Metro recommends two more season points total wagers and picks a Stanley Cup winner in this week’s look at the NHL futures odds market.
Chicago Blackhawks - Under 84.5 points (-110)
The Chicago Blackhawks saw a 10-year streak of making the playoffs go by the boards last year as they finished dead last in the Central Division. The decline in 2017-18 wasn’t all that surprising as more and more supporting players from Chicago’s salad days have departed, leaving behind the aging core of a dynasty that won three Stanley Cups over five seasons.
However, the tailspin the Blackhawks went into without Corey Crawford between the pipes was alarming.
Apparently unperturbed, GM Stan Bowman went out and signed the past-their-primes Cam Ward and Chris Kunitz instead of trading away some pieces for draft picks. Those moves suggest that the Blackhawks believe they can chase a championship with their current roster, which is highly unrealistic with Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad posting declining goal totals year-over-year for the last three seasons. Look for Chicago’s slide to continue in 2018-19, and perhaps then Bowman will see the light and begin planning for the organization’s not-so-immediate future.
San Jose Sharks - Over 97.5 points (-110)
In contrast to the Blackhawks, San Jose’s aging core got to 100 points last year and advanced to the second round of the playoffs before losing to the Vegas Golden Knights.
There’s reason for optimism for the Sharks this year as they reload for what might be the last chance for Joe Thornton to win a Stanley Cup, as they’ll have a full year from Evander Kane after bringing him in at last year’s trade deadline. GM Doug Wilson should make some aggressive moves at the 2019 trade deadline assuming his team is in the hunt, as 11 player contracts will be coming off the books at season’s end, including captain Joe Pavelski’s.
The Sharks have the scoring depth to make it to 100 points once more with Logan Couture and Thomas Hertl lacing up the skates every night, and Martin Jones is one of the more reliable goaltenders in the league.
Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup (8-1)
Picking the favorite to win the Stanley Cup seems a little boring, but 8-1 is a fair price on a Lightning team that’s stacked from top-to-bottom. They took Washington, the eventual champs, to the brink in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after a franchise-record 113-point effort last season.
Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov lead the scoring as perhaps the best one-two punch in the NHL, and Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman patrols the blueline with Ryan McDonagh and Anton Straalman behind him. And not to mention, 24-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy is already among the best goalies in the game.
An 82-game season is enough to test any team’s depth, but the Lightning are best-equipped to persevere and win Lord Stanley’s hardware in 2019.