The NHL’s Return To Play format is about to get real. The 24 teams in contention for the 2020 Stanley Cup will gather in NHL-controlled COVID-19 protected bubbles in Toronto (Eastern Conference) and Edmonton (Western Conference). No fans will be attending the games.
Five games are slated for Aug. 1, the first day of qualifying round action. Eight-best-of-five first-round series will determine which teams will join the eight clubs awarded first-round byes. The Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference), as well as the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars (Western Conference) will play round-robin tournaments to determine second-round seeding positions.
2020 Stanley Cup Favorites
The Golden Knights, Stanley Cup finalists in the spring of 2018, are given the best odds among Western Conference clubs at +800. The Avalanche are (+900) and the defending champion Blues can be had for +1000.
The long layoff leaves bettors with some unusual variables to consider.
How much weight should be given to teams that were playing well when the season was paused by COVID-19?
The Philadelphia Flyers were the NHL’s hottest club when the season was halted. Philly was 9-1 in their last 10 games prior to the season being called. Are the Flyers worth a flier at +1000?
The Pittsburgh Penguins are listed at +1600. The Chicago Blackhawks are the longest shot on the board at +7500. New Jersey bettors can’t play the Devils – they were among seven teams that didn’t qualify for postseason play. However, the nearby New York Rangers (+4000) and New York Islanders (+4300) will be in action.
Teams with key players injured at the time when the playoffs normally would’ve got underway in April suddenly find their roster is healthy. Does that bode well for a team such as the Columbus Blue Jackets, who will welcome back all-star defenseman Seth Jones and 40-goal scorer Cam Atkinson, who wouldn’t have been available in the spring? The Blue Jackets are an extreme longshot at +6500.
Another key question is how will the layoff impact teams?
Will the early games be ragged, giving an edge to teams with high-tempo offense? If so, the Edmonton Oilers (+2300) and Toronto Maple Leafs (+2300) must be given serious consideration.
Teams in the qualifying round would be required to win an unprecedented 19 games in order to take the cup. Is that too much of an ask?
Betting Pick: Colorado Avalanche (+900).
Who’ll Be Playoff MVP?
The Conn Smythe Trophy goes to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs and BetMGM is offering a prop wager on this outcome.
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is the current +1100 favorite to win this award. Penguins fans might want to take some action on two-time winner Sidney Crosby (+1700). Flyers goalie Carter Hart is +2000.
Chicago’s Patrick Kane won this award in 2010 and can be had for +10000.
NHL Playoff MVP Betting Pick: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche) +1500.
William Hill USA is offering prices on all eight qualifying-round series. The Blackhawks are +145 longshots against the Oilers. The Penguins are given solid -230 favorite’s odds to eliminate the Montreal Canadiens.
Bettors looking for an upset special should consider the Rangers (+130) over the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers are 37-14-1 when facing the Hurricanes since the start of the 2006-07 campaign.