2021-22 Stanley Cup Odds, Dark Horse Pick & Longshot Bets for the Jack Adams and Calder Trophy
Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman.
The 2021/22 NHL Season is entering the home stretch. And with less than three weeks to go until the Trade Deadline, now is a good time for bettors to take a big picture look at the board to find some value before teams make their splashes in the market.
But before I dive into a couple of bets I like as we flip the page to March, let’s take a quick look at where things stand in the futures market with two-thirds of the season in the books:
2021/22 Stanley Cup Odds
Odds via DraftKings
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+500|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1000|
|Vegas Golden Knights||+1000|
|New York Rangers||+2200|
|St. Louis Blues||+2500|
|Los Angeles Kings||+6000|
|New York Islanders||+10000|
There really hasn’t been much of a shake up at the top of the oddsboard since Opening Night. Of the current top-five favorites, only Florida started the season as an outsider, and the Cats were not a longshot by any means. A blazing start to the season saw Florida jump from +1800 toward the top pretty quickly, and the Cats have not budged much since. It’s a similar story for the Hurricanes, who have seen their odds slash in half from the +2500 range.
The Penguins, Rangers, Wild and Blues have also had their odds shorten considerably thanks to strong performances, but no team has seen its odds improve quite like the Calgary Flames.
After starting the season at 50/1, Calgary is now sitting at 15/1 and is -360 to win the Pacific Division. There’s nothing fluky about the Flames’ success, either. Calgary ranks first in Expected Goal Rate, fourth in Goal Differential and second in Goals Against Average through 51 games.
I thought the Flames were a good longshot bet before the season, and I do believe they are true contenderS in the Western Conference. However, now you’re buying Calgary at the high-water mark, and if you are interested in getting down on Darryl Sutter’s team, you might as well wait to see if they hit a snag at some point before the end of the regular season and jump in if they drift.
There is, however, another team that I do think is worth consideration:
Stanley Cup: Boston Bruins (+2500, FanDuel)
At the time of writing, the Boston Bruins are sitting in the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with a 13-point cushion on the Blue Jackets. Boston is a near certainty to make the tournament, and it’s very likely that the B’s end up with the first Wild Card spot, meaning they will play the second-best division winner.
Right now (going by points percentage), that would mean a showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning. However, there’s plenty of time for the teams at the top — Tampa, Florida and Toronto in the Atlantic, especially — to move up and down.
And while the Bruins would rightfully be underdogs against Tampa, Florida, Toronto or Carolina, I do think Boston will have a fighting chance to pull the upset in a best-of-seven against any of those teams.
Even though they rank fifth in Goals Allowed per game, the Bruins are (once again) the best defensive team in the NHL. Boston leads the circuit in Expected Goals Conceded, High-Danger Scoring Chances Against and is second in Shot Attempts Allowed per 60 minutes. This is nothing new to the Bruins, of course, which tells you that this team has been on the same page for quite some time.
Most encouraging for Boston backers, though, is that the team has seemingly committed to letting rookie netminder Jeremy Swayman run away with the starting gig. Among goaltenders with at least 10 appearances, Swayman ranks fourth with a .924 Save Percentage and a +0.594 Goals Saved Above Expected per 60 minutes (per MoneyPuck).
With a stifling defense in front of him, I have no concerns about how Swayman’s game will translate to the pressures of Playoff Hockey.
The top of the Eastern Conference is a gauntlet, but the Bruins play the type of hockey that allows them to punch up against teams like Carolina, Florida and Toronto, who all depend on playing an up-tempo, offensive style of hockey to get results.
Over an 82-game season, that type of hockey can vault a team to the top of the standings because inferior opponents can’t keep up. However, in the playoffs the competition is so stiff that high-risk hockey can lead to issues, especially if you’re defensively vulnerable (Florida, Carolina, Toronto) or have goaltending issues (Toronto).
While I don’t think Boston’s number will move much barring a surge, I do expect that the B’s will be active at the deadline, which makes me think that now could be the right time to strike.
Don Sweeney has never shied away from adding a big fish (Taylor Hall, Mike Reilly, Charlie Coyle, Rick Nash) at the deadline, so I wouldn’t be shocked if Boston ends up with a player like Claude Giroux or Tomas Hertl to help bolster their secondary scoring. Should that happen, this number will likely shorten quickly.
Calder Trophy: Jeremy Swayman (+2500)
As I noted above, Jeremy Swayman has taken over as Boston’s No. 1 goaltender and should see the lion’s share of starts as we head down the stretch.
To this point, Swayman’s excellent rookie season has gone unnoticed. Part of that is because of circumstances out of his control. He spent the first part of the campaign splitting the workload with Linus Ullmark, was unceremoniously sent down to the AHL when Tuukka Rask attempted a comeback. He is also battling some exciting young phenoms like Trevor Zegras, Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider for attention for the Calder.
My hope is that, with Boston surging and Swayman backstopping the B’s, the hockey media will take notice of the Alaska native’s tremendous season thus far.
Swayman is fourth in Save Percentage (.929), ninth in GSAx (+14) and is tied with Vezina-favorite Igor Shesterkin for the best Goals Against Average (1.95) to this point in the season, and if he keeps it up, his performance will be impossible to ignore.
Jack Adams: Bruce Boudreau (+7500)
Bruce Boudreau has worked wonders since he took over for the Canucks back in December. When Boudreau was hired, the Canucks were 8-15-2 and sinking toward the bottom of the Pacific Division.
At that time, the talk in Vancouver was about the team trying to trade off assets and re-tooling on the fly so that the franchise could contend in 2022/23.
That tune has completely changed as the Canucks now sit three points outside the playoff picture, though they have played three more games than Dallas, the team the Canucks are currently chasing.
And even though Vancouver is more likely to miss the postseason than to make it, the fact that the Canucks even have a chance makes Boudreau very live for the Jack Adams, considering the turnaround he’s led.
|Before Boudreau||After Boudreau|
|Goals scored per 60 minutes (5-on-5)||1.84||2.31|
|Goals allowed per 60 minutes (5-on-5)||1.94||1.93|
|xGF per 60 minutes (5-on-5)||2.21||2.46|
|xGA per 60 minutes (5-on-5)||2.4||2.46|
|High-danger chances per 60 minutes||9.1||10.1|
|High-danger chances allowed per 60 minutes||11||10.8|
For this bet to have a chance, the Canucks need to play close to the pace they’ve been playing at through Boudreau’s first 30 games. That’s a tall order, especially since Vancouver’s schedule takes a sharp turn towards “really tough” right after the Trade Deadline, but if the Canucks can remain in the race as we approach April, Boudreau’s odds will crash.
The bottom line is this: Vancouver is +425 to make the postseason at DraftKings. If the Canucks get in, Bruce will get votes.