Blackhawks Enter Playoffs as Stanley Cup Favorites
They weren’t the best team during the 2016-17 regular season, but the Chicago Blackhawks are the Stanley Cup favorites heading into the playoffs. The Blackhawks are +400 favorites on the NHL futures market; this year’s President Trophy winners, the Washington Capitals, are second on the Stanley Cup odds list at +450, followed by the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Minnesota Wild at +800.
Chicago supporters hope that playoff experience will prevail in the end. The Hawks have won the Stanley Cup three times since Joel Quenneville took over as head coach in 2008-09. The Capitals have yet to win the Cup since joining the league in 1974. They’ve been to the Final just once, and that was back in 1998 when they were swept by Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings. But if it comes down to raw talent, Washington should have the advantage this year – a significant advantage.
The Next One?
The Capitals suffered the Presidents’ Trophy curse during last year’s playoffs, crashing out in the second round after topping the NHL standings for the second time in franchise history. That team finished with 120 points, two more than the current model; however, there’s little question the 2016-17 Caps are the superior team. They posted a goal differential of plus-81, 22 goals better than last season, and 23 goals better than the next team on this year’s list.
It isn’t Chicago. The Wild, who also have yet to drink from the Cup since their inaugural 2000-01 campaign, had arguably their best-ever season under new head coach Bruce Boudreau. He led the Capitals to four straight division titles, then did the same with the Anaheim Ducks before joining Minnesota last May, but Boudreau made it past the second round only once. One problem for Boudreau and the Wild: No. 2 blueliner Jared Spurgeon (10 goals, plus-33) missed the last two games of the regular season with a lower-body injury and might not be ready for playoff action just yet.
You have to wade through four more teams before you hit Chicago at plus-31 in goal differential. The Columbus Blue Jackets (plus-54), the Penguins (plus-48), the New York Rangers (plus-36) and the Edmonton Oilers (plus-35) all had better regular seasons than the Hawks, at least by this metric – which has much more predictive power than the points standings. The long-suffering Oilers have the longest Cup odds of the bunch at +1600, but they also have the NHL’s next superstar in sophomore Connor McDavid (30 goals, 70 assists), the only player to reach 100 points this year. Edmonton’s last Art Ross Trophy winner? Wayne Gretzky, exactly 30 years ago in 1986-87. The Oilers won the Cup that season, too.