Five teams poised to win the Stanley Cup after the All-Star Break
Before the 2021-22 Season began, if you were asked to name the teams you thought could win the Stanley Cup, I’d expect the usual suspects to be there.
The Lightning, Avalanche, and Golden Knights certainly come to mind. Many others would have likely placed the New York Islanders at the top of that list too, but their collapse this season is only rivaled by that of the Montreal Canadiens in terms of expectations.
Prior to first game of the season, oddsmakers weighed in with their Stanley Cup favorites that included the Avs and Knights as the top teams to win it all.
Flash forward today and the Avs still remain the favorite by BetMGM with the Lightning now second and the Panthers third. Let’s dive in and give our five favorites to win it based on performance after the All-Star break.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The two-time champs re-signed Brayden Point, after shedding salary by letting Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and David Savard leave via free-agency, losing Yanni Gourde to the expansion Seattle Kraken and trading Tyler Johnson to Chicago.
The Lightning remain contenders having added forwards Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and backup goalie Brian Elliott. While none of the additions will have folks jumping out of their seats, Tampa is loaded with talent and knows how to win.
Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy are four of the best players in the world and they’re all on the same team.
They currently are a +750, which is good for second on BetMGM. Of course, winning two Cups in a row is tough. However, if they can win three straight in the salary cap era, then they should be talked about as one of the game’s great dynasties.
The Hurricanes, who won the Central Division last season, are every bit as good again. Losing defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the New Jersey Devils is costly, and he won’t be replaced by the likes of Brendan Smith, Ian Cole, or Ethan Bear. They took a gamble on Tony DeAngelo — who is receiving yet another last chance, and it seems to be paying off with 40 points in 42 games.
The biggest improvement was acquiring goaltenders Antti Raanta and Frederik Andersen to replace Petr Mrazek, Alex Nedeljkovic and James Reimer. Andersen is currently in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy.
According to BetMGM the Hurricanes are 6th with a +1600 to win the Cup. With Rod Brind’Amour at the helm and players like Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov up front, those odds may get better come playoffs.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights, who matched the Avalanche with 82 regular-season points in 2020-21, lost to the Canadiens in the playoff semifinals. Vegas is listed at +850 at BetMGM which ties them for fourth with the Maple Leafs.
After reaching the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2018, the Golden Knights have been a contender but keep falling short in big part due to a lack of offensive firepower.
To bolster the attack, they traded away face-of-the-franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to clear up cap space — with forwards Tomas Nosek, Cody Glass and Ryan Reaves and defenseman Nick Holden also departing — and added Evgenii Dadonov, Brett Howden, Mattias Janmark and Nolan Patrick.
They still also boast Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone, and Alex Pietrangelo, making Vegas easily the class of the division.
Vegas took the biggest swing of any contender this season by acquiring Jack Eichel. If he can stay healthy, the Knight may finally capture Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Florida Panthers finished ahead of the Lightning in the regular season but were eliminated by the eventual Champs in the playoffs. This offseason they made some excellent decisions and it could pay off with the Cup high overhead.
Re-signing Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe, Anthony Duclair and Brandon Montour were no-brainers, but acquiring Sam Reinhart from the dysfunctional Buffalo Sabres gives them even more offensive punch. Adding Joe Thornton’s veteran savvy to go with the overflowing collection of in-their-prime players was a smart move too.
Aleksander Barkov is likely going to need a Conn Smythe performance in order to get them over the top. He won’t be going it alone as Jonathan Huberdeau is having a monster season offensively. Add a healthy Aaron Ekblad on defense could get them over the top.
Their biggest question for this season was in goal. The duo of Spencer Knight and Sergei Bobrovsky are getting it done, with the latter returning to top form and leading the NHL in wins by a goalie with 26.
Florida is a +800 on BetMGM, which is good for third.
The Avalanche are the favorite at BetMGM with a +450. Colorado won the Presidents’ Trophy for posting the best regular-season record last season before falling to Vegas in the second round of the postseason.
This past offseason, the Avs did some housekeeping and hole plugging. Starting goalie — and Vezina Trophy finalist — Philipp Grubauer departed via free agency, as did Brandon Saad, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Patrik Nemeth. The Avalanche acquired goalie Darcy Kuemper and signed free agents Darren Helm and Ryan Murray as replacements.
The Avs still boast high-end talent in their prime led by Nathan MacKinnon. They locked up two of their own key players in Cale Makar and captain Gabriel Landeskog. Mikko Rantanen is also one of the top scoring threats in the game. A first place finish should be no problem for this team.
If that wasn’t enough, Nazem Kadri is putting up career numbers with 63 points to lead them in scoring.
For all that skill, is Keumper really the answer in goal or is another move coming? Goaltending is important, but the Avs are so stacked that even capable goaltending could win them a championship.
-Field Level Media contributed to this report.