemen in the entire NHL. Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all Norris-caliber d-men (though Vlasic is not having a good year, in part due to injury).
The ability of San Jose’s defense to drive the play and control possession is evidenced by the team’s Corsi and Fenwick numbers; they sit second in the NHL in both metrics, which essentially means they outshoot and outchance their opponents on a nightly basis.
Up front, Joe Pavelski (29 goals, 48 points) and Logan Couture (20 goals, 49 points) give the Sharks the potent 1-2 punch up the middle that every successful playoff team possesses, while Evander Kane (24 goals), Timo Meier (19 goals), and Tomas Hertl (22 goals) are all huge, fast, and have lethal shots.
Why they won’t win it all: This one’s simple: goaltending. Martin Jones has taken a step back this year. He is literally dead-last in the entire NHL in GSAA (-16.9). Both Jones and backup Aaron Dell have a sub-.900 SV% (.897 and .891).
Even when Jones was playing at a high level last post-season (.928 SV%, 2.26 GAA), the Sharks still got bounced in the second round by Vegas and the white-hot Marc-Andre Fleury. It takes great goaltending to win a cup, and the Sharks aren’t even getting average goaltending this year.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Why they will win it all: Is there any better forward trio than Auston Matthews, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner? This team is fourth in the NHL in goals (190) without William Nylander contributing (2 goals in 25 games). That’s a two-time 60-point, 20-goal scorer who’s been a complete non-factor.
If the big three keep doing what they’ve been doing and Nylander heats up, the Leafs’ ceiling is scary high.
The strong defensive play of third-line center Nazem Kadri is vitally important to this team, as well. When their seemingly inevitable first-round matchup with the Bruins comes around, he will have to play at a Selke level to contain the Bergerson-Pasternak-Marchand line, arguably the NHL’s best.
Why they won’t win it all: Neither the defense nor the goaltending are among the NHL’s elite. Jake Muzzin was a fine addition, and Morgan Rielly deserves the accolades he’s been getting, but counting on the likes of Jake Gardiner, Nikita Zaitsev, and Ron Hainsey to shutdown opposing top-six forwards is not a recipe for playoff success.
The Leafs are also 16th in the league in Fenwick (50.14%). Like the Lightning and Flames, they have a great goal difference (+40) largely because they are shooting at a remarkably high 11.4%.
Why they will win it all: Despite dealing with multiple key injuries (Dustin Byfuglien, Nikolaj Ehlers, Nic Petan, Josh Morrissey) and getting just two goals from Patrik Laine in the last 21 games, the Jets sit atop the Central and have the second-best goal difference in the West (+38).
Under the radar, Mark Scheifele (62 points), Blake Wheeler (65 points), and Kyle Connor (42 points) are almost on par with any top line in the league. Their six-deep defense corps (Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, Tyler Myers, Ben Chiarot, Dustin Byfuglien) is not as potent at the top as the other teams on this list, but it’s deeper than most when healthy.
Just like last year, they are almost unbeatable at home (20-6-3) and they are on pace to have home-ice advantage until at least the conference finals.
Why they won’t win it all: This is another team that’s benefitted from a great shooting percentage (11.02%, 4th). They are only 20th in Fenwick at 49.26%.
In net, Connor Hellebuyck (2.86 GAA, 9.10 SV%) hasn’t been as good as last year. His -8.06 GSAA is fifth-worst among goalies who have played at least 30 games. His -0.86 dSV% indicates that a league-average goalie would have performed a little better against the number/quality of shots he’s faced so far.
Vasilevsky, Rittich, and Toronto’s Frederik Andersen are all well ahead of Hellebuyck in the stats that account for factors like shot quality.