NHL betting, odds: New York Rangers have been best team in hockey for over two months
The Boston Bruins are currently 40-8-5 and hold a sizable advantage over the Carolina Hurricanes, who are the second best team in the NHL. Boston is on pace to finish with about 132 points and 62 wins. Both marks would tie the current record in each category. It has been a level of domination by Boston that we rarely see in this league. Boston is a deserving +450 favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
With all of that being said, it has been nine seasons since the league's best regular season team went on to win the Stanley Cup. The last team to have a season this dominant was the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. That Lightning team was swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the playoffs.
Today, I'm looking at two teams, one in each conference, that present betting value at their current numbers. It might be the last opportunity to get two of the league's better teams at somewhat inflated prices.
Rangers have been red hot
On Dec. 3, the New York Rangers lost as a -285 home favorite to the putrid Chicago Blackhawks by a score of 5-2. The loss was their fifth loss in six games and New York had just 11 wins in its first 26 games. After coming off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, it was a surprising and disappointing start for the Rangers. Some around the team believed that coach Gerard Gallant was on the hot seat.
Since that loss however, the Rangers' season has undergone a complete 180. In the 28 games since, the Rangers are 21-4-3. They've earned points in 24 of their last 28 games and have won six in a row. Only the Edmonton Oilers are scoring more goals per game over the last 2 1/2 months. Only the Bruins and Dallas Stars are giving up fewer goals during that same stretch.
After winning the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender last season, Igor Shesterkin has been rather average this season. He ranks 14th in save percentage, 11th in goals against average and 10th in goals saved above expectation. In a way, that makes me more bullish on the Rangers. Last year, it was clear this was a team overachieving on the backs of a historic goaltending performance. This year, they are winning, and while Shesterkin has been solid, he's not single-handedly carrying them to victories. If Shesterkin gets hot in the playoffs like we know he's capable of, that makes them all the more dangerous.
The team is littered with talent. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad are two of the more productive forwards in the league. Chris Kreider won't score 50 goals like he did last season, but 30-35 is nothing to sneeze at. Vladimir Tarasenko was just acquired from St. Louis, and he still has gamebreaking abilities. Vincent Trocheck and Filip Chytil give them a solid duo at center behind Zibanejad. Adam Fox currently has the second best odds to win the Norris Trophy, behind only Erik Karlsson.
Despite all of that, the Rangers are still available at +750 to win the Eastern Conference. They are 14-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup. At that price, I'm still buying. The Rangers' most likely first-round opponent appears to be the New Jersey Devils, which to me, profiles as a typical young team that needs to take some lumps and lose a playoff series to a more experienced group before they take a step forward in future seasons. Carolina likely awaits in the second round, a team the Rangers eliminated last season.
New York was up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Final last season and had a two-goal lead in Game 3 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. They were painfully close to knocking off the defending back-to-back champions and punching their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. I think they build off that experience and heartbreak and have a very good chance of going even further this season.
What about the West?
Currently, the six best teams in the NHL in terms of record reside in the Eastern Conference. According to BetMGM, the East is a -155 favorite to win the Stanley Cup over the Western Conference. Of course, the elephant in the room when it comes to the Western Conference is the Colorado Avalanche.
The defending Stanley Cup champions have yet to get things going this season. The common belief is that they will figure it out over the next two months and be dangerous come playoff time, but as we saw in the NFL this past season, that's not always the case. Teams like Green Bay and Tampa Bay were consistently inflated by the betting market as the public waited for a spark that never came. Colorado remains the betting favorite to win the Western Conference at +250 and they have the third-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +700.
However, if we're considering fading the Avalanche, why not take a look at the current best team in the conference? Despite currently occupying the No. 1 seed in the West, the Dallas Stars have just the fourth-best odds to win the conference at +600. Dallas has the best goal differential in the west and the third-best goal differential in the league. Dallas has a lot of key factors that could lead to success come playoff time.
Only the Boston Bruins are giving up fewer goals per game than the Stars this season. Jake Oettinger currently ranks third in save percentage, third in goals against average and seventh in goals saved above expectation. He has the fourth-best odds to win the Vezina Trophy at +850. Goaltending can very easily steal a series, and Oettinger almost did just that in the first round against Calgary last season.
The Stars have a legitimate superstar in Jason Robertson up front, who has 71 points in 55 games. Roope Hintz is also contributing over a point per game. Almost just as importantly, Jamie Benn has somehow turned back the clock half a decade and is having his most productive season since 2018. Miro Heiskanen is one of the top two-way defensemen in the sport.
This is a Dallas team that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020, losing to Tampa Bay in the bubble. A lot of that core is still in place. They've shown they can make deep runs in the postseason. Peter DeBoer is in his first season behind the Stars bench, and that is an interesting proposition. In his first season with New Jersey back in 2012, the Devils made it to the Stanley Cup Final. In 2015, DeBoer was in San Jose for his first season as the Sharks coach. Those Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final as well. That's twice already in his coaching career that DeBoer has won his conference in his first season with a team. It seems like he burns out quickly as a coach, but it's clear he grabs the attention of his team immediately.
The Stars are 16-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup, and while it's a fair price, I think most of the top teams in this league are out East. Therefore, I'd look to back Dallas to win the West at 6-1 odds.
Stats from MoneyPuck.com and NaturalStatTrick.com