This weekend marked the beginning of the second round of the betting Stanley Cup playoffs. What started out as a 16-team tournament almost a month ago has quickly evaporated to an eight-team sprint to the finish. As the playoffs carry on until a winner is crowned in June, sportsbooks like to base the odds of the best teams on who has the greatest defense. However, if this past weekend is any indication, the real method to determine the eventual Stanley Cup Champion and runner up, will be how many goals each team has scored.
Going into this past weekend, we were led to believe by the media, that the Eastern Conference would be all about goals and the Western Conference would be more about tight checking and strong defensive play. Instead, bookie software users have seen a split down the middle, as two of the four series being played in round two are tight checking, while the other two are high scoring affairs. The New York Rangers and Washington Capitals had a tightly checked opening game on Saturday afternoon, with the Rangers winning three to one. New York is a favorite to win the Stanley Cup, mainly because of their sound defensive game. Conversely, the Capitals at least on paper have enough firepower to stay alive in any game. Unfortunately, the goal scorers for Washington have been almost non-existent, which could lead to an early playoff exit.
On the other hand, the other Eastern Conference matchup, Philadelphia v New Jersey has had its fair share of goals. In last night’s opening contest, the Flyers and Devils combined for seven goals; in the Flyers four to three overtime victory. As sportsbook review readers have learned, high scoring affairs are nothing new to either team. In round one, Philadelphia along with opponent Pittsburgh combined for the highest combined total of goals in one playoff series in league history. At the same time, the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers had five of their seven games go over the total as well.
Over in the Western Conference, the two most defensive teams in the free NHL odds this season, the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings, opened up their series Saturday night, and came as advertised. Los Angeles comparable to the New York Rangers was able to win three to one, as neither team was willing to give the other an advantage. Meanwhile, in Phoenix, the Coyotes and Predators decided they would do their best impression of the aforementioned Flyers and Penguins, as the two teams have combined for 15 goals in two games. What’s most alarming about the Phoenix and Nashville series is that both teams rely heavily on their goalies, who have two of the best save and goals against percentages in the entire league. In other words, if neither can stop a puck now, the third round may demolish the hopes of a Stanley Cup berth.
For all intents and purposes, the absolutely safest bets to win the Stanley Cup Championship remain the New York Rangers and St. Louis Blues. Both teams were amongst the leaders in all defensive categories throughout the regular season and the first round of the playoffs. As New York has continued their dominance, the Blues have lost a couple of star players but still remain strong defensively. Each team is led by strong goaltending, which come June could be the difference between a title and dreaming of winning the title.