The NHL is coming off its annual All-Star break to mark the start of the big push towards the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. All four division races remain tight and there are as many as 12 teams in each conference that still have a legitimate chance to earn a spot in the postseason. Most of the top online sportsbooks have recently updated their NHL futures odds to win both the Eastern and Western Conference titles this season and my job is to find the best betting value in the betting numbers.
NHL Eastern Conference Futures
The defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins find themselves seven points off the pace in the Metro Division race behind Washington (72 points) and Columbus (68 points), while Montreal (65 points) holds a seven-point lead in the Atlantic Division over Ottawa (58 points). Boston (56 points) is next on the list coming off the recent break.
The betting odds to win the East favor the Capitals at +350 followed closely by the Blue Jackets at +400 and the Penguins at +425 out of the dominant Metro Division. Montreal (+500) has the best odds to win the East out of the Atlantic; however, Ottawa’s odds fall all the way to +1500 followed by the Bruins at +1600 as the next two contenders from that division. One team you always have to keep an eye on come playoff time is the New York Rangers and their current odds to make a move to the top of the East this season are set at +600.
It is hard to go chalk in this race given Washington’s repeated inability to live up to expectations when the postseason does roll around. The Capitals have finished first in their division in six of the past nine seasons, yet they have failed to advance past the conference semifinals in any of their last eight playoff runs. After dominating the NHL last season with 120 points in the regular season, Washington came up short against Pittsburgh in a 4-2 series loss in the second round.
The Penguins are always a solid bet given their past track record in the postseason, but I am going with the added value in Columbus as my top pick to win the East. This team has been the total package this season with a goal scoring average of 3.3 complementing a goals-against average of 2.4. It also leads the NHL in power play goals and it is ninth in against the power play with a 83.2 kill rate.
NHL Western Conference Futures
The title race in both Western Conference divisions is shaping up to be a good one that should go right down to the last week of play in the regular season. Minnesota is on top in the Central Division with 69 points followed by Chicago (65). Nashville (56 points) and St. Louis (53 points) remain in the hunt. The mid-season log jam in the Pacific has three teams within one point of one another. Right now San Jose and Edmonton have 64 points each followed by Anaheim with 63 points.
The updated futures odds to win the West favor Minnesota at +225 with perennial favorite Chicago second on that list at +300. The Sharks get the slight edge out of the Pacific as a +700 third-favorite followed closely by Edmonton (+750). The Ducks round out the top five at +900 betting odds to win the conference.
Much like Pittsburgh, it is hard to go wrong betting on a Blackhawks’ team that has gone to the Stanley Cup Finals three times in the last seven seasons out of the West. However, I am going to go chalk in this futures bet with Minnesota as my top-valued pick.
Much like Ottawa, the Wild are clearly the top team in the West in every phase of the game. They are third in the NHL in scoring with 3.3 goals per game and they have the second-best GGA at 2.2. What really adds value to this pick is the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk. His 1.88 GAA led the league heading into the All-Star break.